Arizona Has Some Of The Least Restrictive Gun Laws In The Country

Charles Heller, of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, said that mass shooters either bypass the background checks, or pass them before committing a crime. (Photo by News21)

By Jasmine Spearing Bowen

PHOENIX – With every mass shooting – from the 26 people killed and 20 wounded in a Texas church this weekend to the 58 dead and 515 wounded at a Las Vegas concert in October – comes the call for stricter measures to prevent mass shootings and domestic terrorism.

But in states like Arizona, which has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country, it rarely happens. No permits are required to purchase or own a firearm. Although background checks are required for purchases from federally licensed dealers, nothing is required for person-to-person private sales.

Earlier this year, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1122, which makes it illegal for anyone to be required to check a database before selling private property – including guns.

“Basically, they said that no city or district can say that you have to take a background check to sell personal property,” said State Rep. Randy Friese, a Democrat from Tucson. “It didn’t anywhere mention guns but it was absolutely about guns. No one checks a list for selling a refrigerator.”

Just last week, the Phoenix City Council heard a petition to ban bump fire stocks, a firearm accessory that can be added to a gun to enable it to operate as an automatic weapon. A bump stock was used by Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock.

At least 100 people signed a petition to restrict the sale of bump stocks within the Phoenix city limits to people who have a federal permit to own an automatic weapon, said Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a local Baptist preacher and civil rights organizer who introduced the petition at the last city council meeting.

“It’s not just the stuff in Vegas,” said Maupin, “The bump stocks have been causing a lot of problems and they are tied to a lot of mass shootings, drive-by shootings in the inner city, that sort of thing.”

Though the city council voted 5-2 to deny the petition, Maupin said council members agreed to incorporate the petition into their federal and state lobbying efforts. According to the city council report, federal law prohibits cities from regulating firearms, and an Arizona law prohibits cities from regulating firearm components.

“Generally speaking, it’s a lot easier for most people to own a firearm than most people who don’t own firearms think it is. And the vast majority of them are law abiding,” said Charles Heller of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, an organization that works to strengthen second amendment rights through legislation.

No one knows exactly how many guns are in the U.S., Heller said, adding that requiring background checks on personal transactions turns a constitutionally guaranteed human right into a privilege.

“That’s the ultimate aim,” he said, “To make it impossible for you and I, if you were to like one of these guns, for you to buy one without having to get government permission first.”

A Cronkite News review of data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System shows that between Nov. 1998, when the system was instituted for firearms purchases from a federally licensed dealer, and last year, more than 111 million background checks were processed by the FBI.

Of those checks, 1.3 million were denied according to the 2016 NICS Operations Report. Reasons for denials can include mental instability, dishonorable discharge from the military, substance abuse issues, or presence of a restraining order or conviction for domestic violence, among other things, according to the report.

In Arizona, more than 280,000 NICS background checks have been conducted in 2017 and more than 4.4 million have been performed since 1998.

Though permits are not required to own or purchase firearms in Arizona, there are some “prohibited possessors,” people who are not legally allowed to have firearms, including anyone who has been convicted of a felony, is on probation, or is in the country illegally.

Those who are not prohibited can carry their firearms as concealed weapons without a permit, with some location exceptions such as airports, schools, or businesses that serve alcohol. The state also passed House Bill 2307 in 2010 that would exempt firearms and accessories from federal regulation or registration as long as they were produced in Arizona.

Friese has introduced several firearm safety bills since he was elected in 2014, including one for comprehensive background checks on all gun sales, legislation he calls “important.” None of them passed.

“About 40 percent or so purchases of weapons in Arizona are done without a background check through person-to-person sales or gun shows where if you’re not a federally licensed dealer you’re not required to do a background check,” Friese said.

Friese, who also is a trauma surgeon, was on call in 2011 when a gunman opened fire at a shopping center in Tucson, killing six and injuring 13, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Friese said he supports background checks for private sales.

“If I wanted to just sell my weapon to you, there wouldn’t be a required background check. I could just say give me $900 and I’ll give you my weapon and we’re done,” Friese said.

Last year, State Rep. Paul Boyer, a Phoenix Republican, introduced legislation to prevent the use of smart gun technology in Arizona. Smart gun technology adds additional safety measures that must be met in order for the gun to fire, such as fingerprint recognition or a special ring that needs to be worn by the shooter.

Boyer said he was concerned such technology would prevent guns from working when they were needed most, and also could increase the likelihood for hacking of firearms. He said he would need a compelling argument to support any new gun laws.

“This is a right that existed before government, the right to defend oneself, and it will exist when government is long gone,” Boyer said. “I’m always cautious about what limitations that one would put on that.”

He said requiring background checks for all firearm purchases would only make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to purchase a gun.

State Rep. Randy Friese at his Tucson office. Friese estimates that 40 percent of gun sales in Arizona take place without a background check. (Jasmine Spearing-Bowen/Cronkite News)

“I think what Dr. Friese is trying to get at is to prevent mass shootings or…some nefarious purpose of that gun being used, but if a perp is going to kill somebody they are going to find a way to get a gun,” Boyer said.

