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Surrender of Firearms During Law Enforcement Traffic Stop…

February 22, 2010 AZ CCW Laws, Firearms Safety, Vehicle Carry Comments Off

Question:  Yesterday I was driving through Superior AZ and I got pulled over.  I had my hands at ten and two position on the steering wheel, the window down  and the car off. When the officer got to the window, I announced I was carrying and a permit holder. He immediately reached for the gun on my left hip. I protested and said “wait why do you need to take my gun, it is loaded and I do not want you to shoot me with my own gun.” He said “it was his prerogative to take anyone’s weapon.” He pulled my weapon from my holster and asked me to come back to his car. While back at his car there were at least 4 times he pointed my own gun at me. Not like he was drawn out on me but just carelessly running the barrel across my body. My question is simple.  Am I required to surrender my weapon? I know if asked I have to present my permit. This officers had me thinking I would be shot with my own gun.

Answer: Overall, your initial response to the traffic stop was exactly correct.  I recommend that permit holders keep their hands on the wheel, roll down the window and provide the information that they are a permit holder and armed without any prompting on the part of the officer.  Typically, this will result in a more comfortable stop for both the citizen and the officer.

To answer your question directly, the officer is legally permitted to take control of your firearm for the duration of the traffic stop and near every single officer will do just that.  They are permitted to do this for their own safety.  When you consider the number of police officers that are killed in traffic stops each year, you can see why this is important to them.  You might recall that Lt. Eric Shuhandler of Gilbert PD was just killed in a traffic stop at the end of January.

From the way you have described the situation that occurred during your particular traffic stop, the officer could have used more care in handling your firearm and definitely should have been more conscious of the muzzle direction.  In all of our courses, we hammer the issues of safe muzzle direction and keeping your finger off the trigger even when handling an unloaded firearm.  We do this to insure absolute safety when handling a firearm.  Sounds like the officer in question could have done a better job of safe gun handling.  For future reference, there would be nothing wrong in politely suggesting to the officer that you do not wish to be swept with the muzzle of a firearm if something like this were to occur again…

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Transfer of Firearms Between Family Members Living in Texas and California

Question:  I am a Texas resident, visiting my father in California. I would like to take back two 22-caliber rifles, one very old .410 shotgun, and possibly an air powered bb gun to Texas.  My vehicle is a crossover SUV and there is not trunk.  It has been a long time since I lived in California, laws have changed, and I know nothing about Arizona and New Mexico.  There are numerous border patrol checkpoints along my route and I have little doubt that with a load of other things in the back of my car, probably covered by a blanket, my probabilities of being stopped are above average.  Is it legal to transport these guns in California, New Mexico and Arizona, and do I need to take any special steps to insure I am in compliance with various state laws.  Thank you.

Answer: Right off the bat, you should understand that you cannot legally drive from Texas to California and as a Texas resident acquire a firearm and transport it back to Texas.  By doing so you would be in violation of Federal law.  It does not matter that the transfer is occurring between family members.  The only way that Federal law would allow what you propose would be if you were taking possession of the firearm if they had been left to you by your father’s estate.  Since he is still alive, that doesn’t work.

To keep it legal you would need to transfer the firearms through a Federally licensed firearms dealer.  You can have your father ship them from California to a firearms dealer in Texas, who would then transfer them to you in compliance with Texas law.  This would only apply to the actual firearms, not the BB gun.

In terms of the laws regarding transportation, only California is restrictive in terms of transport.  You would need to have the unloaded firearm in a locked container or case as long as you were in California.  In Arizona you may legally transport a loaded long gun in plain view or in a case.  In New Mexico you may transport a firearm in any condition (unloaded or loaded) openly or concealed anywhere in your vehicle.

I know this seems like a difficult process, but with very limited exceptions, Federal law has been designed to make any interstate transfer of a firearm possible only through a Federally licensed firearms dealer.

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Leaving Your Gun in the Car…

Question: I have an AZ CCW.  When I go to the post office with my daughter what do I need to do?  I can’t hide the gun in the car if she does not have a CCW.  What would you suggest I do?  The same thing goes any time I am with family and need to leave the car to enter an airport or federal building.  Thanks!

