Eight new gun bills signed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer

July 31, 2009

Alan Korwin Friday, 17 July 2009

All anti-rights bills defeated, some pro-rights bills died

Waiting until the last possible moment, Arizona governor Jan Brewer on July 13 signed all eight gun-related bills enacted by the state legislature in 2009. Two crucial bills, Constitutional Carry and penalty reduction for discreet carry without a permit, failed passage at the last minute and didn’t make it to her desk. The eight bills signed into law, which will become effective on Sep. 30, 2009 (except SB 1242, effective immediately), are:

  • HB 2569   Smuggling people for profit, involving a deadly weapon
  • SB 1113   CCW in liquor-licensed places OK without drinking, unless no-gun signs
  • SB 1088   Domestic violence protection extended to romantic or sexual partners
  • SB 1168   Parking lots cannot ban firearms locked in vehicles, with exceptions
  • SB 1242   Exemptions from CCW and more for more “proper authorities”
  • SB 1243   Defensive display of a firearm in self defense defined and protected
  • SB 1437   AZ High School Marksmanship Program instructor definition expanded
  • SB 1449   Retroactive self-defense clarification (Harold Fish law)

At least 14 gun-related bills were introduced this year, with the few anti-rights bills repudiated early in the session and defeated. One other pro-rights bill died at the end, the effort to reduce required classes to three or four hours for people already well trained in gun use through military, police or private programs. Some 20 legislators walked out very late on the final session (which went all night and ended at 7:30 a.m.) stealing away votes that had been verbally committed and were needed for passage of that and the petty offense amendment for discreet carry without a permit. The pro-rights people were left with 30 votes, and needed 31 to pass the laws.

The entire session was run in a bizarre manner — no legislative work for months in the Senate while the Napolitano deficit was being resolved, then an impossibly crowded and rushed legislative calendar in the final few weeks, with no room for error, adjustment or contemplation. The procedures were a disgraceful humiliating embarrassment to good governance.

Constitutional Carry, which would have allowed law-abiding Arizonans to carry a firearm discreetly — with the same freedom they’ve had since statehood in 1912 to carry openly — got tied up in the Rules committee in the closing days of the session. A late amendment to the bill, which created a conflict with federal law, forced Rules to hold the bill and there wasn’t enough time left in the session to make the needed changes.

The amendment was added by Judiciary chairman Jonathan Paton (R-Tucson), normally a good supporter of RKBA, who insisted he wouldn’t hear the bill without the new language. The amendment criminalized smuggling guns across the Mexican border, which DPS wants even though it’s a federal matter. That carrot might have helped move the cart on Constitutional Carry, which DPS is basically against, but in the end scuttled the bill.

Following standard practice, this year’s changes will be produced as an insert and included with copies of The Arizona Gun Owner’s Guide, posted on our website, and available as a formatted pdf file or plain text for downloading. This is a preliminary analysis for review and comment.

Summarizing this year’s changes:

KEY: AGOG Page# / Bill# / Statutes Affected / Description

43, 71, 79, 80 / SB 1113 / §§ 4-229, 4-244, 4-246, 11-441, 13-3102, 13-3112, 38-1102 / Carry in restaurants for CCW permitees only

CCW-permit holders can carry in places licensed to serve alcohol, unless the places post official signs from the Dept. of Liquor Licenses banning entry to anyone with a firearm. The ban was written broadly enough to prohibit anyone from carrying, even on-duty police or employees, if signs are posted.

If access is not banned and you possess a firearm, you may not drink. If you enter you have an affirmative defense against prosecution (meaning you must prove your innocence) if you were not informed of the ban, the sign fell down, the sign was posted less than 30 days before you were charged, or you weren’t a resident of the state. The exemption for going in to seek aid in an emergency has been preserved, and you have permission to go in far enough to see if there’s a sign posted.

You can expect to see No Guns Allowed signs springing up all over the state, featuring official wording and an image of a gun inside a red circle with a slash through it. Drinking while carrying in a liquor-serving establishment, or carrying in such a place if it’s posted for no guns, is a class 3 misdemeanor.

The guns-in-restaurants bill also says: Members of a sheriff’s volunteer posse who have received specified training (AZPOST) can bear arms while on duty, with conditions. A U.S. law enforcement officer with 10 consecutive years of service and a special picture ID can carry concealed without a permit, and their most recent law-enforcement employer must issue the card on request. AZPOST-certified LEOs who volunteer for their agency’s reserve program are exempt from taking the CCW training program. Misconduct with weapons in an act of terrorism is raised to a class 2 felony. Note that terrorism is broadly defined (§13-2301) and this law could be applied beyond the common understanding of terrorism (e.g., a felony with a firearm intended to influence policy or affect the conduct of the state). Another extra guarantee against localities banning LEOs from carrying firearms has been added.

