Photo by Specna Arms on Pexels.com

There is a battle brewing in Arizona. The municipal government of Tucson is looking to enact gun control ordinances that are contrary to Arizona state law. The city passed a resolution requiring federal gun laws to be followed within Tucson’s city limits.  From a superficial standpoint, this does not sound so radical. As any careful observer of the Arizona political scene can tell you this outright rebellion. Arizona has always been a very 2nd Amendment friendlily state. Back in April, Governor Doug Ducey signed HB 2111. The bill prevents any institutions from utilizing state resources or promulgating rules that violate state gun laws.

“…Specifies that pursuant to the sovereign authority of this state and Article II, Section 3, Constitution of Arizona, the state of Arizona and its political subdivisions are prohibited from utilizing any financial resources or state personnel to administer, cooperate with or enforce any law, act, order, rule, treaty or regulation of the federal government that is inconsistent with any law of this state regarding the regulation of firearms…”  (HB 2111).

Many outside spectators may view this measure by Arizona lawmakers a superfluous or even paranoid. Objectively, there has been a precipitous erosion of gun rights over the decades. Generally resulting from a tightening of federal gun regulations. One only needs to look towards the  Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1994) and subsequent laws to see this pattern emerging. Although, most gun enthusiasts would most likely reason that this pattern emerged before 1994. However, this legislative game of red rover isn’t an illusion caused by the slippery-slope fallacy. It is also important to not frame the legislative encroachment of the 2nd Amendment as devolving into a frenzied conspiracy climaxing to a dystopian gun grab campaign.  

Arizona lawmakers not being quite so sanguine about the Biden administration’s respect for gun rights is understandable. Especially when you consider his platform regarding gun safety, which seeks to impose more restrictions. It is well known that the City of Tucson has been at odds with state gun laws for a while, being an uncharacteristically left-wing city in a conservative state. The state legislator fearing that Biden would tighten up federal gun regulations they drafted HB 2111, effectively making Arizona a “2nd Amendment Haven”. The state of Arizona is not alone in drafting us preemptive measures as several other states have drafted similar bills.

The officials of the City of Tucson have stated that if the state government intervened they would take it up with the federal courts.

“….Steve Kozachik, the councilman who introduced the resolution last month, said he believes the state’s sanctuary law to be unconstitutional. 

“Let them challenge us,” he told The Arizona Daily Star….” (Business Insider).

Insinuating that under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution the city would have the higher ground from a legal standpoint. Because the Supremacy Clause states that federal law supersedes state law. Even the causal jurist knows that U.S. Law is complex and riddled with a plethora of loopholes. Holding such an axiom as unwavering is at best an overly simplistic interpretation of the law. It should be noted that the Supremacy Clause was intended to apply to the promulgation of laws in the scope of congress’s enumerated powers. After re-reading Article I, Section 8 several times, I simply could not find a sentence, never mind a paragraph conferring the power of formulating gun control laws to the federal government! Nevertheless, when Tucson petitions their complaint to the SCOTUS it will make for an entertaining case, to say the least.

It is important to remember that the state government does have a very compelling bargaining chip for negotiations. That is state tax dollars. The city of Tucson does receive a portion of tax revenue from the state (like most municipalities do), the state of Arizona could very well withhold these funds as a condition of noncompliance. It is estimated by going rogue on the gun issue, the city stands to lose “… half of its state shared revenue..”. The conflict here is the typical example of conflicting political interests at various layers of the political hierarchy. Mirroring the conflicts between the federal and state governments. Because both factions have divergent interests, rather than compromise both groups prefer fighting to the bitter death. Gun control like most wedge issues has a winner-take-all payoff. Primarily due to political polarization. However, losing ground policy-wise does turn into a slippery slope quickly. Incrementally evolving into long-term losses.  

Since the incentives structure is skewed towards winner-take-all payoffs, neither party can trust the other in the event of a compromise. Completely dispensing with any good faith bargaining; leaving logrolling off the table. This lack of good faith between the state government and the city of Tucson creates fertile ground for a Prisoner’s Dilemma. A Prisoner’s Dilemma is a concept in game theory where individuals working together could produce better results than working against one another. In certain situations, if both parties lack trust, they will defect and work against the other individual. Paradoxically, both actors would be better off if they worked in unison. If both Tucson and the state government brokered a deal with some carefully considered concessions, everyone would be happier. Instead, they both would rather hardball a gluttonous attempt to have all of their policy preferences fulfilled. Does nothing more than waste resources and generate more drama.

13 thoughts on “Prisoner’s Dilemmas- I: Gun Control in Arizona

    1. It’s a mess! I definitely foresee this conflict moving its way up the SCOUTS in the near future.

      For fans of political theater it will be entertaining. I emphasize more with the gun owners than one. Decade after decade they have persistently lost the regulatory battle. Clinching only minor victories and there. The real regulatory pattern in federal gun laws has been kind of hostile towards the 2nd Amendment.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. One thing I have noticed about “wedge issues” is that most people are not concerned with the data.

      It seems to me it’s more about winning than about principles for the most part. However, I will add that gun owners actually have a stake in the gun control debate. Whereas gun control advocates almost perceive it as a sport; engaging in a game of “one-upsmanship”.

      It parallels when people feel the need to own the “libs”. When you hear this rhetoric it is definitely a red-team vs. blue-team “game”. That’s not to say a conservative can’t have legitimate debate with a liberal and vice versa. I believe the difference is if the debater is using good-faith arguments; no worn out platitudes, straw-men, or ad hominem attacks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll second that! For many (and this might be the case with nearly all “wedge issues”) it’s largely a matter of being right instead of being honest. A loathsome mixture of intellectual laziness and pride.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. good analysis; I would only add that the Supremacy Clause applies only to matters within the federal government’s purview, so a key question here is: to what extent does the second amendment prohibit federal laws that interfere with gun rights?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks. My bad on that one. I think I may have incorrectly applied the concept. When I read they the city of Tucson believed HB 2111 was “unconstitutional “ I inferred that they were circuitously invoking the Supremacy Clause.

      From my perspective, from a contextual reading (my own; perhaps my understanding is flawed) gun control measures is outside of congress’s enumerated power. Now if we take an expansive interpretation of this clause, maybe it reads differently. Congress enacting federal gun laws seems to be out-of-line. Like most matters this is best left to the states. I have to be careful to not confuse an “ought” with an “is”. It’s easy to conflate the two in heated issues regarding natural rights.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly right! This goes back to Alexander Hamilton against a bill of rights in Federalist #84: if we declare a right to speech or to bear arms, that declaration implies that Congress has a power that it did not have in the first place!

        Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.