Bill would end concealed weapon requirements - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Bill would end concealed weapon requirements

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Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2009 3:58 pm | Updated: 2:28 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Are you 18? Not convicted of a crime?

Legislation set for debate Friday would let you carry a concealed weapon without having to bother with the background check, training and proficiency test now required.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said she believes all Arizonans should have the right to defend themselves. Allen, who does have a state-issued permit to carry a concealed gun, said she does not believe that makes gun owners any safer.

More to the point, she said the law makes Arizonans less safe.

Allen's proposal, SB1270, does not do away with the concealed weapon permits. In fact, it actually would give those who do decide to get those permits the right to carry their guns into places now off limits, ranging from school campuses in certain circumstances to various public events and buildings - including, as the measure is now worded, the public gallery of the state Senate.

Her proposal drew alarm from Attorney General Terry Goddard along with a handful of police chiefs and sheriffs.

"This bill would make a radical and very dangerous change in state law," Goddard said at a Thursday press conference. "It would put our law enforcement officers at significant increased risk."

El Mirage police Chief Mike Frazier said what Allen has proposed in SB1270 would change how officers deal with the public.

"We've worked very hard to develop relationships within the community," he said. Frazier said that means officers, in general, assume that most people they deal with are not hiding a gun.

"Now you're concerned that every person you come into contact with is armed," Frazier said. "And I can tell you, that will change the dynamic between the way we treat citizens that we deal with every day."

But Allen said the protests against loosening state gun laws ignore a basic fact: Criminals don't obey the laws we have now.

"Criminals couldn't care less about any of the gun laws we pass," she said. "Gun laws are to restrict me, the law abiding citizen. It's not to restrict the criminal."

Frazier conceded the point.

"I realize that criminals are going to carry guns," he said. "That's why they're criminals. But we're talking about now having to be overly concerned about who may, in thinking they're doing the right thing, pull a weapon in trying to assist us and, in fact, make things worse."

Virtually anyone is entitled to carry a weapon in the open, a constitutional right going back to territorial days. But the idea of concealed weapons permits is a more recent legislative creation, dating only to 1994.

Goddard said lawmakers wanted to be sure that only those with additional training got to carry weapons out of sight.

Phoenix police Chief Jack Harris said training lets people know that they should always tell an approaching police officer that they are armed. Nothing in the law, however, actually requires such disclosure.

Goddard, who intends to run for governor next year, said he also is concerned with provisions in SB1270 that would let those who do decide to get permits to take their guns some places not now allowed.

For example, the measure would allow anyone with a state permit to go onto school grounds with that gun "for the purpose of picking up or dropping off a student."

Allen said that exception is justified.

"They're law-abiding citizens," she said. "They're not out to do any harm."

Allen said she sometimes keeps her gun in her vehicle.

"So I take my grandchildren to school. All of a sudden, oh my gosh, I am breaking the law dropping them off at school, I have got to run back home and take that out of my car."

Bringing the weapon into the school, however, would remain forbidden.

But the special privileges would not end there.

The wording of the legislation would let those with state permits take their concealed weapons into many public buildings, including the Senate. Allen said she has no concern with people bringing concealed weapons into the building where she works.

"They're law-abiding citizens," she said. "You won't even know they have anything. They aren't going to use it unless their life is threatened."

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