Introduction to Gun Laws in Arizona
Arizona is incredibly lenient when it comes to firearm law. Perhaps due to its “Wild West” past, almost nothing related to guns is prohibited; in fact, Arizona is one of the states leading the charge in new firearm allowances. Locations like bars and schools- places where guns have never traditionally been allowed- are now being considered beneath a wave of second amendment, freedom to bare arms rhetoric.
Although this leniency limits the gun-related crimes you can be charged with, it does invoke a level of complacency for Arizona residents who essentially believe anything is allowed. This complacency could, consequently, lead to a gun-related charge for something an Arizona resident would assume is legal. This article will discuss both what is acceptable in Arizona along with what is not, and possible defenses if you are charged within the thin line of illegality that is Arizona gun law.
What is legal?:
To encompass everything that is legal related to guns in Arizona, one must use broad strokes. First and foremost, Arizona gun law does not require a permit to carry a gun, open or concealed. The law states that any eighteen year old Arizona resident (who is not prohibited) may openly carry a weapon, while any twenty one year old Arizona resident may carry a concealed weapon. This means that every eligible adult could be carrying a gun without acquiring any form of documentation declaring their possession or proficiency with the weapon. To go one step further, the “gun show loophole” that has so commonly been tossed around in political discussion is very much active in the State of Arizona. This means that at an event like a gun show, where unlicensed parties sell guns, there is no required background check upon sale. Seeing shootings occur all over the country in far greater numbers than other civilized countries, this type of dismissive practice must be considered as something which goes too far in its second amendment leniency.
Moreover, Arizona does not prohibit military grade weapons, like assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles, and large capacity magazines. It does not require gun vendors to get a state license, or impose a waiting period on acquiring a firearm. Residents may also purchase as many weapons as they want at a time. Some believe that these broadly permissive second amendment rights are a healthy thing, allowing those who would defend themselves against criminals the option to purchase powerful guns, while criminals will get guns on the black market regardless of the law. Yet, there is a darker side to freedom. In 2013, Arizona had the fifteenth highest rate of gun death among the fifty states. Also, it was determined that U.S. guns illegally transported to Mexico came in the highest numbers from Arizona.
What is Illegal?
First, it should be stated which adults are barred from carrying a gun in the State of Arizona. The following is a list of such individuals:
-anyone who has been found to constitute a danger to themselves or others
-anyone convicted of a felony or another crime that has formally removed the right to carry a weapon
-anyone serving a term in a correctional institute or prison.
-anyone serving a probation term for a domestic violence offense, parole, community supervision, home arrest, etc
-An undocumented alien or non-immigrant alien traveling for business or pleasure in Arizona. This does not count if they are traveling for a gun competition. (non-immigrant aliens may appeal for a hunting license)
-anyone determined to be found incompetent in a criminal procedure
Even for eligible gun carriers, there are also restricted places to carry guns:
-businesses that serve alcohol for consumption, unless you have a valid permit. If you have a concealed weapons permit, you may enter a bar with your weapon, but may not consume alcohol with the gun on your person, pursuant to ARS 4-244.
-polling places on election day
-school grounds, unless you are conducting an educational program involving guns
-commercial nuclear and hydroelectric plants
-at or beyond airport security checkpoints
-private businesses may restrict it regardless of sign postage. Failure to comply may result in a trespassing charge.
And, even for eligible gun carriers in eligible locations, there are a few prohibited guns under Arizona law:
-any firearm that is capable of shooting more than one shot automatically with a single function of the trigger. This is referring to any weapon that is fully automatic, essentially allowing the user to spray bullets with a single trigger pull. Semi-automatic, which allows a bullet per pull of the trigger, is the legal standard.
-any rifle with a barrel length of less than sixteen inches, or a shotgun with a barrel length of less than eighteen inches, or a modified rifle or shotgun which has an overall length of less than twenty six inches.
Possible Punishments for Gun Misconduct:
Class 1 Misdemeanor-
To land a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, you had to have been carrying a deadly weapon at a polling place, school grounds, or a public event when asked not to. A Class 1 Misdemeanor carries with it a possible punishment of up to six months in jail, along with other fines and penalties.
