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Selecting a second handgun for use by the family…

Question:  I’d like to buy a second handgun and want to make a smart and efficient purchase for multi-use cases.  I am looking for something small enough for my two kids (ages 9 and 11) and wife to get familiar with.  I would also like a backup pistol for personal defense or something my wife would feel comfortable using if she needed if for protection.  I’m leaning towards a high quality .22LR semi-auto Sig, S&W or Ruger.  I’m I off base thinking this will serve all the functions I want?  I was hoping quality JHP in a .22 would be OK for personal protection in a pinch.  Or is a .22LR just a ‘plinking’ gun?

Answer: The .22 sounds like a good call if you are thinking of something for your wife and kids to use for practice and familiarization.  All of the brand you mention are good quality.  The Ruger and S&W are more suited to target shooting.  A SIG Mosquito could be used for either target or carry, however it would probably not be a good choice for a backup gun.  The .22 caliber round just doesn’t have the ballistic characteristics to do much good in a real gunfight.  Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely better than no gun at all, but I’d probably look for a pistol in .32 caliber or .380 at a minimum for a secondary pistol.  Kel-Tec makes a pretty nice semi-auto for a backup.  I have gotten good results with the Kel-Tec P-3AT in .380 ACP.  It is very concealable and the .380 caliber has reasonable ballistic characteristics.   You could also get a snub nosed revolver for a backup.  My personal preference in a revolver is the S&W Model 649 Undercover in .38 special.  Overall, it is really more about the right tool for the job.  For target shooting and getting your kids and wife familiar with shooting, the .22 is a great choice.  For a secondary pistol, you really need something more than a .22 caliber in my opinion.

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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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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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Concealed Carry in a Church School…

June 11, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, CCW Administrative Rules, Kids and Guns Comments Off

Question: Hello, I just received my CCW permit after 52 days of waiting. (very excited) I currently work part-time at a church that has its own educational facilities and is not part of a public school building and the education rooms are for religious education of children from k-12.  I was wondering if private schooling is different than public schooling in regards to the allowance of CCW’s.  On a side-note I was given permission by the pastor and the parish manager to concealed carry.  But I would just like as much information as possible before I make my choice.  Thanks for everything!

Answer:  Congrats on getting your AZ CCW.  It is a lengthly process right now due to overwhelming response to the program since the beginning of November 2008.  Regarding carrying concealed on school grounds, state law does not permit you to carry a firearm on a school campus without the permission of the chief administrator of the school.  It does not matter if the school is public, private or parochial.  I would recommend that you get the permission in writing to avoid any confusion with other school staff on whether you are allowed to carry or not.

If you are concerned about carrying on church property when school is not in session, you should be fine, especially since you have the permission of the pastor and parish manager.

If you do carry on school property during school hours, you should be very diligent that your firearm stays concealed and is not observed by any students.  Additionally, you should take special care to insure that your firearm remains under your personal control and that no unauthorized person has access to it.

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Holstered Handgun Underneath a Car Seat – Legal or Not?

January 27, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, Kids and Guns, Vehicle Carry Comments Off

Question: I was recently told that if you have a handgun under the driver’s seat of your vehicle it is not considered concealed as long as it is in a holster. This differs from what I was taught. I tried looking in the Arizona Revised Statutes and could not find a clear definition of concealed. If you could tell me if that statement was true or not, and or give me a good reference, it would be greatly appreciated.

Answer:  Here’s the deal.  Based on some of the interpretations in the State of Arizona v. Moerman decision and other court rulings (check the 2nd link below for details), there is room for ‘interpretation’ on the part of law enforcement as to whether a holstered handgun under the seat of a vehicle is ‘concealed’.  The decision essentially stated that if the gun is ‘concealed’ and ‘immediately accessible’ you need to have a CCW permit.  The problem is the definition of ‘immediately accessible’.  Most interpretations are that if the firearm is ‘two steps removed from immediate access’, it is not ‘immediately accessible’ and is therefore not being improperly concealed by a non permit holder.  It is simply being ‘transported’.

Here’s where it gets a little more complicated.  Is a firearm under the seat in a holster ‘immediately accessible’?  Some will say yes, some will say no.  There is no statute.  This is law that has been made by courts interpreting what ‘open carry’ vs ‘concealed carry’ means based on their reading of the statute.  A pro-gun judge might view it one way, while an anti-gun judge might read it differently.

In order to keep people out of trouble, CCW instructors teach the ‘two steps removed from immediate access’ rule for those that don’t have a permit.  If you do have a permit, you can pretty much conceal the gun anywhere you like in your vehicle, holstered or not.

Check out the two links below for some prior posts and additional details.



I hope this helps to clarify this very confusing area of law…

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Concealed Carry on School Grounds during Weekend Church Services

Question:  Our church, like many in the Valley, meet in a public school on Sundays for worship.  Would it be legal to carry concealed at that time?  In other words, is it only illegal to carry on school property while children attending the school are present?  It seems a shame to even ask this question on carrying a weapon to church, but the the tragedies that have happened at churches, I would consider it with permission from my pastor.  Thank you.

