“The right to bear arms”

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Guns are part of the rich history of the West. Cowboys, peace officers, and bandits of yester-year all carried guns–albeit for different reasons. In Arizona, the rule still is that an adult may, under most circumstances, possess and carry a gun. There are certain exceptions to this rule, however. This examines those exceptions and the state laws that govern gun ownership and use.

Misconduct Involving Weapons

The law prohibits certain conduct involving weapons. Generally, a person may not legally do any of the following:

Carry a firearm concealed on his person or within his immediate control in a vehicle

    • in the furtherance of a serious offense, a violent crime, or any other felony offense;
    • and fail, when contacted by a law enforcement officer, to accurately answer the officer if the officer asks whether the person is carrying a concealed deadly weapon; or
    • if the person is under 21 years of age.

Manufacture, possess, transport, sell or transfer an automatic weapon, or certain short-barreled rifles and shotguns.

Possess a firearm if the person

    • has been found to constitute a danger to himself or to others
    • has been convicted of a felony and his civil right to possess or carry a gun has not been restored
    • is serving a term of imprisonment
    • is serving a term of probation pursuant to a conviction for domestic violence or a felony offense, parole, community supervision, work furlough, home arrest or release on any other basis or is serving a term of probation or parole pursuant to the interstate compact; or
    • is an undocumented or a nonimmigrant alien

Sell or transfer a gun to someone who is prohibited from possessing it.

Deface a firearm or possess a firearm knowing it was defaced.

Use or possess a gun during the commission of a felony.

Discharge a firearm at an occupied structure to assist, promote or further the interests of a criminal street gang, criminal syndicate or racketeering enterprise.

Enter a public establishment or attend a public event and carry a gun after a reasonable request by the establishment operator or event sponsor to remove the weapon and place it in his temporary custody.

Enter an election polling place on Election Day carrying a gun.

Possess a gun on school grounds.

Enter a nuclear or hydroelectric generating station carrying a gun.

Supply, sell or give a gun to another person if the person knows (or has reason to know) that the other person would use the gun to commit a felony.

Use or possess a gun in furtherance of terrorism.

There are numerous exceptions to the above-listed exceptions. In addition, many of the words and phrases used in the law have been defined by the Legislature. Accordingly, the reader is advised to consult the statute itself, A.R.S. Section 13-3102, for complete details on the subject. Misconduct involving weapons under this statute may be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the particular offense.

Concealed Weapons

A permit is no longer required to carry a concealed weapon. In 2010, Arizona became just the third state in the country to allow a concealed weapon to be carried without a permit. Of course, as discussed above, the person must still be 21 years of age or older, and not otherwise prohibited from carrying a concealed weapon.

A firearm is not considered concealed if it is carried in:

  1. a manner where any portion of the firearm or holster in which it is carried is visible
  2. a holster that is at least partially visible
  3. a scabbard or case designed for carrying weapons that is at least partially visible
  4. luggage; or
  5. a case, holster, scabbard, pack or luggage that is carried within a vehicle or within a storage compartment, map pocket, trunk or glove compartment of a vehicle.

Firearm Purchases in Other States

An Arizona resident may lawfully purchase firearms anywhere in the United States if the purchase fully complies with the laws of Arizona and the state in which the purchase is made and the purchaser and seller have complied with the requirements of the federal gun control act.

Discharge of Firearms

A person may lawfully discharge a firearm:

  1. on a properly supervised range
  2. in a recognized hunting area
  3. for the control of nuisance wildlife (with a permit)
  4. using blanks
  5. more than one mile from an occupied structure; or
  6. in self-defense (or defense of another) against a serious animal attack. It is unlawful to discharge a firearm within any Arizona city or town, except by special permit of the chief of police.

The firearm discharge rules do not apply to peace officers and animal control officers in the performance of their duties.

Local Rules

Political subdivisions of the state, e.g., counties, cities and towns, are permitted to enact laws relating to firearms, so long as those laws do not conflict with state laws. A political subdivision may enact laws prohibiting a minor from possessing or carrying a firearm under certain circumstances, regulating its employees and independent contractors within the scope and course of their employment, and limiting or prohibiting the discharge of firearms in parks and preserves.


The general rule is that a person who is under eighteen years of age and unaccompanied by a parent, grandparent or guardian, or a certified hunter safety instructor or certified firearms safety instructor is prohibited from knowingly carrying or possessing a firearm in any public place or on non-family owned or leased property. This rule does not apply to emancipated minors, or to minors who are at least fourteen years of age and who are engaged in lawful hunting or shooting events or marksmanship activities, or activities requiring the use of a firearm that are related to the production of certain agricultural products.

If a minor is apprehended for unlawful possession of a firearm, the peace officer must seize the firearm. If the parent or guardian found responsible for violating this law knew (or reasonably should have known) of the minor’s unlawful conduct and made no effort to prohibit it, the parent or guardian will be responsible for any court-imposed fine and for any damages resulting from the minor’s unlawful use of the firearm.

Generally, a person who sells or gives to a minor, without the consent of the parent or legal guardian, a firearm, ammunition or toy pistol by which dangerous and explosive substances can be discharged is guilty of a felony.

The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission. 

Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created. 

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Don Loose Author
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Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know.  Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at don@looselawgroup.com.