Answer: I am assuming that your daughter does not have an AZ CCW permit since she is not old enough to get one.  In a situation like this, you need to have some sort of locking enclosure for your firearm in your vehicle.  There are any number of devices from a variety of manufacturers that can be used to secure your firearm while you are out of the vehicle.  My favorite is a product called a “Gunvault”.  It is a steel box that is opened by using a user defined combination.  When you put in the correct combination, an access door opens allowing you to remove the firearm.  They are relatively inexpensive (less than $100 in most places) and very secure, especially if bolted to the floorboard of your car or in your trunk.  Using a locking enclosure or placing the firearm in the trunk of the car will make it ‘inaccessible’ to your daughter or other family members that don’t have a CCW and will keep it secure from children that should not have access to a firearm while you are out of the vehicle.

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Posting a "No Firearms" Sign at the Entrance to a Medical Office…

Question:  I represent a doctors office.  We have a patient that has a permit and carries a gun into our office. We are not really comfortable with that and would like to put up a sign requesting patients to not carry in our office. Is that OK?  We do not want to violate anyone’s rights?

Answer: Under Arizona law, any establishment may post a sign that prohibits a person from carrying a firearm into their private property or place of business.  All you would need to do is put up an appropriate sign at the entrance stating that no weapons are allowed.  By law, anyone in possession of a firearm would be required to not enter your premises with a firearm.  They would probably have to leave it in their vehicle.

You stated that you were concerned about violating someone’s rights by doing this.  That is a somewhat sensitive issue.  Here’s why…

Under the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, each citizen has the fundamental right to carry a firearm for the purpose of either self-defense of one’s self or one’s family.  When a business puts up a sign such as you suggest, you are asking your patients to relinquish that right during their visit to your office.  This would also prevent them from maintaining control of their firearm which could be stolen while locked inside their vehicle.

There are just a couple of things to consider before you decide to post a sign of this type.

First, do you believe that a criminal intent on committing a crime would be deterred from bringing a firearm into your office by a sign?  I would submit that they would not.  Only law abiding citizens will obey any sign of this type.  It would create an environment where only a criminal would be armed.

Second, I realize that you probably feel that there is a low likelihood of any problem that would require a firearm to solve.  I would also suggest that there is also a very low chance of a fire in your building, but you still have sprinklers, fire extinguishers and fire alarms in your building.  Generally, people that carry firearms for personal defense hope they never need one but they carry it ‘just in case’, because if they need it, it may be several minutes before police might arrive to assist.  You can look at the countless examples where a massacre could have been stopped if someone had only had a gun (VA Tech, Columbine, San Diego McDonalds shooting, etc.)

Third, the person legally carrying their firearm into your office has received training in safe gun handling, the laws in Arizona relating to handguns and the use of force and has undergone a significant criminal background check in order to get their AZ CCW permit.  Unless the person is doing something unsafe with their firearm, there should be no risk to anyone and the person carrying the firearm should be no threat to anyone.  They are, in fact, a “certified good guy”.

I guess the last question I’d have you consider is why the presence of a gun makes people in your office uncomfortable.  Generally I find that it is because people are unfamiliar with guns and based on portrayals by anti-gun folk, many consider them ‘evil’.  They are no more or less deadly that the scalpels that are routinely used in hospitals each day since it is the way the tool is used and the intention behind it that counts, not any inherent characteristic of the device itself.  By learning more about firearms and how they work, many people are no longer frightened of them.  They certainly should be treated with respect, but with proper education they should not cause ‘fear’.

You are certainly within your rights to put up a ‘no firearms’ sign at the entrance to your office, but I hope you’ll consider the impact on your patients and potentially your own employees as well.

Best regards,


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Concealed or Open Carry in Adult Establishments

August 14, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, Firearms Safety, State Firearms Laws Comments Off

Question: Is there anything in Arizona law that requires someone to attend gun safety training if they are going to be carrying a weapon inside an adult entertainment establishment where alcohol is not served? (not concealed, but in open).  Are guns allowed if there is alcohol in the building after hours?