Answer:   It is indeed a shame that we have to begin to consider issues like these.  Unfortunately they have been with us a long time.  During a much earlier part of our history, going back to colonial times, congregants were actually encouraged to bring their firearms to church.  It is a commentary on the current state of affairs they we now must be diligent in preparing for attacks from those who do not honor our belief systems or from common criminals bent on robbery or worse.

Unfortunately, the law does not differentiate between whether children are in attendance at a school or not.  It simply states that firearms are not permitted on school grounds.  Since you are meeting on school property, it would be my opinion that firearms would not be legally permitted unless you have the written permission of the school administration.  They are the only ones who can authorize firearms on campus for any reason.  Typically, this authorization would only be granted for firearms being used for educational purposes like a class or demonstration.

While I am not a lawyer and cannot give you legal advice, my opinion would be that Arizona law does not permit you to bring a firearm on school property unless it is unloaded, locked inside your vehicle and hidden from view.  According to Arizona law, this is the only way your firearm can legally be on school property.

That law, while well intentioned, essentially creates a “gun free zone” in which criminals or terrorists can operate freely without fear of encountering a legally armed citizen.  You see, criminals don’t care about breaking the law, only law-abiding citizens do.  If we continue to educate and lobby our legislators, perhaps logic and reason will overcome the irrational fear that results in this type of legislation and laws will be passed to allow a legally armed citizen to protect themselves and their family without fear of breaking the law.

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Handgun Ownership at Age 18 – Revisited

Question:  I am 18 and interested in purchasing a handgun from a private seller.  I was told by a police officer and a gun shop that I cannot buy or a have a handgun unless I am 21 regardless of who I got it from (private seller or federally licensed firearms dealer).  They also told me that I could only use a handgun at the range or when I am hunting and must be accompanied by an adult.  Is this true?  If not, can I open carry where it is legal to carry a firearm?  Where can I find clear law about this situation?  I also called the BATF and the man I spoke to said I needed to have a written letter of consent from a parent who could own a handgun, but he was unsure.  Is that true as well?

Answer:  Wow…lots of questions here, some of which I have answered in a previous post.  Something that becomes very clear from this question is that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion regarding the laws surrounding handgun ownership between the ages of 18 and 21.

First, the comments that you got from the police officer and gun store were partly true.  You must be 21 years of age to purchase a handgun from a federally licensed firearms dealer.  Many people think that the same age limit extends to private party sales.  It does not.  You can legally purchase a handgun through a private party sale at age 18.

Second, the comments about having to be accompanied by an adult are based in fact.  For a person between 14 and 18 years of age, they can be in possession of a firearm under a set of limited circumstances, but must be accompanied by an adult.  If they are not, they must be in possession of written permission from a parent or guardian stating that they have the gun with permission.  This permission can only be granted by the parent or guardian if they can legally own a firearm.  So you see, the answers you got from BATF, the police officer and gun store were correct, except they have the age wrong.  Those rules only apply if you are not yet 18 years of age.  The specific details of the law are covered in the link to ARS 13-3111 below.

Third, since you can legally own a handgun at age 18, you are also permitted to legally carry it openly in Arizona.  This open carry only applies in places where it would be legal for you to have a firearm.  You cannot carry concealed and cannot get a concealed weapons permit until you are 21 years old in Arizona.  By the way, while I encourage legal open carry, you might want to be a little circumspect about where and when you openly carry.  As you can see from the confusion about the law that you have already encountered, you may be opening yourself up to conversations with law enforcement about your age and ability to legally possess a firearm.

If you’d like to take a look at my previous post, I think you might find some good information there.  Here is the link:


Finally, you asked about the specific law.  It is

ARS 13-3111. Minors prohibited from carrying or possessing firearms; exceptions; seizure and forfeiture; penalties; classification

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Handling Guns on Display at Gun Shows…

December 2, 2008 Firearms Safety, Kids and Guns Comments Off

Question:  My two younger boys who are well versed in the rules of gun safety watch people handle guns at gun shows and shops.  After many gun shows, my younger one once again touched a tethered gun that I pointed out to him.  This time the vendor yelled at him, but said that as an adult, I could touch.  Was this his choice or a rule/law that we have never been called on?

Answer:  Sorry to hear about your bad experience at the gun show.  In my experience, sometimes the vendors there can be a little ‘rough around the edges’.

In terms of the law, it is not legal for anyone under the age of eighteen years to possess a handgun.  This specifically refers to the gun being owned by them or under their exclusive control.  It would not generally refer to a tethered gun at a gun store or gun show.

Most vendors do not want children handling the guns for a combination of safety, liability and product preservation issues.  Unfortunately, many kids DO NOT understand safe gun handling and don’t differentiate between a firearm and a toy.  You’ll find that in most gun stores, the sales people won’t even get the handgun out of the case for anyone under 21 since they can’t legally sell them a handgun.  The mindset is ‘why waste my time’.  I would suggest that the same kind of mindset is probably at work at the gun shows as well.

