|Image: Wikimedia Commons|
Glendale resident Dave Gushert says public safety would be at risk if lawmakers pass a bill that lets most Arizonans pack heat without a permit.
The bill, which passed on a 20-10 vote in the Arizona Senate and is headed for likely approval by Governor Janice Brewer, also puts Gushert's lucrative business at risk. (UPDATE April 7 -- the bill still needs another read by the Arizona House before it goes before Brewer).
He runs one of 604 state-approved concealed-weapons-permit-training organizations listed on the Arizona Department of Public Safety's Web site. About 140,000 people currently have permits in Arizona, all of whom had to take an eight- or a 16-hour class for the privilege.
Although he conducts other types of firearms instruction, "the most thriving part of the business has always been the [permit training]," Gushert says. "My phone rings off the hook all day long. It won't be ringing anymore."
Gushert worked as a superintendent for Pulte Homes until a couple of years ago when he was laid off as the recession hit. It was then that he built on his interest in firearms, spent about $3,000 in certifications and training classes, and started his own business, 1st Defense Firearms Training. His business is first on the DPS' list of organizations.
He runs five to eight classes a month, each with eight or 10 students. He works other jobs, he says, but the CCW classes alone bring in enough money to support his family.
We didn't call the other 603 firms on the list, but they're all in the same boat. If Brewer signs the bill, far fewer Arizonans will bother with any sort of firearms training.
One prominent Valley resident who founded a firearms-training academy, Buz Mills, is running for governor. You'd think he might have something to say about this bill, but Mills didn't return calls we left for him yesterday and today. (He managed to get back to us this afternoon).
Gushert claims he's against the bill mainly because firearms training for concealed weapons carriers is prudent.
He's got a point. As our recent feature article about former antique store owner Roger Garfield shows, knowledge of state laws regarding the use of firearms -- something taught in CCW classes -- can mean the difference between being seen as a hero or villain by the rest of society. Garfield, as the article details, shot a trespassing homeless man who was unarmed. He was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury and will be sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison next month.
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The class used to be 16 hours before the state cut it back to eight a few years ago. A single day of instruction is scarcely an inconvenience, compared to the substantial, state-granted right of concealed carry.
The proposed law would also make it a serious misdemeanor to lie to police officers about a concealed weapon during a traffic stop. If the cop asks, you'll have to produce your weapon -- no matter if your mother or liberal boss is in the car with you.
The officer would have the power to hold the weapon for the duration of the stop. The bill says nothing about whether the officer should give it back loaded or unloaded. That ought to make for some interesting traffic stops: "Here's your ticket for aggressive driving and the .357 Magnum I just took from you. You're free to -- open fire?"