PHOENIX -- With governor Jan Brewer's signature on the new "Constitutional Carry" firearm law today, Arizona becomes a beacon state for the nation on the gun-rights issue.
Arizonans, who have been free to carry firearms openly since statehood in 1912, will now be free to carry discreetly as well, without permits or red tape. Low-crime Vermont has had this freedom intact since Colonial days. The permit system remains in place but will no longer be required for discreet carry.
Alaska enacted a Constitutional Carry law in 2003, and Texas passed a limited version for traveling in 2007. Montana has enjoyed this freedom since 1991 on 99.4% of its land (outside city limits). These states experienced no increase in crime or accidents from the expanded freedom to discreetly bear arms in public. However, numerous dire warnings of "blood in the streets" preceded those new laws, but proved false. A list of circulating myths about the law, also known as "Freedom To Carry," appears at the end of this article.
Arizona's extremely strict laws on criminal misuse of firearms are unaffected by the new public freedoms, although a penalty for criminals got tougher. New language now makes concealed carry in the commission of a serious crime a felony. This led to support of the bill from police around the state. Formerly, that offense was a misdemeanor.
The intrusive government "permit" system in Arizona, introduced in 1994 with paperwork, approvals, fingerprinting, criminal-database listings, required classes, two mandatory tests, taxation and expiration dates to exercise "rights" is still available, but is now optional. Enormous police resources that could be going directly toward reducing crime have instead been diverted by the program into registering, regulating and tracking the innocent. About 3% of the public have signed up for the plastic-coated permission slips, though an estimated 50% of the state's population keeps and bears arms. Official sources acknowledge they get millions of dollars per year from the permit taxes called "fees."
"This new law brings rights restoration for the public, and an increase in freedom for law-abiding people," said Dave Kopp, a lobbyist for the Arizona Citizens Defense League that requested and promoted the new law. "The people have the same right to bear arms discreetly that they have to bear arms openly, we are simply correcting statute to reflect that. If your jacket accidentally covers your sidearm, that no longer exposes you to criminal penalties." A woman will be able to put a handgun in her handbag, go about her business, and not be subject to arrest.
The key changes in the law were made by repealing the infringing language in A.R.S. §13-3102, not by enacting new rules. A number of other changes were made in SB 1108, the bill that carried the Constitutional Carry law, and these will be described in plain English and posted by gunlaws.com next week. The new law will become effective 90 days after the legislature closes, or approximately in July. In some years it has been as late as September.
"Opportunities for firearms training and gun safety can increase tremendously with this new law", said Alan Korwin, author of The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide, the book that describes the state's gun laws in plain English. "Instead of focusing on a tiny percentage of the market willing to submit to the permit system, smart trainers can now offer Freedom To Carry classes to the general public. We're anticipating Family Days At The Range and Constitutional Carry classes to spring up statewide," he said. Removal of the $60 tax for the permit represents a significant discount, he notes.
"We sold The Arizona Gun Owner's Guide by the truckload for five years before there was any CCW law, and expect to do the same now, though permit holders did become and will remain a segment of our business," Korwin said. The Guide is now in its 24th edition, and a free update will be released shortly. The book's publisher, Scottsdale-based Bloomfield Press, is the largest publisher and distributor of gun-law books in the country. http://www.gunlaws.com
The permission-slip system is unaffected and offers some advantages to citizens. Other states recognize the Arizona permit under "reciprocity," which allows permit holders to carry firearms when in those states (currently 23 according to the Dept. of Public Safety).
In addition, since permitees are constantly monitored through the criminal databases DPS registers them in, they can shop at retail for firearms without undergoing separate FBI background checks each time they make a purchase. Also, some people just get a sense of security by having a plastic government "authorization" card in their wallets, and they enjoy showing it to friends.
Another CCW-permit benefit is the ability to carry in restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as the restaurant itself doesn't ban possession and the person doesn't drink while there. Whether those various denials of rights will be eliminated in future legislation, making the general public equal to permission-slip holders, was unknown at press time.
Previously only people with government-permission cards in their possession could bear arms in certain parks. That ban was eliminated by a separate bill this year, which now makes permit holders and the general public equal.
According to MSNBC, some six million Americans have permits and carry discreetly. The fears of shootouts at stop lights, bullets for slow waiters and Wild West-style belligerence have been repeatedly proven false and dispelled as hoplophobic fantasies. Statistics have shown that crime uniformly drops when states reduce infringements on the right of law-abiding people to keep and bear arms. "Society is safer when criminals don't know who's armed," according to the California-based civil rights group, crpa.org.
Sales of small easily carried sidearms and accessories are expected to increase with passage of the new law.
COMMON MYTHS ABOUT CONSTITUTIONAL CARRY
Q: Why is the CCW permit being eliminated?
A: The CCW permit is not being eliminated -- that appears to have been misinformation designed to scuttle the bill. The permit system remains completely unaffected by Freedom To Carry. The permit, its advantages, the training, reciprocity schemes, the classes, fees and taxes are unchanged. That all remains voluntary as it always has been. Anyone who meets that law's requirements can apply. Shame on the "news" media that has repeatedly said otherwise.
Q: What's the difference between Constitutional Carry and Freedom To Carry?
A: There's no difference, they're just two names for the same thing. Constitutional Carry, the more formal term, comes from following the Arizona Constitution's provision that "The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired...". Freedom To Carry (no government interference with the right to arms) refers to the next step after so-called Right To Carry (massive government interference with the right to arms).
Q: If people can just carry guns, won't crime and gun problems skyrocket?
A: Half of Arizonans keep and bear arms now, without any of the CCW red tape and government supervision, and without any "skyrocketing" problems. Removing the requirement to only carry openly doesn't change who people are or how they act, it just restores their rights. Restoration of rights and becoming mentally unhinged are not related -- but the same arguments have been made everywhere CCW programs passed.
It's commonly recognized that some folks, especially people who lean left politically, do seem to equate discreetly bearing arms and becoming unglued. Decades of experience however provide no evidence of any such behavior. Those concerns have been repeatedly proven false and often turn out to be irrational fear mongering. Government permission slips for the exercise of rights have not turned people into homicidal maniacs. Restoring the right to discreetly bear arms will not change people into something they are not, and brings the state into proper compliance with its Constitution.
Q: Can anyone carry a gun?
A: Anyone who could legally carry a gun previously can legally carry under this law, no more, no less. "Prohibited possessors" -- criminals, illegal aliens and others forbidden to carry arms remain banned as always. The main change is that now a woman can put a handgun in her handbag without being subject to arrest for carrying discreetly without a government permission slip (and a man has equal right to carry a gun in any discreet manner -- under a sport coat or shirt, in a pocket or pants holster, fanny pack, attaché case, etc.)
Q: Training is a good thing, why was it eliminated?
A: Training is indeed a good thing and it is not eliminated. Anyone can and should take as much training as they want, which is voluntary. What has changed is that you are no longer forced to take government-mandated classes, registration and taxes before you can exercise your right to carry discreetly. This is the same formula working in Arizona since statehood for open carry (which includes concealed carry in your home, business, land, vehicle (with some minor conditions), and in a visible scabbard or case designed for carrying weapons, or in luggage. Now that the half of the public that bears arms can do so discreetly, many experts expect statewide gun training to flourish.
Q: Won't people shoot each other if they're not required to take the training?
A: Twelve states currently issue CCW permits without a training requirement and they're doing just fine. Half of Arizonans exercise their right to arms without government-demanded training and they're doing just fine. The idea that you're only safe if government requires training is statist, foolish and incorrect. That said, responsible people should get education and training for firearms—and swimming, machine tools, medical care, raising children, being married, owning a home, preparing food, writing articles, etc., without government mandates.
If government could require training for everything that has risk, your freedom would be evaporated and your government would be out of line. Government has no legitimate delegated authority in this country to be your nanny like that, or to require anything beyond the specific, limited delegated powers given to it in the Constitution and subsequent valid legislation. The fact that government has in many cases abandoned those constraints is part of why the Tea Party movement has gained such ground and, in some cases, driven the public out into the streets with pitchforks (figuratively).
Currently, 11 states issue carry permits without training and they're fine (AL, DE, GA, ID, IN, MD, MS, NH, PA, SD, WA). Because Arizona recognizes all other permits, many of our snowbirds have been carrying under those permits, without problems.
Q: Why are children of any age going to be allowed to carry guns to school?
A: That is total nonsense. No such thing occurs. The bill has no effect on children. That appears to be part of a misinformation campaign designed to scuttle the bill. There is no change as to who has the right to keep and bear arms. School grounds are unaffected by the law. That question is typical of similar lies and disinformation used to defeat and mislead the public about many good bills that seek to restore our civil rights. It's almost as bad as the lies told about blacks during the civil rights era of the 1960s. Almost.
Q: Will other states imitate Arizona and enact Constitutional Carry?
A: Many people hope so, and it has the backing of the gun-rights groups.
AFTERWORD: INSIDER INFORMATION:
There is one reason and one reason only why this got done --
The Arizona Citizens Defense League.
That small handful of guys running this group, the two full-time volunteer lobbyists Dave Kopp and John Wentling, and the thousands of members who supported the effort with their tiny membership dues are exactly and precisely why our rights have expanded.