There have been 132 mass shootings in the United States since 1966, according to an ongoing Washington Post investigation. This number includes instances where a shooter killed four or more people, and does not include gang violence, or shootings as a result of other crimes like burglaries. Of the 274 guns used in these 132 shootings, the investigation found that nearly 60 percent were legally obtained.

Heller said Las Vegas shooter Paddock passed a background check, proving definitively that background checks don’t work.

“I understand for people who aren’t into guns, I understand you folks fear the gun. You think that somehow by limiting me, or people like me, that you’re limiting the danger, well you’re not,” Heller said. “What you have to do is address the act, not the possession.”

Friese said most people want legislators to move forward on gun safety.

“To continue to say the laws we have in place are not doing it, so adding any new ones won’t make a difference, I disagree with that,” he said. “Sitting back and saying ‘we can’t do anything about it,’ it’s simply not acceptable when people are dying.”

21 Comments on "Arizona Has Some Of The Least Restrictive Gun Laws In The Country"

  1. Thank you my fellow armed citizens. I’ll place my trust in you no problem, no question.

  2. SilverTones | November 8, 2017 at 7:57 am |

    Gun laws are not effective if they’re not enforced. The military isn’t doing anyone a favor by not entering in dishonorable discharge and domestic violence/felony names to the NICS database. Enforce the current laws…we don’t need 10,000 more laws.

    • Mike Putfus | November 8, 2017 at 8:16 am |

      I believe it was a Bad Conduct Discharge for assult and domestic violence, and the Military no longer does the paperwork. I believe that is sent to Saint Lewis where non-Military Government personnel does everything. They don’t even have a Company clerk in the Military anymore. What they do have in the Military today is Contractors and Government Civilians that outnumber Military Personnel. BTW I agree with you. People dropped the ball, and should be made to pay for it.

    • The Oracle of Tucson | November 8, 2017 at 8:50 am |

      Reminds me of the old bumper sticker:
      10,000 laws to enforce the 10 commandments?

      The Oracle

  3. The Oracle of Tucson | November 8, 2017 at 8:54 am |

    Devin Kelley had three existing factors to deny him gun ownership for a new purchase under current federal law.
    The dishonorable discharge from the Air Force, his conviction of domestic violence and his mental / emotional instability.
    Kelley lied every time he filled out another gun transfer form from a dealer. And since the Air Force authorities (OSI) failed to pass on his information to the FBI, he wasn’t denied under current standards.

    Additional ineffective “feel good” laws will do little beyond punish the pig for being in the barnyard while the fox ate the chickens.

    Everyone is quick to blame the gun and seek ways to abolish them. Even if we suddenly banned every gun coast to coast overnight, evil disguised as mental illness would still be present with us.

    We have a national emotional / mental health problem that is a constant presence in everyone of these mass shooting events.
    Normal sane people do not go around killing everyone. But evil does exist around around us, it’s something we don’t talk about and it’s something we refuse to understand. But evil people do evil things. Mr Kelley had a long history of being evil and doing evil things.

    Everyone in Kelley’s life had to have known he was a nut case, his family had to have known the events of his dismissal from the Air Force, the break down of his multiple marriages / relationships had to have given concern to those around him, yet no one notified the authorities. In the event they had perhaps the local jurisdiction might have made the proper notifications were the Air Force had failed.

    It’s not one lone failure, it’s a series of small missteps that allowed Kelley to slip by unnoticed into gun ownership which ended in his 15 min. of fame and the destruction of everyone he came into contact with that day.

    The Oracle

  4. Mike Putfus | November 8, 2017 at 9:02 am |

    The person that wrote this clearly has no idea about firearms. A bump stock does not make a rifle a automatic, but can make it fire faster. You can not carry a firearm concealed unless you have a permit in any State to include this one, and there is a list by State where and when you carry them. Firearms are the most controled item in this Country.

    • The Oracle of Tucson | November 8, 2017 at 9:47 am |

      Sorry Mike, but the article is correct, in Arizona, a person over the age 21 may legally openly carry or choose to carry a concealed firearm without a state issued CCW permit within the state itself, except for certain prohibited locations as listed above, as well as any place that post “no firearms allowed”, and you must disclose the fact your armed to a law enforcement officer if questioned. Those possessing a state issued permit often bypass the background check when purchasing a firearm from a FFL dealer, as the permit itself constitutes an active check, and in some instances the concealed weapons permit even extends the ability to conceal carry to other states that recognize Arizona’s permit….

      The Oracle

      • I was wrong true they can carry concealed here they have to follow the same laws and requirements as a person with a permit to carry concealed. I carry in other States as well.

        • Exasperated American | November 13, 2017 at 11:38 am |

          Mike, You’re CCW allows you to carry in those states recognizing Arizona. An Arizona resident, who does not possess a permit, is only allowed to carry within the State of Arizona.