24 / SB 1088 / §13-3601 / Domestic violence expansion

Penalties for domestic-violence offenses, including restraining orders and firearms confiscations, can now be applied, in addition to problems between family members, to people who are or were in “a romantic or sexual relationship.” The law is a response to the case of a woman murdered by her boyfriend. A restraining order was unavailable because they weren’t married. It’s unclear, as always, how much a piece of paper from a court would have influenced a murderer. Now, people in a casual relationship have an enormously powerful weapon they can use on each other in the event of a quarrel — confiscation of any collection of arms and a ban on possession. Questions linger as to how much of a relationship qualifies, which the statute left ambiguous.

55, 70 / SB 1168 / §12-781 / Ban on prohibiting guns in parked vehicles

It’s unlawful for a property owner, tenant, public or private employer or business entity (called the “responsible party” below for brevity) to create a policy or rule that prevents a person from lawfully transporting or storing any firearm in a privately owned motor vehicle if:

1 – the vehicle is locked or the firearm is in a locked compartment on a motorcycle;

2 – the firearm is not visible. Any attempt to do so is null, void, unenforceable and without legal effect.

The ban on gun bans in private vehicles doesn’t apply under four conditions:

1 – possession of the firearm is already banned under federal or state law;

2 – the vehicle is owned or leased by the responsible party
in which case the ban is at their discretion;

3 – the responsible party has a facility secured by a fence or other physical barrier, and also limits access by a guard or other security measure, and the responsible party
provides secure storage with ready access and retrieval, similar to the gun-locker rules for public buildings and events;

4 – compliance with this statute would violate another applicable federal or state law. Nuclear generating stations must comply with gun-locker requirements.

The parking area for a single-family detached residence is exempt from this law. Department of Defense contractors whose property is located wholly or partially on a military base are exempt from this law. A responsible party can provide an alternate parking facility close to the main facility, ban firearms at the main one, and allow them at the alternate facility, as long as they don’t charge any extra fee.

Anticipating possible legal challenges from large corporations or other property owners whose parking space is open to the public, the legislature included a six-point set of findings, rare in state bills, to clarify that:

1 – the state and federal Constitutions provide strong protection for the
fundamental right to keep and bear arms for self defense;

2 – the enjoyment of this right is impaired if people are deprived the right to keep arms in
their vehicles;

3 – people are deprived of their rights if firearms cannot be kept in their private vehicles;

4 – your locked private vehicle is private, not a public space, you have the right to furnish it any way you like that is legal to enhance your comfort, security, ease of movement and
enjoyment of liberty;

5 – parking lot operators are not unduly burdened by the presence of legally possessed property secured within the vehicle by its owner;

6 – this act is for the benefit and protection of people who choose to exercise and enforce their fundamental right to bear arms in self defense in their movements throughout this state, including in their personal motor vehicles.

114 / SB 1243 / §13-421 / Defensive display of firearms protection

“Defensive display of a firearm” means:

1 – Verbally telling someone that you have a firearm or can get one;

2 – Exposing or displaying a gun in a way that a reasonable person would understand means you can protect yourself against illegal physical or deadly physical force;

3 – Placing your hand on a firearm while it is in your pocket, purse or other means of
containment or transport.

Defensive display is justified when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe physical force is immediately necessary to protect yourself against another person’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical or deadly physical force. A defensive display is not required before using or threatening physical force, in a situation where you would be justified in using or threatening physical force.

Defensive display is not justified if you intentionally provoke the other person, or if you use a firearm in the commission of a serious offense or violent crime (defined in §13-706 and §13-901.3).

This important new law clarifies that a proper defensive reach for or announcement of firearm possession is an acceptable element in the continuum of self defense, and should not be charged as a crime. Improper display of a firearm can be anything from a class 1 misdemeanor (e.g., disorderly conduct) to a class 3 felony (e.g., aggravated assault). It also helps balance out the problematic and arbitrary “threatening exhibition” of a gun allegation that prosecutors can make in charging a felony as a “dangerous offense” (§13-702 and 704). The threat of this extra charge can be used to coerce a plea agreement, and now this is balanced with a specified stipulation of proper display of a gun without firing at a potential assailant.

44 / SB 1437 / §15-714.01 / High school marksmanship training expansion

Instructors for the Arizona Gun Safety Program, a marksmanship course for high school students, can be certified by a national association of firearms owners, in addition to the Arizona Game and Fish Dept.

SB 1449 / Retroactive self defense (Harold Fish law)

In certain cases, “Laws 2006, chapter 199 applies retroactively… regardless of when the conduct underlying the charges occurred.”