It was a deliberate, conscientious, focused and tireless effort from what must be a candidate for the best pro-rights organization in the nation. Get your friends to join, send a donation or buy a t-shirt or hat, attend the meetings, and in your little way, make a difference and preserve our rights. http://www.azcdl.org
One other tidbit -- the NRA was rightfully nervous about this whole Freedom To Carry, permitless, no training, no red tape expansion of our rights. They dragged their feet at first, that's putting it mildly, and I can't say I blame them. An awful lot was on the line.
They wanted to be prudent. Limit exposure and risk. They have all their trainers to think about and that revenue stream. The chance of falling flat on your face in total embarrassment is a serious concern. The ease with which the antis might cast us as dangerous gun-toting (their media's favorite slur) nuts is a real issue.
I personally debated hard with some of the top brass, and to their credit, they finally agreed not to fight the effort in Arizona, and eventually saw the light and got on board. Some gun owners like to pick on the NRA, but the NRA is going to be at the forefront of this battle. The Constitutional Carry issue does make sense, for them and for us. It will be a winner in some states, maybe yours, and does advance everything for which NRA members stand.
Yes, some of those members, steeped in darkness, or hooked on the government-permit feed trough, believe that red-tapeless carry is a bad idea. They crave government supervision. They want that permission slip in their wallet. They'll learn, and come around. And continue to get fine training from NRA certified and other trainers because it's the right thing to do, not because the government commands it. Appleseed is doing a phenomenal job in the training arena too, check them out while you're at it. http://www.appleseedinfo.org
ORAL ARGUMENT ANALYZED
ORAL ARGUMENT ANALYZED
I have finally completed the long-awaited analysis of the oral arguments in the McDonald v. Chicago gun-ban case. Both attorneys took a whupping, but I think our rights came out on top. Justices showed their true colors (like Breyer comparing free speech to death by gun). It's fascinating if you're into this sort of thing, and way easier than plodding through the transcripts. Sorry it took so long. http://www.gunlaws.com/McDonald_v_Chicago_Orals.htm
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Note to my regular readers:
It's pretty typical to frame news like this by saying: "Arizonans are now allowed to carry firearms discreetly without a permit" but that's just not right. That implies someone or something has legitimate authority to "allow" you to exercise your rights. You should start watching that deceptive word "allow" very carefully.
This press release is carefully framed to say: "Arizonans are now free to carry firearms discreetly without a permit," because this is the American truth of the matter. Also note the use of "discreetly," which is a civilized norm, instead of the media's preferred "concealed," which implies you're doing something wrong and have something to hide. For more on good word usage in the protection of freedom, see my Politically Corrected Glossary, http://www.gunlaws.com/politicallycorrect.htm.]
Arizonans have posted valuable observations on the bill;
unfortunately I didn't preserve attribution in all cases:
And, on that note, I will chime in. 12 states have no training requirements for CCW permits [he includes NY, which is true in some counties]. Two of those are Indiana and Pennsylvania which have issued about 1,000,000 permits, compared to Arizona's miniscule 150,000. A few years back, NRA supplied me with their permit holder misuse statistics and they were lower (yes, lower) than Arizona's. Imagine that. Since Arizona recognizes all permits from all states, that means that many of our yearly snowbirds are legally carrying concealed weapons from states that don't require training.
Very well said. If anyone thinks the minimum training received during a CCW class sends the student out prepared to deal with the responsibility associated with carrying or for that matter owning a firearm. They are sadly mistaken. There are some CCW holders who have never fired their firearm since the class. Yet there are non permitees that shoot weekly. You can't legislate common sense or morals. It's all about the freedom to choose to do the right thing. Don't get me wrong -- all gun owners should train and practice regularly. But not because the state says they have to. -Michael B Wixom
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You ask why we would not make training mandatory? My answer is that it is a choice between liberty and some (mis)perceived concept of 'safety' -- and we all know Benjamin Franklin's opinion on that.
'Training' -- to whatever level or extent -- should be a matter of individual accountability, not government coercion. If an individual fails to 'understand' his firearm, or the conditions and situations in which to deploy it, and winds up a statistic, I consider it another splash of chlorine in the shallow end of the gene pool -- no matter how noble the act might have been, the lack of personal responsibility is separate from the context.
On a more 'practical' note, what the state giveth, the state may easily taketh away -- with interest. Once 'government' is satisfied it can mandate 'training requirements', what may they mandate next? Caliber? Number? Days on which one may carry? Arbitrary and capricious 'conditions' that must be met?
Note that I strongly advocate the individual do all in his power to obtain the best instruction and 'training' possible, and practice to whatever extent practical -- 'the heaviest thing about carrying a firearm is the responsibility' -- not because there is any government 'mandate' beyond the barely adequate 8 hours, but because I have accepted the responsibility that comes with the choice to go armed. Tangentially, the willingness of more citizens to accept the philosopy of 'personal accountability' is the key to restoring the republic, another of my 'personal interests'. -Duke Schecter
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