I suspect the vendor in question could have handled this situation a little better and made it a more positive experience for your son.  Make sure that he understands that it is more about the mindset of the seller vs. anything he did…

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Handgun Ownership at Age 18 with Complications…

August 22, 2008 Kids and Guns, Legal Issues Comments Off

I recently received a question from a young man who was 18 years old and interested in getting a handgun.  He wanted to know if it was OK to carry openly.  He also wanted to know if the fact that he had been charged with two misdemeanors would affect his right to own a firearm. 

Finally, there is a convicted felon living in his household, making it illegal for him to have a firearm in the home, if that firearm was accessible to the felon.  He was curious about his ability to keep the firearm locked in his car since he could not keep it at home.

Since there are three distinct questions, let’s take them one by one. 

With respect to his firearms ownership, in Arizona it is perfectly legal to possess a handgun if you are 18 years old or older.  Since a person under 21 years old cannot purchase a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer, the firearm would have to be acquired using a private party sale or would have to be a gift from someone legally permitted to own a firearm.

Arizona is an open carry state, so it would be perfectly legal for anyone that can legally possess a firearm to carry openly in any place where it is legal to have a firearm.

The fact that he had been charged with two misdemeanors really doesn’t apply here since neither of them had anything to do with domestic violence.

The fact that he is living in the same home as a convicted felon does have some implications.  Since it is illegal for a person to provide a felon with a firearm or make a firearm accessible to them, it would be very difficult to adequately secure a firearm in the home, making it completely inaccessible to the prohibited possessor.  Storing the firearm in the vehicle presents exactly the same problem as it would be necessary to make sure that the firearm was completely inaccessible to the prohibited possessor.

I wrote a pretty detailed post on dealing with this type of situation a few weeks back.  You can refer to the discussion of how to deal with firearms when living with a prohibited possessor here:


As I said in my earlier post, it is a tough situation to deal with, but one that can be managed under the correct circumstances.

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Kids and Airsoft Guns

July 7, 2008 Kids and Guns Comments Off

I have recently received a lot of questions about kids and Airsoft guns. The general gist of most questions is: “My kid wants an Airsoft gun since all his friends have them. Should I allow him to have one?” Most of the kids are under 16 and their parents are genuinely conflicted about what to do. As a parent myself, I can completely appreciate their situation.

Here’s the deal with Airsoft. They fire a 6mm plastic pellet. It is about the size of a pea. There are gas powered, spring powered and electric powered versions of both rifles and pistols. The velocity of the pellet varies with the quality of the gun and can be between 100 and 300 feet per second. Accuracy of the better guns is usually quite good, although because of the materials used in construction of the guns, even the more expensive ones will not stand up to hard use.

Here are a couple of things to consider that your kids probably won’t like. First, an Airsoft pistol is not a toy. It is a real, functioning gun. It simply shoots a plastic pellet. At velocities of 130 fps at relatively close ranges (25 ft or less) the plastic pellet will bruise or break bare skin.

I’m trying very hard not to sound like my mother, but the fact is anyone using an Airsoft gun without full eye protection is asking for serious eye injury.

If your child wants to use it for target type shooting and you are willing to get or give him some proper instruction in firearms safety, it possibly wouldn’t be too bad.

More likely I suspect that his friends participate in “skirmishes” or “mock warfare” and shoot at each other. For a 12 y/o that is probably a bad thing. For most kids in the 10-14 y/o age group, they just haven’t figured out that things like this involve potentially hazardous outcomes. It just isn’t “real” to them. Getting them to rigorously follow the safety rules on their own isn’t realistic. This is assuming that they don’t have constant adult supervision.

If you do decide to let them have one, make sure that is has a blaze-orange barrel tip. This is a federal requirement, but lots of kids break them off as it makes the gun look less ‘real’. This is exactly why it needs to be there as otherwise, airsoft guns can look almost exactly like the real thing, causing a lot of confusion potential if law enforcement ever gets involved.

I cannot stress the importance of full face and eye protection. Safety glasses are NOT enough. There is a reason that serious paintballers and airsoft warriors use full face protection…despite the fact that it isn’t “cool”.

In training that I give, I use airsoft in ‘force on force’ drills and require that everyone wears a full face paintball style protective mask, long sleeved garment and gloves. With all this protection, people still end up with small bruises and the occasional case of ‘pellet bite’.

For safety info, I have provided you with a link to the NRA website that has some good info for both children and parents. You should look for the link to “Parents Guide to Gun Safety”. Please visit this link as I am providing it so that I don’t have to retype this very complete discussion of firearms safety. Here’s the link: http://www.nrahq.org/education/guide.asp

I guess the final factor to consider is the level of maturity and responsibility of your child. If they are level headed and willing to accept guidelines and responsibly adhere to those guidelines, they might be a safe user of Airsoft. I would only point out that no retailer will sell Airsoft guns to anyone under 18. There is a good reason for that and it generally has to do with maturity and responsibility.

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