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Arizona on verge of "Constitutional Carry".

(PHOENIX, AZ April 14) As we go to press, my home state of Arizona is poised to become the third state--and the first with major metropolitan areas--to reinstate "Constitutional Carry." The bill passed the state legislature earlier this month and is now on the desk of Gov. Jan Brewer, who is expected to sign it.

Under the new law citizens will once again be free to tuck a defensive weapon unobtrusively under a jacket without worrying about an over-broad interpretation of the term "concealed." We will still have our concealed carry of weapons (CCW) permit system to support reciprocity with other states, and to permit lawful carry in a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol. The last bit was an appeasement for the state's powerful tourist and hospitality industry.

Contrary to allegations of prohibitionists, Constitutional Carry is unlikely to cause hordes of untrained rubes to suddenly start packing iron and getting into firefights over parking places. I make that assertion based on the long and mostly uneventful history of open carry in Arizona. It is not at all unusual to see civilians carrying openly, even in metropolitan Phoenix, and despite scolds who grumble at the sight, no one can point to any evidence that Arizona's widely armed civil society is any less civil than any other. In fact, there may be some evidence that it is more civil than other states reflecting Robert A. Heinlein's dictum that "an armed society is a polite society."

The lion's share of the credit for putting Constitutional Carry on the governor's desk goes to the Arizona Citizens Defense League (AZCDL). AZCDL secretary Charles Heller credits the organization's, success to a mix of articulate and effective lobbying by president Dave Kopp and vice-president John Wentling, having members and supporters who also happen to be key legislators, and an involved and active rank and file membership. The group's membership is on track to pass 5,000 in the next year. Email messages generated by AZCDL members have twice crashed the state capitol's email system.

AZCDL is only five years old and is a brash newcomer on the Arizona political scene, often upstaging the state's century-old NRA affiliate, the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association. While there may be a certain amount of well-earned smugness on the part of AZCDL, and perhaps a bit of healthy competition, there is no real animosity between the groups. That isn't to say that relations are all sweetness and light. For example, ASRPA opposed an AZCDL bill that reduced training requirements for CCW permit holders. Nonetheless, many, including myself and at least one AZCDL leader, proudly hold membership in both organizations.

The AZCDL leadership, being students of history, know very well that the ASRPA was there and holding the fort when some of them were packing cap guns. It was ASRPA that, in 1989, stood up to former senator Dennis DeConcini's S.747, the prototype of the 1994 Clinton gun ban, and lit the fuse that eventually led to his retirement from politics. Recent ASRPA history has been a bit quieter. Their last major legislative success in the gun rights arena was to establish the state's CCW permit system over 15 years ago. Lately the venerable organization has concentrated more on the shooting sports, actively--and effectively--defending shooting ranges from encroachment by development, and tracking conservation issues.

The story of how Constitutional Carry came this far is an interesting one, and it demonstrates the wisdom in brother Jeff's advice in this space a few weeks ago to "swing for the fences." As Jeff drew the picture, Democrats have been weakened by recent nonsense in Washington and rightly fear the anger of an enraged electorate. At the same time, Republicans have earned their share of voter scorn by betraying their stated principles of limited government and the rule of law, and are looking for an opportunity to get back in voters' good graces.

The situation in Arizona was a bit different from the national scene, since the Republicans are the majority party in the legislature, but the broad outlines of the story remain the same. The net effect is a perfect storm of voter discontent and edgy politicians in both major parties. Enter a focused, well-organized, and energetic organization supported by a grassroots that, while not being especially well-financed, is able to generate a significant amount of noise in the streets, and it's not hard to see how Constitutional Carry and other measures the group has pushed have gathered steam.

Another vital ingredient in AZCDL's recipe for success was NRA's support--and particularly, the lack of NRA interference. The organization climbed on board once it was apparent that the bill had legs, sending out email alerts once the bill cleared its first committee by a convincing margin. Fortunately, in Arizona only one group was working to improve CCW laws. Contrast that with the situation in Iowa, where a different chemistry led to a markedly different result. Jeff will compare the Iowa situation in a future column.


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Title Annotation:From The Firearms Coalition; reinstatement of the Constitutional Carry Bill; Arizona Citizens Defense League
Author:Knox, Chris
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:1U8AZ
Date:May 20, 2010
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