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Felony Conviction and Federal Home Protection Act

July 20, 2010 Crime Avoidance, Federal Firearms Laws Comments Off

Question:  I am a felon and had to do a prison sentence.  My house was broke into twice while I was in bed asleep and both times I fled the home for my safety.  The police are telling me there is no true way to protect myself inside my home and that felons cannot possess a firearm to protect their home until five years after their release from prison.  I have had about eight people tell me that they have been to prison but under the 2009 Federal Home Protection Act that felons are now allowed to possess a firearm only in the home for protection.  I live in Texas.  Can you give me more insight on this and how I could get a copy of that act?

Answer: The Home Protection Act that you refer to has nothing to do with your ability to protect yourself in your home.  It deals with a different subject entirely.

As a convicted felon, you are a ‘prohibited possessor’ and not able to legally possess a firearm or ammo.  There are a couple of things I might suggest.  First, I’d do what I could to make your house more secure.  Install better locks, trim away excess shrubs outside, install outside lighting and in general do anything possible to make your house less attractive to a burglar.  Some people suggest getting a large dog that has a very loud bark.  Burglars do not like large, loud dogs.

If that is not possible based on your living situation, you might also consider keeping a baseball bat close at hand in your bedroom.  Many burglars will not be armed when they break in due to the enhanced penalties if they are caught and convicted.  If the person breaking in is a druggie or a gang member, they may be armed since they aren’t especially worried about enhanced penalties.

Finally, I would check with an attorney to see at what point you might be able to have your conviction set aside and have your record expunged.  This would permit you to petition the court to restore your civil rights, including your right to own a firearm.  This only works if your felony conviction is for a non-violent offense or a non-sexual offense.  If your felony conviction involved serious injury or death to another person or was for a sexual crime, that option is a non-starter.

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Response to a Comment on the "Parking Lot Law"

I wanted to respond to the following comment that I received on my earlier post on the passage of what is referred to as the “Parking Lot Law” in Arizona.

Here was the comment of one of my readers…

“OK I read the law and I am shocked. Are we in city that has a high morality rate for people getting into their car in the parking lot from being car jacked at gun point? Do we have such a high crime rate and several people are being shot at their doctor appointment due to gangs?

This law is ridiculous now the people that were upset that they had to leave their guns at home while going to the grocery store won and now Governor Brewer signed it into law, people like me who do not condone in violence and now I have to worry if a drunk person in a bar or leaving a bar is going to pull out a gun.

So even though a company wants to provide a safe and comfortable work environment for their employees they cant unless they get a security guard, parking garage or attack dogs. Otherwise Mad Max will pull his gun out and blast someone away. I expected this from Texas not Arizona

I am all for people being able to protect themselves but as I am a HR Manager and I have had employees make threats to other employees and all I would need is someone to go to their car and get their gun and settle the fight. It happens all over the US and now we are giving them the green light”

My response to this gentleman’s comment can be found below:

The point of the “Parking Lot Law” is this.  Each person has the constitutional right to bear arms in order to defend themselves and their family while going about the normal course of their lives.  The “parking lot law” restores a right to an employee that their employer took away from them by prohibiting them from bringing a firearms with them to work and storing it in their vehicle.

Violent crimes occur every day in the Phoenix area.  All you need to do is take a look at the Arizona Republic on any given day to confirm that.  In certain parts of the Valley, gang crime IS pervasive despite what you might think.  I would suggest you have a conversation with the gang units in Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale or any other jurisdiction in the Valley.  Just because you aren’t aware of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  A little less than two weeks ago, Mesa PD arrested 127 persons for gang related crimes in Operation Summer Surge.  The arrests involved over 33 gangs in Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Apache Junction and Scottsdale.  In fact this multi-agency task force has made over 400 arrests of gang members since the beginning of the year.

Just so we are clear, I don’t “condone violence” either, but that does not mean that violent crimes don’t occur.  If you are expecting the police to protect you from violent crime, you are being incredibly naive.  In the City of Phoenix there are a total of just over 3800 officers and support personnel.  The population of the City of Phoenix is approximately 1.55 million.  Even if half of the entire force is on duty at any given point in time (which I doubt is true), that would mean that there is one member of the police force protecting 815 people on any given day.  The chances of a police officer ‘coming to the rescue’ in time to actually stop a criminal act is almost zero.

