Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said Phoenix's mayor and city council have 30 days to resolve an illegal city ordinance authorizing the donation of hundreds of firearms to Ukraine.
The directive is part of a 12-page investigative report by the attorney general, that found the ordinance violated state law governing the disposal of unclaimed firearms.
"While the office believes that controlling legal authorities compel this conclusion, [the] report should not be construed as a rebuke of the public spirit underlying the city's desire to aid Ukraine or as an endorsement of the policy underlying Arizona's firearms disposition statutes," Ms. Mayes wrote.
"Nor should it discourage future support and donations to Ukraine or elsewhere that can be carried out in compliance with Arizona law."
On June 28, the city council passed an ordinance allowing Phoenix to donate and ship 599 unclaimed firearms to Ukraine's national police force through freight forwarder and U.S. customs broker D.T. Gruelle Co.
Military-grade semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols were among the cache of firearms with an estimated value of up to $350,000.
The Phoenix Police Department's Property Management Bureau was the listed "donation point" for unclaimed firearms when the city adopted the ordinance.
D.T. Gruelle has yet to respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.
On Aug. 21, House Judiciary Committee chairman Quang Nguyen and vice-chairman Selina Bliss, both Republicans, filed an SB 1487 complaint challenging the legality of the ordinance and weapons donation.
The 2016 law enables state legislators who believe an ordinance or regulation violates state law to file a complaint with the attorney general's office.
The complaint followed a joint letter to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego on July 3, in which the legislators warned the new ordinance was unlawful and should be rescinded.
Mr. Nguyen told The Epoch Times a city official recently confirmed the shipment of firearms by D.T. Gruelle to Ukraine has already taken place and that the location of the cargo remains a mystery.
"We know for sure the firearms are shipped. We don't know where those weapons are. If it's within the United States, I would like to see them returned to the rightful authority," Mr. Nguyen said.
"The state should be handling the disposal of firearms—not a political subdivision of the state."
In a joint statement, both GOP lawmakers agreed with Ms. Mayes, a Democrat, affirming the illegality of the mayor and council actions.
"It is frustrating that Mayor Kate Gallego [a Democrat] and council members were informed of this as far back as July 3, yet Mayor Gallego then willfully disregarded state law and rushed the transfer of these firearms abroad," representatives Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Bliss wrote.
"Then, while a pending investigation into the ordinance's legality was underway, the city attempted to cancel the arrangement altogether to avoid the attorney general's report."
"That's not leadership, it's shameful," the lawmakers added.
Under Arizona law, municipalities may dispose of unclaimed firearms after 30 days, provided the city sells them to a licensed dealer.
Unambiguous LawIn her Aug. 16 report, the city said it viewed the transfer of firearms as "similar to previous transfers of firearms made to local law enforcement agencies, such as the donations of surplus bulletproof vests and armor to Ukraine that former Governor [Doug] Ducey announced in 2022."
"The city did not address the alleged statutory violations or otherwise provide legal authority supporting its position," Ms. Mayes wrote.
On Aug. 4, the city signed a one-year contract with D.T. Gruelle of Pennsylvania to receive and ship the firearms to a Ukrainian "nonprofit." Mr. Nguyen said it is unclear if D.T. Gruelle received payment from the city as the broker of the transfer.
The attorney general's report said the city canceled the agreement on Sept. 11 "by written notice" and urged the attorney general to consider her investigation "moot."
"However, because the legislators specifically challenged the ordinance [under state law], the office concluded that its investigation had not been mooted," wrote Ms. Mayes.
She said she based her action on a 2017 legal decision that Tucson city officials violated state law by destroying unclaimed firearms rather than selling them as the law required.
"The subject matter here—Phoenix's disposition of unclaimed firearms—falls within the scope of the Tucson decision. The Phoenix ordinance provides for the donation of firearms, not their destruction.
"While no state statute affirmatively bars donations, the Phoenix ordinance is nonetheless unlawful to the extent it conflicts with state law mandating how cities must dispose of firearms."
Mr. Nguyen said that city officials had fair warning they were in violation but still went ahead with the donation.
"This is not to be taken lightly. Violating state law—I'm sorry, you are not above the law.
"I don't care what your title is," Mr. Nguyen said. They did it purposely to get around the law. We will take appropriate steps."
City Director of Communications Dan Wilson said city staff would review the report from the attorney general to "determine a recommended course of action."
"The Phoenix City Council will consider repeal of the ordinance at the next meeting of the council scheduled for Sept. 26."Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Bliss added: "As public officials, it is imperative that we uphold the rule of law and respect our state constitution. Witnessing Mayor Gallego blatantly neglect this responsibility, especially with full awareness of the law and its implications, is disheartening."