- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Tucson will stop destroying guns seized by police while the city fights a new state law that could cost it millions of dollars in state shared revenue if it continues the practice.

The Tucson City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted for a temporary stop until a court rules on the matter.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich immediately asked the Arizona Supreme Court to weigh in on whether the city is violating the 2013 law banning destruction of guns. Under provisions of a law passed this year, the court must make the case its top priority.

“This is an assault on charter cities in Arizona, the constitutional authority given to charter cities, and … we should be taking this matter to court and challenging its constitutionality,” Councilwoman Regina Romero said.

A charter city operates under its own charter - as an independent entity - rather than state law.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, filed a complaint in October against the practice of destroying guns, saying charter city status doesn’t give Tucson a free pass.

“That is not a safeguard for them, that is not a safe harbor for them,’ he said at the time. “It is our position that that is not covered by charter city.”

A law passed this year allows an individual lawmaker to ask the attorney general to determine if municipalities aren’t following state law. It forces cities to forfeit state shared revenue if they fail to stop violating the law after an attorney general or state Supreme Court determination.

The attorney general decided last month that Tucson is likely breaking the 2013 law requiring cities to sell guns. Assistant Attorney General Beau Roysden III said in a letter to Tucson’s city attorney last week that unless the city rescinds or modifies the ordinance requiring the destruction of seized guns the attorney general planned to ask the Supreme Court to decide the issue. When the council failed to act, Brnovich moved forward.

“While I respect the autonomy of local governments, the City of Tucson’s mandatory gun destruction policy is at direct odds with state statute. Arizonans depend on the Attorney General to uphold and enforce the law,” Brnovich said in a statement. “Our Supreme Court filing isn’t just about the Second Amendment, it’s about the rule of law.”

Tucson could lose more than $170 million in yearly shared revenue if the Supreme Court rules against it and the city keeps destroying guns. The new law requires the city to post a bond equal to half a year’s worth of payments to fight the case.

The 2016 law was designed to penalize cities that ignore state law. It passed with only Republican votes in the Legislature.

City records show that the Tucson Police Department has destroyed 4,820 guns since the beginning of 2013.

Councilmembers say destroying guns serves important local interests, including protecting the public and police officers.

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