People have the right to defend themselves in the event of a violent criminal attack that might occur during their travels to and from work.  If they can’t leave their guns in the car and they can’t take them into the workplace, their right to self defense is compromised.  This law simply gives an employee back that right of self defense.

I would also challenge your assertion that there are large numbers of people shooting each other in the work place.  According to USA Today the average number of people killed in workplace violence in 2004 was approximately 50 persons.  Compare that number to the 14,180 persons that were homicide victims in 2008 or the 1,382,000 violent crimes that were committed in 2008 (FBI Uniform Crime Report – 2008).  To me, nearly 1.4 million violent criminal attacks is a significant number.  Workplace violence represents approximately 0.3% of the total homicides in 2008.

I remember the arguments that have been made over and over again when concealed carry statutes were introduced and when the assault weapons ban was about to sunset.  Those that don’t understand or appreciate our Second Amendment rights predicted that ‘blood would run in the streets’ and there would be gunfights all over the place.  In fact, the exact opposite occurred.  In states that have implemented concealed carry laws, crime rates drop almost immediately.  The expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban was a non-event.

My final comment would be this.  Do you really think that any law, including the parking lot law would be obeyed by a violent criminal bent on committing homicide or mayhem?  No, only law abiding citizens obey the law.  Criminals don’t.  Let’s stop trying to pass laws that make otherwise law abiding citizens break the law to protect themselves and their families.

Doug Little

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Responding to a Vehicle Break-In…

Question:  Someone recently broke into my vehicle and stole my emergency tool kit, a few dollars in change, some audio CDs, and a few other misc. items of little value. What they really took is my confidence in parking my vehicle in my apartment complex.  I am a highly trained military professional with no urge to use my weapons any more than I need to, but I’m very bothered by this occurrence.  I’ve decided to stake out my vehicle tonight (The night after the theft) and kill the person if they attempt to break into my vehicle again.  What issues do I face legally if I do this and I am successful?  I understand that this may not be the smartest course of action but I cannot post guard over my vehicle every night and I can’t bear the idea of someone breaking into it again, whether it be tomorrow, next week or next month.

PS: Does Arizona have an extension of domicile law similar to Louisiana? I’ve heard conflicting views on this matter.”

Answer: First, let me state right up front I know exactly how you feel.  I was in Salt Lake City to teach an NRA Instructor course recently and had my truck broken into my first night at the hotel.  They stole approximately $2000 worth of equipment and materials including my personal range bag (no firearms fortunately), a very nice EMT kit in a Pelican Case, an LCD projector, speakers, my instructor manuals and most of the materials for the class I was to teach.  Of course, my insurance did not cover it since I have my deductible set high.  In addition, there was the cost to repair the window ($500).

I had some of the same feelings as you.  I felt violated and angry.  I thought about staking out the hotel parking lot the next night too.  I thought about using pepper spray on them if I caught them.  It was fun to imagine the scumbags lying on the ground writhing in pain.

Upon more reflection, I decided it was a bad idea to do that and realized that it was just a random event that happened to me.  I have not had anyone break into a vehicle of mine for a very long time.  In thinking more about it, based on the fact they stole anything they could grab including boxes of books, they were probably just kids or gang members hoping to score something valuable.  With me they hit the proverbial jackpot.

I too am highly skilled with firearms and other hand-to-hand techniques that can visit mayhem and injury on those who would cross me.  But I won’t use those skills without proper cause.  It is not worth the long term ramifications on my life and the lives of those that depend on me and care for me.  I would submit that after cooling down and getting some perspective on the situation, you will probably agree with me.

As far as the legal issues if you followed through, you would potentially be committing first degree murder.  By lying in wait for them, you would be premeditating which makes it first degree murder.  In Arizona, that crime can carry the death penalty.  Frankly you sound like an intelligent individual whose life is worth much more than sitting jail because of some scumbag gang banger or delinquent.

