Understanding Arizona's Gun Laws
As part of the American Southwest, Arizona is steeped in a rich history that often intertwines with firearms' symbolism and practical use. Today, its state laws reflect a perspective that leans towards protecting the Second Amendment rights. If you live in Arizona or are planning to visit, it's essential to understand what Arizona's gun laws entail and what you should be aware of. One of the best resources for better understanding these laws is consulting with an experienced attorney who can provide you with up-to-date information and guidance.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a gun crime in Arizona, it is important that you consult with a criminal defense attorney. When working with our law firm, you will have an experienced attorney who will provide aggressive representation so that you can have the best chance to resolve your case. We offer free consultations to help you determine what your next steps need to be.
What Firearms Are Legal to Possess in Arizona?
In Arizona, residents can carry a broad range of firearms as specified by the Arizona Criminal Code. These include:
- Handguns: Essentially compact firearms, handguns are specifically designed for hand-held use. In Arizona, both semi-automatic pistols and revolvers fall under this category.
- Revolvers: A subtype of handguns, these feature a rotating cylinder, which can typically hold between 5 to 9 bullets, depending on the model.
- Rifles: These firearms are built for accuracy over longer distances. Rifles come with a longer barrel and are intended to be fired from the shoulder.
- Shotguns: Unlike rifles that fire a single bullet, shotguns are designed to discharge shells packed with smaller pellets, covering a wider range but over shorter distances.
- Explosive-Powered Firearms: This category is broad and includes any weapon that employs an explosive charge to propel a projectile.
However, Arizona law clearly distinguishes what doesn't count as firearms. Air-powered guns, such as those using CO2 or simple air pressure mechanisms like BB or pellet guns, aren't encompassed under the standard firearm definition. Likewise, any weapon modified to the point of permanent non-functionality is no longer legally a firearm.
Constitutional Carry Law in Arizona
Arizona upholds the "constitutional carry" doctrine. This means that residents and visitors over 21 have the freedom to carry firearms, whether openly or concealed, without mandatory licensing. However, the state issues permits, which, while not obligatory within Arizona, can be handy when traveling to other states due to reciprocity agreements.
Arizona's status as an open-carry state extends to various weapons, provided they are in plain sight. Typical means of open carry include:
- Holstered sidearms: Often seen on the belts of individuals, these weapons are openly visible.
- Slung rifles: Carried over the shoulder, rifles are prominent and easily discernible.
However, this freedom does not equate to carrying a firearm however you want. Merely holding a loaded gun openly in one's hands in a public place can lead to charges. As stipulated by Arizona ARS 13-2904, such behavior can be viewed as reckless handling of a deadly weapon, and if convicted, individuals could face penalties associated with a class 6 felony.
Ownership, Purchase, and Age Restrictions
While Arizona offers extensive freedoms, it also ensures a structured framework:
- License and Permit: Arizona does not mandate residents to obtain a license or permit to purchase, own, or transport firearms. This legislative stance further means that Arizona has no concealed weapons permit system in the traditional sense. Instead, anyone legally permitted to own a gun can carry one, whether concealed or openly.
- Age Considerations: The minimum age for the purchase and open carry of a firearm is 18 years. However, if one intends to buy a firearm from a federally licensed gun dealer, they must be at least 21.
- Criminal Convictions: As in other states, Arizona respects federal regulations concerning firearm ownership. Individuals with criminal convictions that prohibit them from owning firearms at the federal level are also restricted in Arizona. This means those with certain felony convictions or other disqualifying factors cannot legally purchase or possess guns in the state.
Engaging a knowledgeable attorney with experience in Arizona's firearm laws can be invaluable. Such legal professionals can clarify which weapons are prohibited, provide guidance on the nuances of open carry, and help individuals stay on the right side of the law.
Mandatory Responsibilities and Legal Implications
While Arizona's open carry laws underscore a commitment to the Second Amendment, they come with responsibilities. Gun owners and enthusiasts must be well-versed in the state's regulations to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them.
With freedom comes responsibility. Arizona's leniency does not excuse ignorance or negligence when it comes to firearms:
- Restricted Zones: Firearms are prohibited in specific areas such as schools, government establishments, and private properties or businesses that have put up explicit signs banning weapons.
- Alcohol and Drugs: It is illegal to handle or discharge firearms under the influence of drugs or alcohol, with stern penalties for transgressions.
Failure to comply with the stipulated laws can result in severe legal repercussions, from fines and probation to potential incarceration, depending on the severity of the offense.
Arizona's Concealed Carry Laws
Arizona stands out for its permissive regulations, particularly concerning concealed carry in the broad spectrum of U.S. state gun laws. While the basics might seem straightforward, understanding the details of these laws can provide a clearer perspective for residents and visitors alike.
