SourceBill would reduce penalty for not carrying gun permit
Cronkite News Service
For Arizonans who carry concealed weapons, forgetting to bring along a permit can lead to a misdemeanor charge, four months in jail and a $750 fine.
But a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate and headed to Gov. Janet Napolitano would reduce the charge to a petty offense carrying no jail time and a fine of up to $300.
A group representing law enforcement professionals in Arizona said forcing people to carry permits protects police officers and the public.
But Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, sponsor of HB 2469, said forgetting a permit shouldn't be a crime in the first place.
"It's the silliest thing," Pearce said. "We are charging people with criminal offenses because they don't have a piece of paper on them."
Pearce's bill would reduce the charge for failing to produce a concealed carry permit from a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Under Arizona law, a person with such a permit must carry it every time he carries a weapon. The charge is dropped if the person produces the permit in court.
Police can check for the permit from their patrol cars in an online database if they stop someone without a permit.
In those cases, if the person has a permit on record, he isn't cited.
Bryan Soller, president of the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, said that if the penalty is lessened or removed, people won't feel the need to have the permits with them.
"If something goes down, police need to be able to instantly prove who gun-holders are and if they are allowed to have those weapons," Soller said. "They can't always turn around and run a check."
The state Department of Public Safety has issued more than 86,000 concealed weapons permits since the permits became required in 1994.
Holders must be at least 21 years old, have a clean record and be mentally competent to receive the permit after completing a firearm safety program.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, who opposed the bill in committee, said it's matter of accountability.
"If people can remember to strap on a weapon, they can remember to put the permit in their pocket or stick it in their wallet," she said.
The Senate passed the bill Wednesday on a 22-7 vote. The House approved it on a 45-10 vote.
Pearce said the concerns with the bill are overblown: "These are good citizens. They've passed a background check and a fingerprint check and taken a safety class. But for some reason, if someone has a shirt tail hanging over a gun or it's in a purse, there might be something wrong going on."