Arizona moved one step closer to becoming the third state in the nation to allow citizens to carry concealed firearms without a permit. The new bill comes after the brutal murder of an Arizona rancher near the U.S./Mexico border and the violence that continues to escalate.
The state-approved legislation will now head to governor, Jan Brewer a Republican, who has indicated her signature on the bill giving Arizonians the ability to carry a weapon without a permit, according to the bill’s co-sponsor Republican Sen. Russell Pearce of Mesa.
The law would allow Arizonans to forego background checks and classes that the state now requires. The legislation was approved by the House 36-19 without debate and sets out to make it legal for most U.S. citizens 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon in Arizona.
Currently if Arizonians carry a hidden firearm without a permit it is a misdemeanor and punishable by six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
If the legislation is enacted as expected, Arizona will join Vermont and Alaska who do not require permits to carry concealed weapons. There are two states, Wisconsin and Illinois that prohibit handguns all together.
The Supreme Court is currently challenging the Illinois law; the McDonald case disputes the state’s ability to ban handgun ownership and the Supreme Court’s decision is expected to be reached in late June.
Those who fear criminals already have the upper hand cite the new law will protect all citizens in the state and deter future criminal behavior because they will not know who is carrying a weapon.
“What’s dangerous is when they’re in criminals’ hands not citizens’ hands,” explains Rep. David Gowan of Sierra Vista one of the bills sponsors.
However, those who advocate against the new bill say it will make it easier for criminals to obtain weapons and endanger law enforcement officers.
“We wouldn’t give people driver’s licenses without requiring training or testing,” said Democrat Rep. Steve Farley of Tucson in an Associated Press story. “Why would we give people the ability to carry a concealed weapon anywhere?”
The new law would not allow handgun customers to circumvent background checks required by the federal law when purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer.