Regardless of one’s opinion about the Second Amendment, everyone should agree that firearm safety is a critical issue in Phoenix. As Arizona’s population has grown, its open spaces have shrunk and people’s fears have risen. Youth do not grow up nurtured in 4H or having been taught how to correctly use a firearm by their grandpas during annual hunting trips. Though Arizona’s laws are lax about carrying firearms openly, there are still strict rules about carrying concealed weapons.
Despite the media hype about the run on handguns after Obama’s election or Congresswoman’s Gifford’s shooting, and, while the gun industry is booming nationwide, here in Arizona, many independent gun retailers are going through the same recession as other businesses. In a state at the forefront of unemployment and foreclosures, guns, no matter what one’s ideology is, are like mother’s old jewelry: commodities to pawn. “No, the gun business is not recession proof here,” says Aaron Merchant, owner of Merchant Firearms in Phoenix.
Merchant has had his store for four years. While it has been a struggle, he enjoys educating people about safety and helping people find the right weapon. Retail guns stores have had to diversify their services to survive. One of the tasks that keeps Merchant and his staff busy is the concealed weapons class that they conduct every Saturday.
There are citizenship, age and other requirements, but according to Arizona State law, one key provision is a concealed weapon permit (CCW) can be issued to someone “who has ever demonstrated competence with a firearm…and provides adequate documentation that the person has satisfactorily completed a training program or demonstrated competence with a firearm in any state or political subdivision in the United States.”
Even if one had a concealed weapons course in the past, it pays to take a current course. There have been changes in the Arizona law and there are new threats (e.g., road rage, home invasions) in the past few years. Merchant Firearms, for example, does an excellent job of educating customers on issues such as types of firearms/ammunition, measured defensive force, crimes where lethal force is justified, people forbidden to carry guns, and where/when you can/cannot carry a weapon, as well as giving instruction on and opportunity to fire weapons.
There are currently about 163,000 active permits in Arizona. It is in everyone’s interest to encourage firearm education.