Regarding your question on the extension of domicile, I believe you might be referring to the ‘castle doctrine’.  While Arizona does support the ‘castle doctrine’, you must actually be in your vehicle for it to apply.  It basically states that if someone is attempted to remove you from your vehicle by force, you can legally use force to prevent it.  If someone is attempting to remove you from your vehicle using potentially lethal force, you can then use lethal force to stop it.

I’d let it go.  Make it a point to part in a well lighted area of the apartment lot.  If you spot is assigned and not well lighted, complain to the complex management and get better lighting.  Don’t leave anything in your vehicle.  If you don’t have one, consider getting an alarm.  Make sure it has a flashing light so that people can see there is an alarm.

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Threats and the Use of Lethal Force…

May 4, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, Crime Avoidance, Use of Force Issues Comments Off

Question:  I have a question that I would like to throw your way and I know that you said that you were not a lawyer but I would like to bounce my situation off of you.  My father and I have a painting company and we work together on a daily basis.  He has an individual that used to be employed by us that has come to our job site on three occasions and harassed us the first two times and this last time has threatened to kill (by shooting) my father and I in front of several witnesses.  He said he would return in a month if the “dispute” is not resolved (he says we owe him money that is not owed).  It is coming up on a month and I’m just wondering if he produces a lethal weapon since he has threatened to use it on my father and I, I feel like I would be within my rights to use my weapon on him first? Additionally I think my father is getting a restraining order on the individual. Either way the authorities will be called next time he shows up but as you know we cannot expect the police to protect all individuals at all times.  Sorry for going on for so long but any input that you have on this subject will be appreciated.

Answer: Again, I have to state for the record that I cannot give you legal advice and that if you need it, you should talk to an attorney that you have hired.  That said, under the circumstances you describe, getting a restraining order is a good first step.  I don’t know the person in question, but many people out there, unless they have a history of violence, are more ‘blow’ than ‘go’.  The loud threatening ones are generally not the ones I worry about.  They are engaging in bullying behavior in an attempt to ‘get their way’.  Most of the time, a restraining order takes the wind out of their sails.  If you tell the judge that the subject of the proposed order owns firearms, they can also issue an order that prevents them from purchasing or possessing firearms during the period of the restraining order.

If he does show up and uses a firearm or knife to threaten or intimidate either you or your father, you are within your rights to defend yourself.  My guess it that as soon as you draw down on him he would crap his pants, but without knowing his history, I can’t be sure.  It is also a very good idea to immediately call the police if he shows up again.  Don’t wait, just call them immediately.  Make sure you tell the 911 operator that he is engaging in threatening behavior and may have a weapon in his possession if you believe that to be the case.

If you decide that you need to use your firearm, be absolutely sure that you or another person are being threatened with lethal force.  If that is the case, I would not hesitate to do whatever is necessary to eliminate the lethal threat.

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Concealed Carry of an Airsoft Gun vs. a "Real" Firearm

February 12, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, Crime Avoidance, Legal Issues, Use of Force Issues Comments Off

Question:  I recently took my AZ CCW and sent my passed exam and state application for acceptance. My question is: If one has an AZ CCW permit, can he or she carry a soft air gun without the red or orange tip attached to the gun. Reason for this question, is that many people want to have something for self defense but only wanting to use something that may scare or flee off the bad guy in a threat rather then disable them. Thank you for your response.

Answer: Federal law requires that the orange tip be present on the Airsoft guns to make them legal for commercial sale.  However, once sold, local laws vary on whether the orange tip may be removed.  Honestly, that is the least of issues with respect to the questions you are asking.

The more troubling question for me is the idea of using an Airsoft gun for “self defense” or “defensive display”.  I believe that by doing what you suggest you are placing yourself at grave personal risk.  Technically, the answer to your question is yes, but understand that by carrying a ‘toy firearm’ without the appropriate markings, you are making people think you have a ‘real’ firearm when in fact you don’t.  Should you find yourself in a situation where you are confronted by a person that has a ‘real’ weapon or that presents a ‘real’ lethal threat,  you will be defenseless against them and they will probably kill or seriously injure you.

