In mulling its own concealed-weapon policy, Maricopa City Council is giving everyone the opportunity to review Arizona’s gun laws.
For the past couple of months during work sessions, the council has debated constitutionality, safety, liability and community benefit of allowing concealed weapons on city property. It has been a lesson in the meaning of “fully unrestricted.”
In Arizona, anyone who is not prohibited from owning a gun can carry one without a permit – except in areas deemed off-limits by local governments. In Maricopa, public facilities like City Hall and Pacana Park are off-limits.
Residents have contacted council members about the restriction of concealed weapons on public property. It is a distinct segment of the population and by no means the majority of Maricopans, but it has jump-started the conversation.
It is an important debate locally, and it is part of the even bigger discussion at the state level, where legislation restricting or loosening gun laws is often in the works. The more educated Maricopans are on municipal and state gun laws, the more influential their voice will be in the statewide debate, in which they should be involved.
Law enforcement officials have valid concerns in this debate, concerns that are not always given the attention they deserve. Members of the Maricopa Police Department, particularly Chief Steve Stahl, have been quite articulate with their on-the-ground experience when their opinion has been sought.
Gun owners have varied reasons for carrying a concealed weapon. Not all gun owners are in favor of allowing everyone to have a concealed weapon in city buildings. Not all non-gun owners are opposed to it.
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, there are 252,500 active concealed-weapon permits in the state. Of those, 9,771 are in Pinal County. The largest group of permit holders is white men in their 60s.
While a handful of gun-focused businesses in Maricopa offer weapons training, Arizona has so watered down its training requirements for permit-holders that there are no defined minimum requirements in state statutes.
That should also be part of the discussion among residents and council members as talks advance on carrying concealed weapons in city buildings. Thanks to the city council, it is an outstanding opportunity to learn the issues.
Share your opinion on the issue at InMaricopa.com/Category/Public-Safety/Open-carry-laws and Facebook.com/InMaricopa.
This editorial appeared in the February issue of InMaricopa News.