Too often, when discussing legislative proposals that restrict our right to keep and bear arms in Arizona, we hear “Oh, that’ll never happen in Arizona” as if there is a magic force field over the state that will keep our legislators from infringing on our rights.
It has already happened
Article 2, Section 26 of the Arizona Constitution says that our right to bear arms “shall not be impaired” yet state law is full of “impairments” to this fundamental right. What do you think would happen if you openly carried into a restaurant that serves alcohol? Or into your polling place on Election Day? Any school campus? How about refusing to disarm in a state or local government building with a “no guns” sign?
And, let us not forget carrying without a “permit.” In 1990, an Arizona appellate court ruled that restricting “concealed” carry was not an impairment to your right to bear arms. The Arizona Supreme Court declined to review it, making it the law throughout Arizona.
In 1994, the Arizona Legislature, instead of affirming the right to bear arms openly or discreetly, declared that if you expected your clothing to cover your firearm you were required to undergo 16 hours of training, followed by a written and shooting test, and submit a request for the privilege to carry concealed—but only for 4 years. After that, you had to take another 4-hour class, pass another test, and submit another set of fingerprints. This entire process had to be repeated every 4 years. CCW permit training could only be conducted by instructors certified by the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS). The process was so onerous that by 2005, when AzCDL was formed, only about 68,000 permits had been issued.
The same year that the permit system was created (1994), Arizona appellate courts ruled in two decisions that if your openly carried firearm was not visible to an observer it could be considered to be concealed, and if a firearm in your vehicle could not be seen from outside the vehicle, it was concealed. The only sure way to carry openly or in your vehicle without breaking the law was to obtain a CCW permit.
Then, in 1997 the Legislature, at the urging of law enforcement, declared that you no longer had the right of “innocent until proven guilty” in a self-defense situation. The burden of proof was on you to prove your innocence—after you admitted to the “crime.”
Firearms preemption was Balkanized with the approval of the Legislature. Cities like Tucson were able to ban firearms, carried by law-abiding citizens, from their parks.
There were those of us who decided it was time to restore what had been lost. In 2005 we formed the Arizona Citizens Defense League (AzCDL). That same year we experienced our first legislative victory, an improvement in the CCW laws. The following are just highlights of what we have accomplished over the last 15 years. For a complete list visit AzCDL’s Accomplishments page:
Constitutional Carry – Restoration of the right of law-abiding adults to carry openly or discreetly without seeking government permission.
Passage of a Constitutional Amendment to protect victims who defend themselves from being sued by their attacker.
Restoration of “innocent until proven guilty” in self-defense situations.
Adding the presumption that a victim acted reasonably when using physical or deadly force.
Strengthened castle doctrine, “stand your ground” and justifications for the use of force.
Establishment of a justification for the defensive display of a firearm.
Universal recognition of CCW permits issued by other states.
Prohibiting state and local governments from confiscating lawfully held firearms during an emergency.
Strengthened state preemption of firearm and knife laws.
Prohibiting state and local governments from maintaining records of firearms or their owners.
Requiring operators of public property that ban firearms to provide storage for your firearms that is readily accessible.
Preventing private or public employers from banning firearms in a locked vehicle.
Prohibiting seized firearms from being destroyed.
Massive CCW reforms. Your CCW permit is good for 5 years. Multiple forms of training are accepted. Fingerprinting and training are no longer required to renew your permit.
Consider this. If “it’s never going to happen in Arizona,” why was it necessary to spend the last fifteen years restoring our right to keep and bear arms? Why can’t you enter a public building armed? Why are schools still victim disarmament zones? Why do you need a CCW permit to enjoy a meal in certain restaurants? Why do you think your legislator won’t vote to restrict your rights?
Elections have Consequences
The primary for Arizona state elections is on August 4 and the General election is on November 3. All state legislative positions are open to challengers and whoever wins will affect legislation for the next two years. There are razor thin pro-rights majorities in both the House and Senate. Voter apathy could enable one or both chambers to flip to anti-rights control in the November election, paving the way for bills attacking your rights to zoom through the legislature and land on the desk of a Governor very likely to sign them into law.
In 430 B.C., the Greek statesman Pericles said, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you.” Whether or not the new Legislature will work with AzCDL at the Capitol to restore and protect our right to keep and bear arms can depend on whether or not you take the time to cast your vote in the primary and general elections.
Avoiding the election is a vote for accepting the way things turn out, good or bad
AzCDL supporters are activists, not spectators, and activism begins with voting. Because our members choose to get involved politically, we have made historic changes to Arizona’s gun laws and become the model for other states to follow. How much further we can go to protect our rights in the coming legislative sessions depends on who is elected. Make a difference and VOTE!