In Ariz., few barriers to owning a firearm

(Kevin C. Cox)
By James V. Grimaldi and Fredrick Kunkle
Monday, January 10, 2011

When Jared Lee Loughner went to the Sportsman's Warehouse outlet on Nov. 30, he faced few obstacles to walking away with a Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun. Loughner was making the purchase in Arizona, a state with an Old West culture where gun laws are among the most lenient in the United States.

The 22-year-old passed an instant background check required under federal law for all gun buyers, said Reese Widmer, manager of the Tucson store. A law enacted last year allowed Loughner to conceal and carry the pistol without a permit.

On Sunday, Loughner was charged with using the Glock in the Tucson rampage that gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and killed six others, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. In all, 20 people were shot in the attack.

State's laws are criticized

Arizona gun laws, which have been criticized by gun-control groups, permit any law-abiding resident older than 18 to buy or possess a firearm. To buy a handgun, as opposed to a rifle or shotgun, federal law requires the buyer to be at least 21.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, a chief law enforcement official in the area where the shooting spree occurred, on Sunday criticized unfettered freedom to carry guns in Arizona.

"I have never been a proponent of letting everybody in this state carry weapons under any circumstances that they want," said Dupnik, a Democrat. "And that's almost where we are."

Dupnik criticized lawmakers who proposed a bill in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings to allow students and teachers to carry guns to class.

"That's the ridiculous state to where we have become," he said.

Guns are permitted almost everywhere in the state except a business or doctor's office. The state rifle association lists restaurants that permit concealed weapons. Guns are permissible inside the state Capitol and many other public buildings.

State law permits gun owners to carry a concealed weapon into establishments that serve alcohol as long as the gun owner isn't imbibing. Concealed guns are permitted on school grounds while picking up or dropping off a child, as long as the weapon is unloaded and the gun owner remains in a vehicle.

Arizona's stand on gun ownership is rooted in the state constitution, adopted in 1910, which says, "The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain, or employ an armed body of men."

Former state senator Pamela Gorman (R), a sponsor of the bill allowing guns on school grounds, earlier last year explained to The Post the reasoning for the opposition to gun-control laws.

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