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Guns and Ammo magazine has again named Arizona the best state in the U.S. for owning a gun.

The ranking, based on five main measurements, solidifies the fact that a strong gun culture exists in the Grand Canyon state, one that has continued to embrace a more pro-gun stance than even other states part of the former Wild West.

The worst state to own a gun is New York, with Washington, D.C. placing behind it at 51st.


The nod to Arizona was the result of general gun restrictions or lack thereof, open carry laws, not requiring a permit, allowing possession of “black” firearms — those commonly referred to as assault rifles or with more aggressive-looking superficial body styles — reciprocity with other states in terms of accepting permits, allowance of items such as suppressors, aka silencers, availability of shooting ranges and clubs and Castle rules, or the restrictions on defending oneself.

The Law

A Verde Sante Fe man recently stopped an intruder at his home using his gun. While the burglar escaped before he could be arrested, no items were stolen.

The right to open and concealed carry in Arizona is in the state’s constitution, State Constitutional Provision — Article 2, Section 26. The measure was passed in 2010.

Arizona’s Castle Doctrine, justification of homicide, is Arizona Revised Statute §13-411, which states, “A person is justified in threatening or using both physical force and deadly physical force against another if and to the extent the person reasonably believes that physical force or deadly physical force is immediately necessary” to prevent major violent or property crimes listed in the law.

Unlike in other states, this does not require the victim to retreat. This is commonly called a “stand your ground” law. The law applies to any place an individual has a right to be.

Arizona does not restrict magazine capacity; purchase of assault rifles; or the purchase of handguns by adults over 21.

There is a process for obtaining a concealed carry permit, which is handled by Arizona Department of Public Safety. Included is a gun safety class. A fee structure, instructors and more can be found on azdps.com. Permit applications can be requested via email.

In Defense of Guns

The link between high gun ownership and violent crime appears unfounded, especially when examining statistics within Arizona.

According to local Phoenix news KTAR, Phoenix, the country’s sixth-largest city at 1.51 million people, had 113 murders in 2015, a 2.5 percent reduction from 2014 and the lowest raw number since 1988.

Gun deaths of any cause were 927 in Arizona in 2014, the lowest since 2009, according to gunpolicy.org. In 2013, the same number was 941, in 2012 946.

The same website cites gun homicides at 251 in 2013, also the lowest since 2009. It was 254 in 2012 and 259 in 2011. According to the FBI, handguns accounted for 133 of those homicides in 2013, 157 in 2012, and 165 in 2011.

Per 100,000 people, Arizona has a 0.76 justifiable homicide rate.

Arizona has had a higher rate of gun deaths than the national average of 672 in 2014, but the rate of national homicides in 2013 is nearly equal to Arizona’s per 100,000 people: 3.4 vs. 3.79. This is an overall decline nationwide. In 1993, the number of U.S. gun homicides per 100,000 was 7.

Meanwhile, those who have concealed carry permits, which are not required, have risen throughout the state. As of Oct. 16, DPS stated that there were 289,204 active permits statewide. In November 2015, that number was 249,214, an increase of approximately 15 percent.

Zeroing In

Yavapai County ranks third in the state for total number of permits at 12,932, according to DPS. This amounts to 5.83 percent of the population, the second highest in the state. Mohave is in first place as a percentage of the population. Coconino County, sixth, has a percentage of 2.83. Maricopa County has the largest total amount of permits at 102,617, but with 4.17 million people, this amounts to 2.46 percent of the population.

Numbers for the total number of guns in Arizona are impossible to accurately cite given those that need no registration, such as shotguns and gifted weapons. An estimate on the high end puts 328 million guns in the U.S., giving Arizona a portion of 6.94 million.

Though not comparable to total guns sold, there were more than 2.7 million background checks from Arizona over the last 10 years.

Reefer and Revolvers

In Wilson v. Lynch, a recent case originating in Nevada brought before federal court, a ruling came down that banning gun sales to medical marijuana cardholders did not violate their Second Amendment rights. As this is a federal ruling, it also affects Arizonans.


State Gun
Arizona’s official state gun is the Colt Single Action Army Revolver.

Reciprocity

Most states have either a written or non-written agreement with Arizona concealed carry permit holders, making valid the permit in their states. Below is the list of those 13 states that do not, according to the Department of Public Safety:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

According to the DPS site, Arizona accepts all other state’s licenses/permits provided the following:

  • The permit or license is recognized as valid in the issuing state
  • The permit or license holder is all of the following: Legally present in this state; not legally prohibited from possessing a firearm in this state
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