Five Reasons Sawed-Off Shotguns Should Be Legal in Arizona
On Monday, the Arizona State Senate approved a bill amendment that would legalize nunchuks, firearm silencers, and sawed-off shotguns.
Since silencers don't work Hollywood-style and most people wielding nunchuks are more likely to injury their testicles than an assault victim, it's the sawed-off shotgun part that really got our attention.
Sawed-off shotguns -- officially, any shotgun with a barrel length of less than 18 inches -- are the sort of badass Wild West weapon every resident needs. We can think of at least five reasons your state should let you own one:
5.) Good weapons for home defense
Pellets from the shotgun may disperse in a wider pattern when they leave the muzzle, meaning your aim doesn't matter as much. (It still matters, though.) In a home defense situation, you're more likely to hit your target or even multiple targets. Yet, in theory, there's slightly less risk of collateral damage to a neighbor's home.
4.) Easy to make
Your Grandpa's probably got a rusty bird-gun he'll give to you. Take a hacksaw to it and now you've got a devastating pocket weapon.
3.) They're not all that
Cut a man in half? We doubt it. Cutting the barrel length also reduces the muzzle velocity of the pellets, meaning the shot has less power. And in most sawed-offs, the pellets wouldn't spread out that much, anyway. True, a sawed-off can produce horrifying wounds and has a certain scare factor. But some semi-automatic pistols can hold 17 rounds without an extended magazine, and a short-barreled .357 Magnum is powerful and just as concealable. It's tough to compare relative deadliness, danger, or what have you, between sawed-offs and other firearms.
2.) State Senator John Kavanagh doesn't like them
John Kavanagh doesn't want you to own a sawed-off shotgun.
Yes, you heard right -- the conservative Republican from Fountain Hills, the guy who would deny legal marijuana to terminal cancer patients, and who authored the state's infamous failed "bathroom bill" in 2013 -- believes legalizing sawed-offs might be going too far. (He likes the part of the amendment that legalizes silencers and nunchuks, however.) Anything that Kavanagh is against is probably good, so count us in for sawed-offs.
1.) They're illegal under federal law without a permit
Wikimedia image -- barrel and stock shortened by New Times
Just because Arizona makes them legal doesn't mean you can own or sell sawed-off shotguns legally. You still have to pay a $200 tax and obtain a federal permit, a process which involves a background check. If your shotgun is not federally legal, there's no Obama executive action to protect you. The feds routinely sentence people to prison for possessing sawed-offs. So really, the amendment by State Senator Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, applies to very few people. Criminals, of course, make and own sawed-offs with no concern for federal law or whatever the Arizona Legislature does.
UPDATE: Joanna Allhands of the Arizona Republic penned an interesting column today suggesting that sawed-off shotguns are already legal with a federal permit under Arizona law, and that Ward's law is "pointless."
The Channel 12 (KPNX-TV) video about Ward's amendment that's at the top of Allhands' article states bluntly that a current "ban" exists on sawed-offs.
But we see Allhands' point: Several "prohibited weapons" are defined under state law, but at the bottom of those definitions, there's an exception to the ban on those weapons as long as your federal paperwork's in order.
We asked emailed Ward and asked whether her bill was really necessary. She answered, "We are trying to prevent overregulation of guns and accessories in AZ. We would still be under the Federal regulations unless we can truly stand as a sovereign state."
Ward, as you may know, has been trying to nullify federal gun laws at the state level. We're not sure how that would work -- isn't the Second Amendment a federal gun law?
Anyway, we asked Ward to explain again if Arizonans can own sawed-off shotguns if they obtain federal registration, whether or not her amendment succeeds. We haven't heard back yet, but it sounds like the answer's going to be "yes."
Which means our No. 1 reason why sawed-off shotguns should be legal in Arizona should have been that they're already legal.
UPDATE 5:15 p.m. -- Ward emailed us back to say that yes, Arizonans can own sawed-off shotguns if her amendment fails, as long the proper federal registration is obtained.
This was all just a waste of time, it seems. Except it's still fun seeing the headlines of various journalists and bloggers worried that Arizona might legalize these things that are already legal.
UPDATE February 26: One of our intrepid readers pointed out something we found amazing: Arizonans can purchase and own pre-manufactured short-barreled shotguns similar to sawed-offs, but only have to pay the feds a $5.
It turns out that federal law permits firearms called "Any Other Weapon," a category that includes guns that fall short of the federal minimum of 26 inches for total length and minimum 18-inch barrel for shotguns. After paying the fed five bucks, you can buy something like the Serbo Super Shorty, a tiny shotgun with a 6.5-inch barrel and a folding foregrip. As with other federally permitted firearms, "AOWs" like a Super Shorty are legal in Arizona with the proper federal paperwork.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.