Answer: I am not aware of any Arizona law that relates to carrying a firearm in an adult establishment other than normal law regarding open or concealed carry.  As far as the alcohol in the building after hours, if the establishment is not licensed for on-premises sale and consumption, it would not be regulated under Arizona alcoholic beverage laws.  Since the current law limits carrying firearms in establishments with “on premises sale and consumption” licenses, state firearms restrictions should not apply. Regarding gun safety training, I always think it is a good idea for anyone who carries a gun to have had gun safety training.  The AZ CCW permit class would be what I would generally recommend in this situation.

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Concealed Carry in a Vehicle with Children…

August 9, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, Firearms Safety, Kids and Guns, Vehicle Carry Comments Off

Question: If I am in my vehicle, and I have CCW permit but my passenger does not, I understand that it is unlawful to have a concealed firearm that is “immediately accessible” to either of
us.  The answer to the following question seems obvious but thought I’d ask: I assume that this applies to minor passengers also.  In other words, if I have minor aged children that are old enough to ride in the front seat, I cannot have a concealed weapon in the area if they ride up there.  In other words my choices are to: (1) have my children [until they are old enough to get their own CCW] always ride in the back seat or (2) never  have a concealed weapon in the front seat area when they sitting up there with me.

Answer: There are a couple of issues that we need to consider in your question.

First, there is the issue of legality of concealed carry in a vehicle occupied by someone who does not have a Arizona CCW permit.  You are correct when you state that an adult in the front seat of the vehicle that does not have a permit is breaking the law if there is a concealed firearm in the vehicle that is ‘immediately accessible’ for their use.  This would also apply to any minor children.  With a minor child, another aspect of the law kicks in as it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be in possession of a firearm except under the direct supervision of their parent or guardian or unless they have explicit written permission of their parent or guardian.

Second, and more importantly, there is the issue of firearms safety and making sure that your firearm is inaccessible to anyone that is not authorized to have a firearm or does not understand how to safely handle a firearm.

There is no way that I would have a firearm in my vehicle and have children in that vehicle unless my firearm was either under my direct personal control (on my body) or secured in a locking box or case!

The issue is basically this:  if your firearm is not secured and there are children in the vehicle, you are taking a substantial risk with the safety of your children or others.  Kids will be kids.  No matter how much you impress upon them the danger of handling any firearm, there will always be the temptation to handle, examine or play with the gun.  As soon as that happens, they are at risk.  While I realize that you are probably a very responsible individual and a loving parent, there is always the risk, however slight, that you might exit the car for just a moment and leave the firearm unattended while the kids are in the car.  As soon as that happens, there is the possibility of a tragedy.  The only way to eliminate that possibility keep it on your person, under your direct personal control or lock it up.

Please don’t mistake my emphasis on safety as any sort of reprimand.  I just want to make sure that my message is clear, not only for you but for anyone else reading this article.

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Carrying a "1911 style" Semi Automatic Pistol while "Cocked and Locked"…

Question:  I recently purchased a Springfield Armory 1911 Mil Spec. My intended use for it is the defense of my family while on remote desert trips. I took your excellent CCW class and I’m very experienced in gun safety, but this is my first 1911.  The internet blogs are full of conflicting opinions about the safest way to holster-carry a .45 of this type. The “Lock and Load” (hammer at full cock) faction point out that there are trigger, grip and manual safeties so this is plenty safe. Opponents of ‘Lock and Load” recommend a full magazine below an empty chamber, saying that there’s usually plenty of time to work the slide to arm the pistol. I would very much appreciate your comments about this.

Answer: If you are planning on carrying a 1911 style pistol, it can be safely carried in “cocked and locked” or what is typically referred to as “Condition 1″.  There are a couple of things to consider.

First you should insure that your holster completely covers the trigger and retains the gun well.

Second, you will need to make sure that you practice disengaging the thumb safety as you draw so that it will be automatic.  The biggest issue I see for 1911 shooters is that they don’t practice disengaging the safety which will most likely cause them to forget to disengage it under stress.  This can obviously have catastrophic consequences in a potential gunfight situation.

