High court rules gun ownership is an individual right

While everything from the economy to control of our own borders seems to be headed south there have been some great high points for Arizona gun owners already this year. Not only did we have a half dozen favorable laws passed by the state legislature this session, but the Supreme Court's long-awaited decision as to whether gun ownership is an individual right was finally answered on June 28 - it is an individual right.

In a 5-4 decision Monday, June 28, the Supreme Court said the Founding Fathers meant the "right to keep and bear arms" belongs to individual citizens - not the states. Although this point has been argued for more than a century it never made it to the highest court in the land until this case.

While it is a definite victory for gun owners it is only a partial victory. The case was "reversed and remanded," rather than reversed. Had it been reversed it would have overturned Chicago's gun ban. Being remanded means it goes back to a lower court to determine how Chicago's ridiculous gun ban will be handled.

It is worthy of note that last weekend in Chicago, during the gun ban, 29 people were shot and three died. The weekend before 52 people were shot and 10 died.

It is a sad testament to the fact that when guns are banned only criminals have guns and they will use them against defenseless, law-abiding citizens.

Gun bans don't work. They only create self-defense-free zones where criminals are free to do as they please without fear of anyone being able to fight back.

But, here in Arizona the laws regarding firearm possession became far more favorable this year. We were already fairly fortunate to have relatively unrestricted open carry throughout most of the state. We also had reasonable requirements for obtaining "shall issue" concealed weapons permits. Then our legislature outdid itself this year.

Constitutional Carry becomes legal on July 29. That means law-abiding citizens will no longer need a permit to carry a concealed weapon under most circumstances. Don't be fooled. There are restrictions and it is up to the individual citizen to know those restrictions and comply with them or they may inadvertently join the ranks of the lawbreakers.

However, that is just the best-known of the new laws.

State preemption was strengthened. That means that firearms and ammunition storage were added to the list of things that political subdivisions (cities and counties) may not create laws, ordinances or rules that are not specifically authorized by state law.

Knife preemption was added as well. Political subdivisions may not create laws that are not authorized by the state. What the preemption laws do is make it so the law remains consistent throughout the state. No longer will a person become a criminal simply by crossing a street and breaking a weapons law that is different in that city from what applies in the remainder of the state.

Then there's the "Firearms Freedom Act." If a firearm is made and sold in Arizona and never leaves Arizona, by state law, federal laws do not apply. This one is basically a state's rights test case, but it is a big step in the right direction.

Firearms registration was stopped by HB2629. This bill specifically addressed de facto gun registration by Mohave County. Visitors have been required to write down their name, address, make, model and caliber of firearms checked in at the county building at 700 W. Beale. HB 2629 states that it is illegal for a political subdivision or law enforcement to record such information unless it is in the process of a criminal investigation.

Concealed carry with a permit in places that serve liquor also got a bit of a boost. It requires the notice that the business prohibits firearms to be conspicuously posted next to the liquor license. It also defines the size of the sign and the lettering so that it is more easily recognized. In many cases the notice was being kept next to a liquor license that could only be found by searching for the license. It also makes it legal to enter the establishment while carrying a concealed weapon with a permit to see if it is posted no firearms. Previously you committed a crime before you could see the sign that said you were breaking the law.

Another major coup is that a state Constitutional Amendment enfranchising hunting and fishing and making them a right within the state goes on the ballot in November. If it passes future generations are guaranteed that they will have the opportunity to hunt and fish in Arizona. It may seem that there is no danger of losing the hunting and fishing opportunities within the state, but somewhere down the road, someday, a political faction may gain control of the legislature and decide to outlaw hunting and fishing. This Constitutional amendment is a preemptive strike to make sure that never happens.

These things amount to major victories for gun-owner rights in Arizona, but we must be ever vigilant. The anti-gun forces rarely let an opportunity to restrict our rights go by. There are those who are champing at the bit and hoping that someone who carries without a permit does something stupid so they can attack our right to carry.

There are already rumors floating around right here in Mohave County that law enforcement and judges may not observe the new laws or that the county Board of Supervisors may put different laws in place that restrict the right to concealed carry. Those rumors are just plain false. The preemption law forbids local entities from overriding state law.

Law enforcement agencies will comply with the new laws. To do otherwise would open the law enforcement officers and agencies themselves up to criminal prosecution.

Copies of the new laws are available online at: http://www.azleg.gov/Bills.asp

The new laws are:

HB 2002, Display of restrictions at places that serve liquor

HB 2307, No federal regulation of guns made, sold and kept in Arizona

HB 2543, State firearms preemption

HB 2629, Prohibits gun registration

HCR 2008, Hunting and fishing Constitutional amendment

SB 1108, Constitutional/concealed carry

SB 1153, State knife preemption

For those who have questions about the new laws or simply want to know more about them, there will be another Constitutional/Concealed Carry Seminar at Seven Mile Range on Monday, July 12, at 7 p.m., in the clubhouse. It is open to the public and there is no charge to attend. It is sponsored by the Mohave Sportsman Club and Mother Road Firearms.

Ric Swats is the chief instructor for Mother Road Firearms and is a state-certified concealed weapons and armed security guard instructor and an NRA-certified handgun and personal protection instructor. He may be contacted at (928) 377-5742 or (866) 975-9339 or by e-mail at ric@motherroadfirearms.com