You must understand that the only justification for your threat of lethal force or use of lethal force is when you are being immediately and illegally threatened in a way that would make you believe that you or another person are in danger of being seriously injured, permanently disabled or killed by the potential threat.  If you have sufficient cause to draw a ‘fake gun’ to attempt to ‘scare them off’, you have sufficient justification to draw a real firearm.  What would you do if they press the attack?  What happens if they shoot someone else?  What if they see you have a ‘weapon’ and start shooting at you?   I hope you see how potentially dangerous your proposal is…

If you are not prepared to carry a ‘real firearm’ and use true lethal force against an assailant that is manifesting a lethal threat against you or another person, you have no business carrying a firearm.  I know this may sound a bit harsh, but you will be a danger to yourself and others.

You speak about using the airsoft to ‘scare’ vs. using a real firearm to ‘disable’.  Again, let me clarify something that your CCW instructor should have taught you.  You NEVER shoot to disable someone who is issuing a lethal threat against your or another person.  You shoot to stop the threat.  This means that you should direct fire at your assailant using the largest target available to you which is their center of mass.  If you shoot to wound, you could have serious issues proving that the threat was immediate and unavoidable.  Similarly, by shooting to wound, you may not stop the threat at all.  Again, this would most likely result in serious injury or death on your part…

Based on what you have told me, I would STRONGLY CAUTION YOU TO AVOID CARRYING AN AIRSOFT PISTOL IN LIEU OF A REAL FIREARM.  If you are not prepared to use lethal force in the face of a lethal threat you should not carry a concealed weapon.

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Attempted Carjacking and the Use of Lethal Force

February 12, 2009 AZ CCW Laws, Crime Avoidance, Legal Issues, Use of Force Issues Comments Off

Question:  My uncle who lives in Glendale, Arizona was recently a victim of what appeared to be an attempted car jacking.  As he was stopped at a traffic light, a man came up to his driver’s side door, attempted to open it but was unsuccessful because it was locked.  The man then commenced to verbally assault my uncle and ordered him to get out of the car.  My uncle did not comply so the man then physically assaulted the vehicle by repeatedly kicking in the driver’s side door and hitting the window with his fist.  The altercation lasted approximately two minutes then the light changed, the man ran away and my uncle drove to a safe distance and called 911.  My uncle, who is a “reasonable person”, was really traumatized by this event and believed that his life was in danger due to the level of rage that the man was exhibiting.  My question is:  At what point would the “threat” of deadly force and possibly the “use” of deadly force have been justified?

Answer: In order for your uncle to use ‘lethal force’ he must be in fear of ‘serious injury, disabling injury or death’ by the acts of the person threatening him.  Since the man did not display a weapon and your uncle was locked inside the car, your uncle did the correct thing by not threatening or using lethal force.  For the most part, threat of lethal force only be used in the same circumstances as the actual use of lethal force.  There are some limited exceptions, but they don’t apply here, so I won’t go into them.

Had the attacker displayed a weapon or opened the car door and physically tried to attack or remove your uncle from the vehicle, then it would have been a different story.  With the display of a lethal weapon, the attacker would have demonstrated lethal intent and would have provided justification for a lethal response.  Similarly, had he gotten the vehicle open and tried to remove your uncle by force, the Castle Doctrine would have kicked in, allowing your uncle to protect himself from what would have mostly likely been a ‘carjacking’.

Based on  the circumstances you described, your uncle did everything correctly…I know it was frightening, but he did well.

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Threat of Deadly Force to Protect Property…

Question:  Can you threaten the use of deadly force to protect your property, i.e., someone is breaking into my vehicle?  Could you then hold that person until the police arrive?

Answer:  In general, when answering legal questions of this type, I have to state that I am not an attorney and cannot give legal advice.  I can give you an informed opinion based on my reading of the Arizona Revised Statutes and based on my experience as an Arizona CCW instructor.

The short answer to the above question is ‘no’.  Arizona law does NOT permit the use of deadly force or the threat of deadly force to protect tangible movable property under your possession or control.

Arizona law does permit a person to use either the threat of physical force or actually use physical force to the extent necessary to prevent an attempt to commit or the commission of theft or criminal damage of your property by another person.  I would suggest that just because the law permits you to do so, does not mean it is a good idea.  What would you do if the person attempting to break into your car was physically much larger than you?  Is anything in your vehicle worth placing yourself at the risk of physical injury?  Situations like this can quickly escalate when physical force is used.  What if the thief is armed with a deadly weapon?  Again, is there really anything in your vehicle that is worth risking your life over?