Third, despite what some might say, in my experience you will absolutely not have time to work the slide and arm the pistol.  It is very frustrating for me to find these ‘arm chair firearms experts’ telling people stuff that could literally get them killed.  When confronted with a lethal force situation, you will literally have a couple of seconds to reach.  When you consider that even practiced shooters require 1.5 – 2 seconds to get their gun out of the holster and on target, having to rack the slide and chamber a round will add .5 seconds to the draw at a minimum.  Now you are talking about a reaction time of 2-3 seconds to get your gun into play.  By that time, you may find that the gunfight is over because the bad guy had the advantage of starting first.  Remember, you are reacting to some sort of ‘triggering event’ that caused you to reach for your gun.  You can also lose the tactical advantage as racking the slide will make noise.  If your potential adversary is not yet aware of you, they likely will be after you rack your slide.  The sound is pretty unmistakable.

Carrying “cocked and locked” is definitely the way to go in my opinion.

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Carrying Concealed During Vacation…

Question: To whom it may concern: My husband and I live in Florida.  We are going to be traveling to the State of Arizona. We both are CCW Permit holders . My first question to you is, what is the law for carrying a concealed handgun while on vacation? Two, is there any law forbids us to carry it in our backpack while hiking up in the mountains?….Thank you!
Answer: If you are concealed weapons permit holders in Florida, your permit is recognized by Arizona and you can legally carry a concealed firearm in Arizona during your vacation.  You need to understand that the concealed carry laws of Arizona will apply while  you are visiting.  It would probably be a good idea to familiarize yourself with where you can legally carry in Arizona and where you cannot.  For example, you are not legally permitted to carry a concealed firearm in any establishment that serves alcohol for consumption on the premises.  You also need to be on the lookout for any signage that says “No Firearms” or “No Weapons”.  Any private property owner can legally bar a person from carrying a weapon on their property.  Finally, it you plan to be hiking in any national parks, like Grand Canyon National Park, you cannot legally carry a firearm into a National Park.

On your second question, you can legally carry your firearm in your backpack.  I’d would suggest that it might be a little tough to get to it in a backpack if you need it in a hurry, but it would certainly be legal.

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Legal Implications of Handgun Modifications

Question:  My question is the legal implication if any to have work done on your trigger to make it easier to squeeze or to “lighten” it up. I have heard on many “legal” discussions that in the event of a shooting, the prosecutor not only is trying to prove you acted irrationally but may use the “dirty harry” tactic in that you modified the handgun in a way that made it easier to fire. I have been told and read on several occasions to modify handguns that would be used for sport (IPSC, target etc) and don’t modify handguns that you may use for personal defense. The same for reloads.. always use factory loads….

Answer: Unfortunately, the answer here is yes, there are legal implications to using modified triggers on guns used for personal protection.  Stock triggers on handguns can vary based on the type of gun, but generally speaking a semi-automatic pistol will have a trigger pull weight in the 5-7 lb. range, while double action revolvers would have a trigger pull weight in the 8-12 lb. range.  Even a 1911 style single action pistol will have a trigger pull of around 4-4.5 lbs.

Weight of pull is a factor considered by firearms examiners when evaluating the relative safety of a firearm.  A firearm that has been modified to have a very ‘light’ trigger pull weight could be considered by some to be ‘less safe’ than those with a heavier pull.  There is the additional factor that most people do not know how to properly use triggers with a very light pull.  There is a significant amount of ‘finesse’ involved in shooting a light trigger, and even those who are skilled competitors in USPCA, IDPA or IPSC will generally shy away from a trigger with less than 3.5 lbs.

You need to remember that when under extreme stress in a self defense situation, your ability to control fine motor movement  will go out the window.  Gross motor skills will be the order of the day and there will be no ‘finesse’ involved.  In short, a light trigger could result in a firearm being discharged when you really didn’t want it to.  I can imagine any number of scenarios where a light trigger would get a shooter into trouble.  Think in terms of ‘premature discharge’ as you draw under stress or ‘unintentional discharge’ as the firearm is being brought to bear on a target in a stressful situation.  There are literally dozens more situations I could think of.  The heavier trigger weights give you the additional margin of safety that you will absolutely need under the stress of combat.

