Senate committee green lights looser rules for concealed weapons

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PHOENIX -- Arizona adults who want to carry a concealed weapon might not have to undergo a background check or any special training in the future.

The Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved a measure that would allow exactly that. The vote was four to three along party lines.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Russell Pearce of Mesa. The Republican says the measure is designed preserve the constitutional right to bear arms. It's also meant to cut the legal red tape that many say prevents law-abiding people from protecting themselves.

Opponents of the bill are concerned that allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a permit would lead to more violence.

Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police lobbyist John Thomas says the measure would "take Arizona back into Wild-West carry with no consideration for officer safety."

Right now it is legal to an adult to carry a gun as long as it's clearly visible.

Those who want to carry concealed are required not only to have a permit, but to have that permit with them whenever they are carrying. The permit holder must also show the document to law-enforcement officers upon request.

To get that permit, a person must undergo a minimum of eight hours of training by an authorized instructor and submit fingerprints.

The bill on the table, SB1102, would remove that training requirement. It would also remove the mandate that a person carrying a concealed weapon also carry a CCW permit.

According to the Department of Public Safety, processing time for permits is currently running at about 75 days. In addition, because Arizona is a "shall issue" state, permits cannot be denied as long as the applicant meets the statutory requirements.

DPS statistics show that as of Jan. 31, there were nearly 150,000 active permits, more than 1,700 suspended permits and 1,002 revoked permits. More than 78,000 of those permits are held in Maricopa County.

The largest single group of those with concealed-weapons permits is white men between the ages of 60 and 69, followed by white men between the ages of 50 and 59.

The measure passed Monday, SB 1102, will go to the full Senate after a legal review. A House committee is slated to hear a similar bill on Wednesday.

Current statutes
>>> Arizona Revised Statute 13-3112
>>> Arizona Administrative Rules R13-9-101 through R13-9-603