Guns and the boundaries of sovereignty

We have an ordinance in Tucson that, basically, allows the Tucson Police Department to destroy automatic weapons seized during the course of criminal investigations or through other means (e.g., citizens wanting to have their weapons destroyed).  We also have a state law that says, in a nutshell, that the state may withhold state funds from any municipality or other legal jurisdiction that attempts to supersede state law – e.g., by engaging a local ordinance to destroy firearms – that is prohibited by state statute.  

Recently, as you may have heard, a state legislator from Oro Valley (yes, he does not even live in Tucson) submitted a complaint to the state’s Attorney General indicating that Tucson’s continuing destruction of firearms pursuant to city ordinance violates state law and that such destruction must stop and that such firearms should be offered up for public sale.  This has led to all sorts of interesting debates and outbursts over state versus local sovereignty and gun rights issues.  Here is a link that describes the situation in general terms.

As it stands today,  the litigation between the city and the State is about to go before the Arizona Supreme Court, in an expedited manner pursuant to the state law.  In the meantime, Tucson PD has stopped destroying weapons as the case moves forward.

Does it seem remarkable that we have such a state law in Arizona, where local control and sovereignty would seem to be the hallmarks of our conservative and Wild West bloodlines?  Well, maybe not so remarkable since, after all, this is Arizona where any hint or sniff of something that resembles “gun control” is stopped faster than a speeding bullet, and if that means that the state has to step in and threaten to withhold millions of dollars in state funds, which would basically bankrupt Tucson, to squash the Old Pueblo from being so uppity and to make us play ball, so be it.

Here is my take.  I think we should do what local law enforcement recommends; specifically, what the Tucson Police Department, says we should do.  Unfortunately, with the current litigation, TPD has to remain silent though it will be interesting to see if our Police Chief is called to testify before the state Supreme Court as this matter unfolds.  TPDs’ current silence is understandable because, after all, it is their job to enforce the law.  With things being muddled right now, they gotta stay outta the state versus local fray.  But, if memory serves me well, TPD has supported the destruction of firearms obtained through criminal investigations before, and would probably continue to do so today (NOTE:  See update below.  History of  TPD support is probably better described as mixed).

But I diverge here.  If one is paying attention to this issue, it is not about gun control at all or at least, it should not be.  It is, ultimately, about a municipality’s right to pass ordinances that may not be in line with state law.  When such ordinances, however, fly in the face of things like public safety of other tangible public interests (like fairness, for example), then the state or eventually the Feds get involved.  Thus, first, the state court will rule.  

As for that gun stuff, like, is there any reasonable unbiased empirical evidence that the presence of legal firearms is correlated with reductions or deterrence of firearm related crimes?  Well, as many know, the research in this regard has been severely restricted  for many reasons, not the least of which is the NRA’s concerns over the CDCs (an organization that has wanted to study the public health impacts of firearms for years) and others tied to the liberal gun control agenda, that the NRA believes would most likely be the primary beneficiaries of funding for such research.  This has unfortunately put us in a Catch 22 situation with the NRA publicly stating that it supports “unbiased research” but opposes support for research that would be conducted by the liberal yahoos at the CDC and elsewhere.  

I know, sometimes you gotta just scratch your head about this stuff, but, in the interest of some semblance of balance and in case you are interested, here is one cite, fairly recent, examining the correlation between legal gun ownership and firearm-related violent crimes.  Surprisingly, shockingly, remarkably … This study seems to have found a high correlation between the amount of guns in a community and how many gun-related crimes one experiences in that community. Go figure?  

Now, before anyone starts screaming “You see, that Siegel is revealing his hand, he really is a liberal gun control advocate!”, let me reiterate … When it comes to the destruction of firearms seized largely through criminal investigations, I tend to lean toward letting local law enforcement make the decision about destruction, or not.  That’s it, I’m not that complicated.  

Yeah, well, Siegel, if we do that, we are going to have hundreds of different policies regarding destruction or sale of seized firearms across our state and country.  How is that going to help?   Well, that’s kinda how things are now, with each state and locality deciding what they are going to do, isn’t it?  Ahh, the messiness of it all.  What a quandary.

Anyways, as the Tucson case opens before the Supreme Court, and as our state AG Mark Brnovich presents state evidence, and as me being a social scientist who kinda knows what he is looking at when it comes to sound research design,  I would really like to see Brnovich’s examples that purportedly show the public safety benefits of public sales of confiscated weapons.

Again, fact is, research on such impacts has been so restricted, largely because of the NRA’s fear of the liberal bias of the CDC and others, that we don’t have much to go on.  

So, let me repeat, let the cops decide what should be done and then, leave us alone.  Of course, I could be wrong.  

Postscript:  A recent op-ed by Arizona Daily Star’s Tim Steller sheds some interesting light.

Guns and the boundaries of sovereignty:  Part Deux. 12/30/16

OK, so now the NRA has joined the fray.  As the article in today’s Daily Star describes (see link below), the NRA legal counsel not only contends that this is a 2nd Amendment issue, but also claims that there is a “mountain of empirical evidence” supporting the contention that if you enable more law abiding citizens to legally possess firearms in high crime areas, that violent crime (gun-related) in those areas will go down.   Afterall, we do have an indisputable correlation between the almost two decade decline in violent crime in our country and the increase in private gun ownership, do we not?

Wow, I am not even going to try to summarize how skewed the use of these statistics happens to be.   Suffice to say, the violent juvenile crime rate has declined even more substantially than the adult violent crime rate over the past two decades, and I am pretty sure that that decline has nothing to do with more guns, legally obtained or otherwise, serving as some kind of protective deterrent or preventative factor in the dramatic reduction in violent juvenile crime over the past 20 years.  You know, ’cause that reduction probably has more to do with things like keeping more kids in school, keeping more kids occupied in positive or non-criminal activities after school when most juvenile crimes occur, and perhaps continuing reductions in unwanted and, in particular, teen pregnancy rates that remarkably mirror reductions in violent juvenile crime rates (yes, there are numerous factors correlated with reductions in violent crime but, somehow, the NRA has convinced itself that it is expanded gun ownership that is the most salient factor).  Whoa Nelly!  

But, wait a minute, what about in places like Chicago and other areas that have experienced recent spikes in shootings, many attributed to gang related disputes?  Won’t enabling more law abiding citizens in such communities to protect themselves with guns, produce the desired public safety effects?  And, even if Tucson is not experiencing a spike in violent crime like Chicago, would it not be prudent to be proactive and get more guns, legally, into our high crime neighborhoods to head off the potential for such spikes?

Silly me, here is what I think.  First, more guns in our neighborhoods, dagnabbit, most highly correlates with … Hold it … More guns in our neighborhoods.   More guns in our high crime neighborhoods probably means more guns will be used.  But, who am I to say?  So, second, I repeat.  I defer the decision to destroy or distribute  confiscated guns to our local law enforcement officials.   They are on the streets, on the front lines of our public safety.  The NRA?  The state legislature?   Get out of our business.

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