Please don’ t misunderstand my comments.  As a person who spent four years living in downtown Boston, I lost 3 car radios and had three broken windows in a period of less than a year.  It was frustrating and expensive.   Yes, there were times that I wanted to hang out and wait for the perpetrators and see how they liked my “Louisville Slugger”, but reason ultimately prevailed and I stopped leaving my car in places where it was likely to be broken into.  I also did not leave anything in the car that would be attractive to a potential thief.

Either threatening deadly force or the use of deadly force is very serious business.  If it is not justified, you could be charged with Aggravated Assault, which in Arizona is a Class 6 felony punishable by up to 1.5 years in jail and a fine of up to $150,000.

I’d suggest that crime prevention tactics are probably the key thing here.  Make your car a less attractive target or find a safer place to park it…

If you are interested in the actual law, the specific section of Arizona law is:  ARS 13-408.  Justification; use of physical force in defense of property.

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Justification for the Use of Force in Self Defense

Question:  I noticed you said in a previous post that if someone swung at you, you have the right to use force to defend yourself.  What if one or more people grab you and make you fear for your safety by threatening to harm you in a non-lethal way?  Do you have the right to strike them or defend yourself from them before they strike you?

Answer:  Before I answer the question, let me reset the stage for readers that might not be familiar with my previous post.  In order to use any type of force in self defense, a person must be under a credible threat of force or a perpetrator must either use force or attempt to use force against you.  Words alone, no matter how nasty, provocative or threatening are not ever a justification for the use of force.

The level of force you can use against another must be reasonable and measured based on the circumstances of the threat.  The purpose of your use of force is to stop the threat or use of force against you.  Once the threat has ended, your use of force must end as well.  If you continue to use force in the absence of a threat, you run the risk of becoming the ‘aggressor’ and potentially turning the tables against yourself.

There are also many factors that can enter into the use of force equation.  These things generally fall under a concept called ‘Disparity of Force’.  Some of the factors that enter into a ‘disparity of force’ situation can include:

  • Age – if there is a substantial age different between the victim and the perpetrator, additional force may be appropriate to provide a force multiplier to the disadvantaged person.  For example, a man in his 60′s might need to use additional force to effectively eliminate a threat from another man in his 30′s.
  • Numbers – if there are multiple perpetrators that are threatening or using force against a single individual, then that individual might need to use an enhanced level of force to end the threat.
  • Physical Disability – if the person being threatened is disabled to the extent that they cannot run away or effectively defend themselves against a threat, again, additional force may be appropriate to eliminate the threat.
  • Size – if there is a significant size difference between a person being threatened and the person doing the threatening, that might be justification for using a higher level of force to end the threat.
  • Sex – if a woman is being attacked by a man, regardless of the size or age of either party, the law generally permits a woman to use an enhanced level of force to defend herself, up to and including lethal force,  if she is in reasonable fear of sexual assault or serious injury.

Disparity of force issues are not limited to these factors alone.  Many other factors or combination of factors may come into play in the court making a determination of whether or not a particular use of force was justified or not.  You must understand that there is no ‘bright line’ here.  This is a gray area where the factors involved will be considered by a judge or jury in their determination of whether your actions were ‘reasonable’ in light of the circumstances and were appropriate to the level of threat experienced.

Now, to specifically answer your question.  If someone grabs you without your permission, you are being assaulted.  Simple assault in Arizona is defined as:

  1. Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person; or
  2. Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury; or
  3. Knowingly touching another person with the intent to injure, insult or provoke such person.

If someone commits assault under the conditions described under item 1, they are committing a Class 1 Misdemeanor which is punishable by a jail term of 6 months and a fine of up to $2,500.

If someone commits assault under the conditions described under item 2, they are committing a Class 2 Misdemeanor which is punishable by a jail term of 4 months and a fine of up to $750.

If someone commits assault under the conditions described under item 3, they are committing a Class 3 Misdemeanor which is punishable by a jail term of 30 days and a fine of up to $500.