  5. Oh Gaawwwd- When will it stop!!??? Get the gawwdamm’ nutcases outta the mainstream.

  6. Maupin claims bump stocks “have been causing a lot of problems and they are tied to a lot of mass shootings, drive-by shooting in the inner city, that sort of thing.” Really? I’m assuming Maupin pulled those statistics from the same place they did his last colonoscopy. I have never hear of bump stocks being used in any mass shooting prior to Las Vegas (which may have saved lives, since he appears the lulls between shooting may have been caused by the firearms jamming from the bump stocks), drive-by shootings or inner city shootings. I wonder if he would be good enough to provide us with the source of those so-called factoids. He may need to move his gastroenterologist out of the way, first.
    What is it with these people that prompts them to invent “facts” out of thin air?
    “Friese has introduced several firearm safety bills since he was elected in 2014, including one for comprehensive background checks on all gun sales, legislation he calls “important.” None of them passed.” That’s because they were stupid and had no possibility of ever accomplishing their stated goal.
    “About 40 percent or so purchases of weapons in Arizona are done without a background check through person-to-person sales or gun shows where if you’re not a federally licensed dealer you’re not required to do a background check,” Friese said.
    Once again we have someone pulling “statistics” out of their hind-end. Where did that 40% figure come from? It’s completely absurd. And most people don’t want anti-gun legislators to move forward on gun safety. There is nothing in their proposals that would make anyone but criminals safer. Most people want criminals to be held accountable under the 20,000 plus existing gun laws. The laws are there – enforce them!
    Friese belongs to the, “Well, we gotta do something” club. NO, we need to do something that will actually half an impact; you know, like enforcing existing laws. Does Friese, Mauin or any of the other naïve anti-gun crowd actually believe that someone intent on killing someone will be dissuaded by a gun law? Can they be that stupid? It’s a rhetorical question.

    • Really. Maupin should stand up when he lies to us; hate when it sounds like he is mumbling…..

  7. Sorry about the typos in my comments. Unfortunately there is no provision to go back and correct typos. Unfortunately I didn’t spot them until I’d already hit the “publish” button. I think we can get the general idea, though. pododys nerfect.

  8. In have a challenge for Dr. Friese who implies he CAN think of new gun control laws that will be effective to stop killings; take your ideas to Chicago and implement them there where hundreds are killed EVERY YEAR, since forever it seems, and if they work there then we can consider them in AZ.

  9. Dale Brethower | November 8, 2017 at 12:57 pm |

    If the goal is to reduce the number of people murdered in the USA, wouldn’t it make sense to consider all murders, not only those involving firearms? If we want to limit consideration to all murders with firearms, would it not be prudent to consider what the murderers have in common? And what gun-owning non-murderers have in common? Any serious problem solver knows that “jumping to conclusion” after considering only one variable is not very effective.

  10. As a CCW Permit Holder from day one over Twenty Years ago that one once did I ever to draw my weapon but never fired a shot; the Tucson Officer that I reported it to said I might not be alive that day as the road rage driver carried concealed illegally. Governor Jan Brewer is the one that took the Arizona DPS Background to Carry Concealed away. That law also required a class and range time to pass. But the main thing all people should rationalize is that guns do not go off by themselves and that more people everyday are killed a driver behind the wheel of a more deadly toll than a gun.

  11. “Gun Free Zone” sign translation:
    Only criminals are to possess
    weapons in this area.

    Look at Obama:
    No problem with Mexican cartels
    getting guns through “Fast and Furious”
    program, illegals engaged in ongoing
    criminal activity wandering the country,
    or Muslim terrorists and sympathizers
    being supported by taxpaying Americans.

    According to Obama, Christians are the most
    dangerous force in America! [even more dangerous
    than cow farts]

    I can’t recall a single actual Christian EVER who
    perpetrated a mass casualty event.

  12. Want the BEST Gun News that is TRUE? Go to:

  13. I worked as a law enforcement officer for the state of Arizona for 23 years. I can assure you that 98% of officers know that gun control laws are totally ineffective. Crime control used to work fairly well, but then the liberals infiltrated the judicial system and essentially ruined it with their psycho-babble. The right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, period. Nuff said.

  14. Exasperated American | November 13, 2017 at 11:45 am |

    Albeit a little late, but that was not his fault. Who stopped the Texas shooter. A law-abiding citizen who was not afraid to involve himself. Arizona has some rural areas, where, law enforcement response times can approach an hour. I served 20 years as a rural Deputy Sheriff. In fact, 5 months before retirement, I was stabbed by an individual when I responded to a domestic violence call. My cover unit took 62 minutes to get there. My situation is not unique and is confronted daily by officers. The point being; a firearm in the hands of a responsible citizen is a deterrent and safeguard against those who summarily disregard the law to take something that isn’t theirs.

    The largest standing army in the world, is the American citizen.

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