The legal implication is this.  By modifying the gun to have a very light trigger, you create a greater possibility for accidental or unintentional discharge of the firearm under stress.  Should someone be injured or killed as a result, a good lawyer would probably argue that you were negligent and carrying a firearm that would place yourself and others at risk due to the ‘modification’.  Remember that you must be ‘justified’ in order to use any type of lethal force and if you unintentionally shot someone under stress because of your light trigger you could be criminally charged.  This type of situation would also almost certainly result in civil litigation.  While your constitutional guarantees might make it difficult to prove the criminal charges, the lower standard of proof required and the different rules of evidence on the civil side could leave you extremely vulnerable to a ‘wrongful death’ or other personal injury claim.

There is nothing at all wrong with having a modified trigger if you intend to use your firearm strictly for competitions.  It is when you use the modified gun for personal defense that the criminal and civil liability issue can rear its head.

As far as ammo is concerned, I recommend that people carry a factory loaded defensive round.  My personal preference is to find out what the local police department uses and carry that as my personal defense ammo.  From a legal perspective it eliminates any kind of argument that you were carrying a ‘special hand-loaded cartridge designed solely to kill and mutilate’.  In my mind, I can actually hear a lawyer saying it that way in front of a jury…can’t you?  By carrying a standard defensive round, you eliminate the issue completely.

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Open Carry of a Firearm – Advantages and Disadvantages

Question:  What’s your opinion on open carry. Do you think it makes you a “target” in sticky situations and do you think it’s dumb to let all the world know you’re armed.  Also when carrying open or concealed is it always best to carry loaded and ready for action with the pull of the trigger?

Answer: My answer to the first two questions would be “yes” and “yes”.  While completely legal in Arizona and supported by many of our ‘gun rights’ oriented residents, open carry has some disadvantages.  First, as you mention, it would make you the ‘primary target’ for anyone bent on armed mayhem.  If you are the only person visibly armed and a criminal is bent on commiting their crime, you will be the first target.  On the other hand, there are those that would also say that by seeing you carrying a firearm openly, it would discourage such criminal behavior. There is an element of logic in both arguments, but if you are carrying openly and are not aware of the impeding criminal act, you are at a disadvantage and at grave risk.  Personally, I would rather be carrying concealed and keep the tactical advantage for myself.

As far as ‘letting the world know you are armed’, again by placing people on notice that you are armed, most criminals will probably find an easier target.  On the flip side, those that are ‘nervous’ around firearms will avoid you like the plague.  Business owners may ask you to leave their establishment.  In one case I know of, a parent became know as the “gun guy” and was directed (improperly) by the vice principal of his child’s school to not carry at any off-campus school functions.  While it is against Arizona law to carry on school grounds, carrying a firerarm at school events that occur “off campus” is perfectly legal.  By letting people know that you have a firearm in your possession, you may allow their bias to potentially infringe on your constitutional right.  Frankly, it is no one’s business but mine if I carry a concealed firearm as long as I do so within the law.

Finally, regarding your question on carrying with a round in the chamber, as long as you are carrying your firearm in a holster that covers the trigger, in my view it is safe to carry with a round in the chamber.  If you have a handgun with an external safety, you should also engage that safety when carrying your firearm.  The vast majority of modern firearms are safe to carry in this manner with a round in the chamber.  If you do not have a round in the chamber, you will be required to chamber a round before you would be able to use your firearm in self defense.

Unfortunately, in most self defense situations, the thing most lacking is time.  You may have only a second or two to react to a lethal threat.  Most people that have not trained with a handgun will require 2-3 seconds to draw and fire assuming they have a round in the chamber.  I have seen this consistently in the thousands of students I have taught.  If you are required to chamber a round after drawing your firearm, you will be adding anywhere from .75 to 1.25 seconds to the 2-3 seconds that it will already take.  Count out 4 seconds and see how long that is…I think you’ll agree it is a very long time to give someone else the opportunity to shoot or stab you.  With good quality training and consistent practice, you may be able to reduce the time it takes to draw your firearm and make accurate shots to about 1.5 seconds, but it will ONLY occur if you get QUALITY training and PRACTICE.

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