Saturday, August 22, 2009

Should firearms and rallies mix in Arizona?

The recent political event in which Arizonans exercised their right to openly carry firearms, and to which my colleague Fred Solop reasonably commented on, has been the subject of much ire. First to be clear, the open carry laws quite expressly allow eligible citizens to openly carry their firearm at an event such as this one. However, whether or not it is a good idea to open carry at a political rally is another matter. Since firearms are expressly prohibited from being carried at a polling place on the day of an election, it seems for good reasons, it is perfectly reasonable to question the wisdom of openly carrying firearms at a political event in which there will be contentious debate. However, not necessarily because you distrust the citizen exercising their rights. In addition to being contentious, political events can be crowded. Openly carrying may be an invitation to someone commandeering another person's weapon. This need not be a pro or anti 2nd Amendment argument. The tactical advantage to open carrying in certain situations is itself debatable among firearms experts. I am not calling for a law to be passed to restrict open carry at such rallies, I only suggest it is wise to reconsider. This also does not preclude the right of permit holders to conceal carry a firearm. Those who feel unsafe at the sight of an open carry firearm should know that its very likely that people around them are carrying weapons concealed. There are almost 140,000 active permits in Arizona and Arizona has substantial reciprocity laws, meaning they honor conceal carry weapons permits from every other state. For those concerned about firearms at a political rally, the bigger worry in my mind is the inability to distinguish those folks carrying concealed weapons legally or not. This is a problem one cannot escape without outright outlawing weapons from being carried on any person, but then by definition only lawbreakers will remain unaffected by these types of laws.

For those students at Northern Arizona wondering if NAU allows open carry or concealed carry on campus, the answer appears to be 'no'. Oddly, it is legal to store a weapon on the campus of a k-12 school if it is locked in a car, but not at a university. The state authorizes the Arizona Board of Regents to establish the policies concerning safety, and possessing or storing a firearm is a violation of that policy. I am not an expert or lawyer on the gun laws in Arizona, so please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.


  1. You are correct that Arizona students cannot conceal carry on campus. They also cannot open carry either. The Arizona state Senate did pass a resolution that would allow students to conceal carry, but it has not moved forward and may not come to fruition.

    You mention in your post that people who are fearful of someone open carrying should be aware that there are likely people around them who are concealed carriers. This is a good point. I would like to add that I would feel much safer with a group of concealed permit holders than I would open carriers. Open carriers can get a gun from a gun show, and not have to go through the background check that is requred of someone purchasing from a gun store. While a concealed carrier could do the same, a person who is a concealed carrier is required to go through an extensive background check, be finger printed, in some states have letters of recommendation, and must demonstrate proficiency with a firearm (among other requirements). This is not so with an open carrier. They could feasibly have absolutely no knowledge of how to even fire a weapon and still be legally allowed to open carry. Additionaly, a concealed carrier obviously does not want the public to know that they have a loaded weapon in their possesion. This could be for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they may not want to frighten the general public or be seen as an agressive person. An individual who open carries also does so for a variety of reasons, but one likely possiblity is to intimidate and portray a more passive-agressive posture. They could be making a bold statement to the effect, "you better not take my rights away or there will be trouble" as might be implied by such actions as having an open carry weapon and a sign that states that the "tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of tyrants." It would make a big difference to me as to how I perceive a person to see someone with that statement on a sign without a weapon or a concealed weapon vs. a person who is open carry.

    Furthermore, while both open carry and concealed carry individuals feel that they need to carry for personal protection, it seems to me that open carry more obviously begs the question as to who the enforcers of the law are, the police, or everybody else? Does this situation not blur the lines of what the roles in society are? Do open carriers divert police resources away from other aspects of crowd control, and if so, what are the potential implications? While I do believe that most open carriers know their rights well and are law abiding individuals, with regard to the motivations behind why open carriers show up at rambunctions political rallies, how can we differentiate the sane from the insane? Certainly there are people who show up to these rallies who are not mentally stable, but without a gun, they have much less ability to create problems or are less likely to cause problems. Moreover, even if one is law abiding and mentally stable, open carry allows for greater potential for someone who is not mentally stable to be able to comandeer (as you have pointed out) another persons weapon and use it for harm.

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