Arizona and Guns Go Together: State Laws Give Firearms Owners Legal Cover

Arizona's gun laws are on national display following Saturday's shooting, but whether they're "weak" or "strong" depends on whom you ask.

According to an article today in the Los Angeles Times , "Arizona has some of the weakest gun-control laws in the nation." (Emphasis ours.)

Put that way, it's certainly true. Here's a run-down on some of Arizona's "liberal" gun laws:

* Any legal resident 21 or older can buy a handgun. (Except for prohibited possessors, like convicted felons.) Rifles can be bought starting at age 18.

* There's no waiting period to buy guns. Once the background check is approved by computer, customers are free to buy.

* For most guns, no registration is required. (Federally controlled firearms, like machine-guns, require extra paperwork.)

* Gun stores are ubiquitous throughout the state. They're for sale at sporting goods stores, gun stores, in classified ads, and at gun shows. Want a semiautomatic M-16? Nothing stopping you from picking one up except for the price-tag. We saw one for $599 over the weekend at one local store.

* Guns are readily available in most states, thanks to the Second Amendment. Arizona's not so different in the basic ability to find and buy a gun. But Arizona's laws are more "liberal" than most. For example, it's one of a few states in which you can carry your gun openly in most places. It's rare, but not shocking, to see someone sporting a cowboy gun in a hip holster.

* A new law allows non-felons to carry concealed weapons most anywhere without the concealed-carry permit required previously. The law doesn't limit how many guns, or what kind, you can conceal. With federal exceptions, whatever fits under the trenchcoat is okay.

* Arizona is one of only two states that specifically allows guns to be brought into drinking establishments, according to the New York Times. However, the person with the gun in the bar can't be drinking, under the law.

* High-capacity, 31-round magazines, like the one used by shooter Jared Loughner, banned in some states, are freely available. There's no limit on how many you can buy.

* Another new law, passed last year, allows people to display a firearm -- or threaten verbally to use a gun -- when confronted with a threat. Before that one was signed by Governor Jan Brewer, local lawyer O. Joseph Chornenky tells us, displaying a gun was serious business. One Phoenix man received 3 1/2 years in prison for putting a gun on his dashboard during a road-rage incident, he says. Now, pulling out a gun to threaten someone who threatened you, even if the initial threat only involved fisticuffs, is legal in Arizona.

If gun laws are "weak," Arizona self-defense laws could be described as strong. Not only can you legally shoot someone who's threatening you with deadly force, but you can kill people commiting a range of other crimes, from arson to child molestation.

Think the state Legislature will "toughen up" gun laws in the wake of Saturday's shooting? It seems more likely that the opposite will occur.

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