At its core, concealed carry involves having a firearm on one's person in a way that isn't immediately noticeable. This can be within a holster under clothing, a bag or purse, or any other manner that keeps it out of plain sight.
Arizona's concealed carry law mirrors the same requirements as the general gun ownership requirement:
- Age Requirement: Anyone aged 21 and over is permitted to carry a concealed handgun. This age threshold ensures a certain level of maturity and responsibility in those carrying concealed weapons.
- No Mandatory CCW: The state does not require its residents to obtain a Concealed Carry Weapon permit (CCW) to carry a gun in a concealed manner. This ease of carry, not common to all states, highlights Arizona's trust in its citizens' gun-handling responsibility.
The Advantages of a CCW Permit in Arizona
Despite not requiring a permit to carry concealed, many Arizonans opt to obtain a CCW (Conceal Carry Weapons permit) for various reasons:
- Enhanced Carry Locations: While a permit isn't required for most places within Arizona, certain locations, like national parks, mandate a CCW for concealed carry. Thus, having a CCW broadens the areas where one can legally carry concealed within the state.
- Interstate Travel: The U.S. is a patchwork of gun laws, and while one state may have relaxed regulations, its neighbors might not. However, several states have CCW reciprocity agreements with Arizona. This means they recognize and honor Arizona's CCW permits. A notable example is Texas: an Arizonan with a CCW permit can travel there and legally carry their concealed firearm under their home state's permit.
- Additional Training: Acquiring a CCW often involves completing a firearm safety and training course. Many gun owners see this as an opportunity to enhance their skills and understanding of responsible gun ownership.
- Expedited Gun Purchases: For those with a CCW permit, purchasing a firearm can be faster, as they might not be subjected to the standard waiting periods or background checks (the latter is because they would've already passed one to obtain the CCW).
While Arizona offers substantial freedom regarding concealed carry, obtaining a CCW permit can provide additional benefits both within the state and beyond its borders. As always, those choosing to exercise their Second Amendment rights should do so with an informed understanding of the freedoms and responsibilities that come with it.
What Types of Firearms Are Restricted in Arizona?
While Arizona is often characterized by its liberal stance on gun ownership, it does, however, place certain restrictions on the types of weapons that residents can legally possess. This aligns with ensuring its citizens' safety while upholding its residents' Second Amendment rights. Here's a deeper dive into the specifics of these regulations.
- Automatic Weapons: Arizona has regulations against fully automatic firearms, commonly referred to as "machine guns." These weapons discharge more than one round with each pull of the trigger. It's crucial to understand that while the term "assault weapon" is often used in the media and public discourse, its legal definition varies from state to state. In Arizona's context, it specifically refers to firearms with this rapid-fire capability.
- Short-Barreled Rifles: Any rifle with a barrel length of fewer than 16 inches falls under this category. The restrictions on such weapons stem from concerns over their ease of concealment and potential use in illicit activities.
- Short-Barreled Shotguns: Similarly, shotguns with a barrel length of fewer than 18 inches are restricted. These too, present concerns related to concealment.
- Sawed-Off Weapons: This category encapsulates modified weapons, including rifles and shotguns, with a total length of fewer than 26 inches. Such alterations typically aim to make the firearm more concealable, which can pose significant law enforcement challenges.
- Suppressors: Commonly known in popular culture as "silencers," these devices are designed to reduce the noise and visible muzzle flash generated by firing a weapon. The restriction on suppressors is in place due to concerns about potential misuse in clandestine activities.
Prohibition on Explosive and Hazardous Devices
Beyond firearms, Arizona law casts a wider net over devices that can cause widespread harm:
- Explosive Devices: This category includes rockets, grenades, and mines. While these might seem like devices restricted to warfare, the law ensures there's no ambiguity about their prohibition among civilians.
- Chemical Weapons: Any device designed to release poison gas is strictly forbidden. Such weapons can cause indiscriminate harm and are seen as threats not just to individuals but to larger communities.
- Bombs: These explosive devices, designed to cause destruction, injury, or death upon detonation, are also strictly off-limits for civilian ownership and use.
While Arizona does prioritize the rights of its gun owners, it also places distinct boundaries on weapon types that might pose heightened risks to public safety. These regulations highlight a balance between individual rights and community safety. As always, residents and visitors should remain informed about these specific prohibitions to ensure they stay on the right side of the law.
Contact A Gun Charges Defense Attorney in Phoenix
At the Nava Law Firm, our team is dedicated to helping and representing you. You will have an experienced attorney who will provide an aggressive representation so that you can have the best chance to get your case resolved.
Our firm primarily serves the areas of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Chandler, Glendale and other areas around Arizona. If you are in need of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Maricopa County, please contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation.