Concealed Weapons

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The legislature is considering a bill to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Attorney General Terry Goddard opposes the bill and will talk about it.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Right now, you can carry a concealed gun if you undergo training and get a permit. State lawmakers are working on a bill that would allow a concealed carry without a permit. Here now to talk about that bill is Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

Terry Goddard: Good to be here.

Ted Simons: Why is this proposal a bad idea?

Terry Goddard: Well, A, we have a system that you just described for concealed carry, which is working really well. So I'm of the theory if it's not broke, let's not fix it. And the second reason is what I stand on and law enforcement throughout the state of Arizona has said, it significantly increases the danger, the hidden danger, if you will, to law enforcement officers. They never know in a crowd situation who is or who is not carrying a weapon. That's a real serious problem. Since 1994 when this bill was passed, 125,000 Arizonans have applied for and received a concealed permit. That's about 10% of gun owners in the state. And they feel they have some need to have the weapon concealed. So they've been able to do that through the existing process and gotten some minimal training on how to handle that gun safely and I think that's a very, very positive thing. It makes us all safer.

Ted Simons: Why should there be a difference between those who carry firearms openly and those who conceal?

Terry Goddard: I think there is a difference, as Judge Kegan, who was the representative who originally proposed this bill in 1994, he said at the time there was in his opinion a quantitative -- qualitative difference between having a gun displayed for law enforcement and the public to see and having it hidden in your coat or pant leg, and for that reason, he believed there was additional danger from both the handling of the gun and to others in the public. And for that reason, we had a separate provision for concealed carry. By no means unusual. 38 other states have concealed carry just like Arizona and I believe that is the mainstream position and one that works very well here and in other states.

Ted Simons: And yet those in support of the bill say, bad guys don't have permit, why hamstring the good guys?

Terry Goddard: You're not hamstringing anyone. If you would like to carry concealed, you can apply for the permit, only 804 in the 15 years it's been around have not gotten the permit. That's because they have a felony or a mental health record that would not allow them to carry under any circumstances. So I believe it's a system that's working extremely well. There was testimony in the legislature on a different bill that said in the minds of the legislators, the people who had concealed carry permits were the most responsible gun owners out there and they could be trusted virtually any situation.

Ted Simons: And yet making the responsible ones getting the training and passing tests and these things, those would be available but only on a volunteer basis, according to the bill. Not good enough for you?

Terry Goddard: No, it isn't. This bill would blow away the current system of training and permit. And replace it with anyone over 18 who owned a gun would be able to carry it in a concealed manner. No pre-requisite, training, no ability to show that you could use it safely or intelligently, and here's the other thing that concerns us a lot. This bill also has a provision that says that public events such as the race cars at P.I.R. or the Tempe block party or -- you name it -- the major public events that right now say that guns are not allowed, this bill would change that. And say if you have a concealed carry permit, you could not be prohibited from bringing your guns to major public events including ones where alcohol is served.

Ted Simons: Other concerns about the current law. Some say it's confusing. If you cover it up in your car, you could be prosecuted. If you untuck your shirt and it's all of a sudden concealed and you don't have a permit, you could be prosecuted. The law as it stands now, is it confusing?

Terry Goddard: No, it's clear. And 125,000 permitees make it very very abundantly clear that it's working and it's out there, if somebody wants or feels they have a need to carry concealed, they can do it with minimal steps to have to go. What I think has been failed to happen here is prevent -- a pervasive case why it needs to change. It seems to me if there's not a reason to change, why are you suddenly adamant to scrap the old system which is used by most states and suddenly adopt a radical change? And in the words of law enforcement, the chiefs that stood with me last week to testify against the bill, chiefs and sheriffs from across the state, basically have the uniform opinion this was going to make the law enforcement officer's job more dangerous and more dangerous for the general public.

Ted Simons: Are we hearing that from leadership and not necessarily rank and file? I bring it up because there was testimony from a law enforcement officer who said if you don't expect everyone to be armed that you stop, you're not really up to snuff. Shouldn't a police officer always expect that who they're dealing with might be a dangerous individual with a weapon?

Terry Goddard: Absolutely. If you're apprehending a suspect, if you're pulling over a car where you have no knowledge of who is in it, yes, you treat that as if they're armed and dangerous. But police officers deal with a lot of other situations in the community and that point was made over and over again by both rank and file officers and their chiefs. Crowd control situations are the number one that comes to mind to me. You've got a parade, a public demonstration, like let's say the Tempe block party. What is the officer's response when they have to assume every single person in that crowd may be carrying a concealed weapon? There's a certain obvious show that comes with carrying a gun, which is out in the open and visible to everyone. Those officers in a crowd control situation do not assume that everybody is a dangerous person and can be threatening them. But with this bill, they're going to have an entirely different approach to the general population. The chief from El Mirage made that point well. He said, we need to work with the community. We need a give-and-take constantly, and this is one more way that a wedge is driven between the police officer and the people that he or she needs to work with.

Ted Simons: The sponsor of the bill, representative Allen, a quote here, law enforcement is not in support of citizens protecting themselves. Comment.

Terry Goddard: Not true. Law enforcement is extremely supportive and works together with people. What they're not looking for is handling of weapons in a dangerous manner. Guns that are available to people who may be inebriated and those who don't understand how to handle them. In Arizona, I want to be clear about this, we have a constitutional right to have a gun and a right to possess and wear it and have it out in public for display. You certainly see it all over the state and that's something that's not challenged by this bill. All that is being talked about by the law enforcement folks I represent is that having everybody as a potential concealed carrier is going a step way too far. That basically is adding to the danger, not just to the law enforcement officers, but to the entire public. How do you feel if the person sitting next to you on the bus or a person you're at a sporting event with may or may not be carrying a gun? I know it changes the attitude about the person next to me and I'm going to take a whole different view how I'm watching that person, what I'm going to feel about that the response -- their response to a bad call by the REF.

Ted Simons: Taking away the officiating for now, we hear over and over and supporters of the bill say if more people were armed, concealed or otherwise, fewer crimes would happen because more criminals would know more citizens are armed. You ask why is this being done. That's what I hear more than any other argument. It's almost like the armed society is a polite society argument.

Terry Goddard: You have to go back to the old west, I guess, to see how that worked. They were well armed and not that polite. So I'm not sure that the mutual terror argument is persuasive. I can tell you the police are concerned on a couple of levels. One, you have to treat everybody as potentially armed and dangerous. Number one. Number two, there's a whole lot of gun offenses which this really allows just about any gang banger in Arizona to carry concealed and if the police, if they catch them with the gun have no grounds to take that weapon away from them because they're within their rights, the way 1270 is written, to carry and carry concealed. I think that's a problem for you and me and the police officers dealing with these folks every day. We have a system that's working that helps to not only allow people to carry concealed if that's what they wish to do, but I think it also is doing a good job of protecting the public and police officers who protect us.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Terry Goddard: Thank you.

Terry Goddard, Arizona Attorney General

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