You do have the right to defend yourself using a threat of force or physical force if necessary, but nothing you described would allow you to use anything greater than physical force unless you believed that you were in danger of serious injury, permanent disabling injury or death.  My guess is that people that do as you described are trying to intimidate you or are bullies that enjoy making other people afraid.

If you are not trained in some type of self-defense skill, any resistance on your part is likely to result in escalation which could result in potentially much more serious consequences for you.  You might want to consider carrying some non-lethal defensive device.  My choice would probably be a high quality pepper spray from either Fox Labs or ASP.  They make key chain devices that when deployed, can make it very unpleasant for your assailants.  Pepper spray will effectively disable an attacker for 30-45 minutes, giving you plenty of time to get to safety and call 911.

My first recommendation is to not put yourself in the situation if you can avoid it.  If possible, just remove yourself from the vicinity.  Get in your car and drive away or if you are on foot, walk or even run away if necessary.  I can’t begin to tell you the number of bad situations that result from men letting their testosterone dictate their actions in a confrontation.  You can also try to control your anger and de-escalate the situation.  I have used this technique with great success myself many times.

If you cannot leave and cannot de-escalate, do anything you can to attract the attention of any onlookers or witnesses.  Scream or call for help and get on your cell phone and call 911.  Tell them to send the police immediately and give your location.  If your attackers are bullies, they will probably not hang around for long.  If they don’t leave and continue to press the attack, this might be the time to consider using your pepper spray on them.

If they do attempt to harm you in any way and you know who they are, you should call the police and press assault charges.

One final note:  If at anytime you feel that you are in real danger of being seriously injured or killed, or the perpetrators have taken up a weapon or ‘dangerous instruments’ like a stick, bat, rock, bottle or anything similar, the simple assault has moved to an aggravated assault which is a felony.  At this point, unless you are armed, your primary objective should be to get away at all costs.  Even if you are injured while getting away, it is better than trying to fight your way out and be more seriously injured or killed.  Get to a place with lots of people and call 911.

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Legal Strength of OC Spray in Arizona

I recently received a question regarding the legally allowed strength of OC spray or “pepper spray” in Arizona.  Here in Arizona, we are fortunate to live in one of the less regulated states as far as non-lethal personal protection devices.  There is no statuatory limit to the strength of pepper spray in Arizona.

I do feel a bit of an obligation to explain how pepper spray works and how to determine the strength of any spray you might consider purchasing.  This is important because there is some confusion about how hot a spray should be in order to insure that it is effective against a potential attacker.

First, let’s talk a little about the idea behind what is more properly called ‘OC Spray’.  The ‘OC’ stands for Oleoresin Capsicum.  OC is a strong irritant of any mucus membranes it comes in contact with.  The sensation generated by exposure to OC is one of severe burning of the affected tissues.  If sprayed in the eyes, it causes profuse tearing, burning, pain and can cause temporary blindness.  A friend of mine in law enforcement that has been sprayed with OC in training says that it feels like “drowning with your face on fire”.  Not a pleasant experience to say the least…

This experience of burning eyes, running nose, coughing and having difficulty breathing can continue for 30-45 minutes depending on the amount of spray used and it’s strength.  The strength of the spray not based on the percentage of active ingredient, but rather is based on the number of Scoville Heat Units or SHUs that the spray has.  Scoville Heat Units are a measure of ‘heat’ in peppers.  A mild jalapeno pepper might have a SHU rating of 1,000 to 1,500.  Tabasco might carry an SHU rating of 30,000 to 50,000.  The hottest pepper in the world, the habanero, carries an SHU rating of 300,000 to 500,000.  Compare those to the rating of popular pepper sprays which can range from 2 million SHUs to 5.3 million SHUs.  As you can see, these sprays are really hot.

As you have no doubt experienced, different individuals can have different levels of sensitivity to peppers.  My father-in-law can put incredible amounts of crushed red peppers on food.  What he relishes is completely inedible to me.  Similarly, some people will be less susceptible to pepper spray due to ‘conditioning’.

Since pepper spray is many times used by law enforcement and correctional officers against their ‘clients’.  Some of those individuals develop a higher tolerance to the effects of the spray.  While OC spray will always have some effect, even on a heavily conditioned individual, they may be able to continue to function if the strength of the spray is near the lower end of the range.

That is one of the reasons that I recommend a spray by Fox Labs.  The Fox Labs product is highly refined and the SHU rating for it tops out at 5.3 million SHUs.  It is the hottest OC spray available.  Even the most ‘conditioned’ criminals have a difficult time fighting through this stuff.  It is truly ‘wicked hot’ as my friend from the east coast would say.

If you plan to carry OC spray for personal defense, there are a few of things to think about on both the positive and negative sides:

  1. It will do you no good if it is in the bottom of your purse, in your pocket or in your briefcase when you need it.  It needs to be accessible.
  2. There is a high likelihood of ‘cross contamination’ if you use OC spray.  What I mean specifically is that you might be exposed to it when you spray someone else.  This is not something you want to be experiencing for the first time when you are in trouble.  I’m not saying that you should blast yourself in the face with it, but you might want to understand what you might have to deal with.
  3. You cannot just ‘spray’ someone without justification.  You need to be under threat of assault at a minimum to be justified in using OC spray.
  4. You might also want to think before using OC spray in enclosed spaces.  Several people were killed during a panic to get out of  a Chicago dance club when a bouncer used OC spray on an unruly guest inside the club.

After considering all those things, you might ask yourself “Should I carry OC spray”?  Here is the answer for me:  one of my students probably prevented a robbery or worse by using pepper spray.  She had it in her hand when she was grabbed from behind at an ATM.  She sprayed the robber/rapist in the face and got away unharmed…

You can decide for yourself, but I don’t go anywhere without my OC spray…

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Firearms Transfers – How to do it right!

Question: When shipping firearms to another Arizona resident do I have to send it to an FFL or can I ship it directly to the other resident? I assume since I can sell it without any paper work to another resident I can just ship it to him but cannot find any information on the subject.

Answer:  You can only transfer firearms between Arizona residents in a ‘face to face’ transaction.  You need to be able to inspect the I.D. of the person you are selling the firearm to so that you can insure a ‘legal’ transfer of the firearm.  The buyer must be at least 18 years old for either a long gun or a handgun.  They should also certify in writing that they are not a ‘prohibited possessor’ and can legally possess a firearm in Arizona.

I always recommend keeping a ‘Bill of Sale’ that includes the name and address of both the buyer and the seller and a complete description of the firearm being transferred, including the serial number.  This is also a great place to have language certifying that the buyer can legally own a firearm in Arizona.  The buyer should sign and date the document.

The ‘Bill of Sale’ gives you a permanent record of the transaction and can be a huge time saver if the firearm you sold is ever stolen or used in a crime and the police come asking questions…

If you can’t do a ‘face to face’ transfer, or if you are selling a firearm to a buyer that lives out of state, you need to ship the firearm to an FFL near where your buyer resides.  Usually the FFL charges a small fee to process the paperwork.  You should contact the FFL prior to shipping to them for instructions on how to ship the firearm to them.  

You cannot ship firearms via US Mail.  You will need to use either FedEx or UPS.  I’d recommend that you ship it overnight as their is less chance of someone ‘diverting’ the shipment if they suspect the contents (yes, valuable items sometimes get pilfered in transit).  I would also recommend that you insure the package for the replacement value of the item being shipped.  By the way, you should not ship any ammo with the firearm.

Once it arrives at the other end, the FFL will contact your buyer.  When they come in to pick up the gun, the buyer will need to complete ATF Form 4473 (Firearm Transfer Record) which will remain on file with the FFL.  They will also have to present government issued photo ID and a valid Arizona CCW permit or the dealer will have to run a background check prior to releasing the firearm to your buyer.  Assuming they have a CCW permit or a clear background check they will be good to go.  

You might want to clarify who pays the FFL transfer fee in advance so there is no confusion when it comes time to make the transfer.

The process I have described is pretty typical.  Different FFLs may work slightly differently.  Some may charge a fee of $25-$50 while others may charge less.  Some FFLs don’t do private party transfers, so you need to check with them first.

I know this sounds like a bit of a hassle and it is.  The rules are in place to make sure that people that shouldn’t have guns don’t get them.  You can also see why most people prefer to do a ‘face-to-face’ transfer.  They are much simpler…

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