Class 6 Felony-
A Class 6 Felony requires the violator to have defaced a deadly weapon, possessed a defaced weapon, or sold a defaced weapon or a weapon to somebody who cannot legally acquire a weapon. A defaced weapon would most commonly refer to a weapon that has had the serial number scratched off, making it impossible to track. Scratching off a weapon’s serial number is a strong implication that the owner plans to commit a crime, and is punished accordingly. A defaced weapon could also refer to an illegally modified weapon, such as a sawed off shotgun. A Class 6 Felony carries a possible punishment of up to a year in jail, along with other fines and penalties.
Class 4 Felony-
To be charged with a Class 4 felony, one must have possessed a weapon when it was illegal to do so (ex. A felon), possessed or manufactured an illegal weapon under Arizona law, went into a nuclear plant with a deadly weapon, or committed a felony while in possession of a deadly weapon. A Class 4 felony carries with it a possible punishment of up to two and a half years in prison, along with other fines and penalties.
Class 3 Felony-
To be charged with a Class 3 felony, violations include: selling or providing a firearm to a person with the intention of committing a felony, engaging in an act of terror with a deadly weapon, or discharging a firearm in an area that is associated with gang activity. A Class 3 felony carries with it a possible punishment of up to 3 and a half years in jail, along with other fines and penalties.
It must also be noted that the punishments listed were those exclusively associated with gun misconduct. For instance, if you were to provide a firearm to a person intending to commit a felony, you would be charged with both the Class 4 felony charge and a charge associated with aiding in a crime. Thus, if you have been charged with one of these crimes, you must be wary of stacking charges and how to best limit potential jail time. As always, your best option will be to contact an experienced defense attorney immediately. For more information on firearm laws in Arizona click on the link for the NRA’s website.
Carrying a Gun in your Car and across State lines:
In Arizona, because you are allowed to carry a gun in either an open or concealed capacity, the same applies to within your vehicle. You may conceal your weapon or keep it visible; however, if your car is parked at a business that does not want your gun visible to other customers, you must conceal your weapon. Also, if you are pulled over and a police officer asks if you have a concealed weapon, it is in your best interest to be compliant and reveal said weapon. However, do not be tricked if they ask for a gun license. As of 2010, you are not required to have a license for your weapon in the State of Arizona, and officers are aware of this.
In terms of transporting your weapon across State lines, you must acquire a concealed weapons permit. Once that permit is acquired, thirty six other states recognize the legitimacy of the Arizona concealed weapons permit, and will allow those weapons into their state. To make it easier, the states that do not recognize the Arizona concealed weapons permit are: California, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
However, you must be wary of individual state’s laws in regard to gun possession, and behave accordingly. Because Arizona is one of the most lenient gun-law states, Arizona residents must be aware that what is appropriate in Arizona- such as carrying a gun into a bar- may be considered grossly illegal in other states.
Possible Defenses to Gun Misconduct:
The first defense to gun misconduct is determining if you are active military or active law enforcement. Many charges, especially those involving prohibited places to carry like schools, can be defended by simply showing that the defendant was in fact legally allowed to carry in that location. For charges involving vehicles, police officers may claim that a gun in the glovebox is a concealed weapon, which under Arizona law is not true. Under ARS 13-3102, you need not disclose the presence of a weapon in visible case, holster, scabbard, or in a glove compartment or trunk, even if the officer asks. However, as explained above, it is almost always in your best interest to disclose the presence of a weapon, since it is legal without a license in the state of Arizona for those over 21 years old.
A cop may also attempt to charge you if your gun is too visible in your vehicle, since technically a person should not be able to see your gun through the window. This could constitute anything from the gun sitting on your passenger seat to resting on the dashboard. However, this law only applies once you have exited your vehicle. Technically, your gun could be wholly visible while you are sitting in and/or driving your vehicle. Additionally, an experienced defense attorney will use your Miranda rights to determine if the evidence accrued against you was offered voluntarily, or coerced against your will. This is, as is true with most criminal hearings, one of the most powerful tools to limiting or eliminating possible punishments.
Interested in learning more about gun misconduct law in the state of Arizona? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below or reach out to us on our social media channels. If you need criminal defense assistance on gun misconduct in the state of Arizona , contact an experienced Tucson defense attorney today.