The state enacted amendments in 2006 to make it clear that, if a person claims self defense, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted without justification (the appropriate “innocent until proven guilty” standard). One of the laws amended, which had been quietly slipped in by prosecutors without review ten years earlier, forced a defendant to prove innocence, the exact opposite of what American laws
should be (it made you guilty unless you could prove your innocence, a tyrannical standard). Part of these changes became known as the Castle Doctrine — you can stand your ground if attacked, intruders in your home are a legally recognized threat, and self defense was to receive robust protection under the law.

The new rules were supposed to protect people in a predicament like Harold Fish, a school teacher with a clean record out hiking in May 2004. He was attacked by a homeless known troublemaker with violent dogs on a forest trail outside Payson. Mr. Fish, who survived by shooting his assailant three times in the chest at close range, was at first released in what appeared an obvious self defense, but was then attacked by the county attorney, in a trial that reeked of unfairness.

The legislature is here making it clear that people are entitled to the full protection of the law, and the public’s safety will likely be enhanced with this small measure that serves notice on the powers that be. Other problems, like failure to fully inform juries, bad jury instructions, exclusion of exculpatory or illuminating evidence, exorbitant cost and inordinate timeframes, and other potholes in the criminal justice system remain to be fixed.

HB 2569 (§13-2319) and SB 1242 (§13-3102)

Two additional gun laws will affect the statutes in the back of The Arizona Gun Owner’s Guide, but have little direct impact on the general public or the text of the book. §13-2319 is amended to make smuggling people for profit or a commercial purpose a class 2 felony if the offense “involved the use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.” In §13-3102, we find that more “proper authorities” have been exempted from gun laws that restrict the public, like carrying without a permit, concealed carry
in a car without a permit, making, having, transporting or selling prohibited weapons, having a defaced deadly weapon, entering a public establishment or public event with a deadly weapon after being told not to, and more. The new crop of exempt special people includes community correctional officers, detention officers, and special investigators with
DOC or the Dept. of Juvenile Corrections. Other sections of the bill repeat language found in SB 1113, a common practice to help assure passage (if one bill fails, the language gets through in the other bill).

It’s interesting to note that, at the federal level, a growth process like this took place for decades, with a new batch of people added 32 times, until the statute grew so embarrassingly long (one sentence of 741 words) Congress shortened the law by 610 words, cutting out all the named groups, but expanded the impact by simply making it applicable to “any officer or employee of the United States. That statute, 18 USC §1114, makes it a greater crime to kill them than to kill you or me. How that comports with
equal protection under the law is unclear.

Author: Alan Korwin.

Alan KorwinAlan Korwin is a founder and two-term past president of the Arizona Book Publishing Association, which has presented him with its Visionary Leadership award, named in his honor, the Korwin Award. He is active with the speaker’s bureau for the non-profit, Wash., D.C.-based news-media watchdog, Accuracy In Media.

Alan’s first book, The Arizona Gun Owner’s Guide , is now in its 23rd edition with more than 100,000 copies in print. He went on to write or co-write seven more books on gun laws, including state guides for California , Florida , Texas and Virginia , the unabridged federal guide Gun Laws of America , and his 11th, which debuted at the 2008 Gun Rights Policy Conference, The Heller Case: Gun Rights Affirmed!

Alan’s blog, PageNine.org, is carried by dozens of paper and online outlets.


Arizona governor signs bill allowing guns in bars

July 18, 2009

By Jonathan J. Cooper

Associated Press
Published: Monday, July 13, 2009 8:12 p.m. MDT

PHOENIX — Arizonans with concealed weapons permits will be allowed to take a handgun into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Jan Brewer.

The measure, backed by the National Rifle Association, will require bar and restaurant owners who want to ban weapons on the premises to post a no-guns sign next to the business’ liquor license.

Drinking while carrying a weapon would be illegal.

Before a compromise reached late in the Legislature’s regular session, the measure pitted powerful groups representing gun and bar owners against each other.

Opponents have said mixing guns and alcohol produces a dangerous combination that could cause violence. Supporters said people should be able to protect themselves at businesses that serve alcohol. Supporters also said it was risky to leave guns in parked vehicles.

The bill originally only applied to establishments with kitchens, but it was expanded to include bars. Another change was to move the location for posting a no-guns notice, which originally was to have been next to the main entrance. Some bar owners had worried about uncertainty over which entrance would be considered the main entrance.

A lobbyist for the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, which opposed the original bill, said the amended version created clear, uniform and enforceable rules.

“It’s going to happen one way or another, and this was the best version we’ve seen,” ALBA lobbyist Don Isaacson said after the bill was revised last month.

It’s already legal to carry a gun into a store that sells alcohol for consumption elsewhere.

It would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 to carry a gun into an establishment with a no-guns notice posted.

The law, however, includes a partial legal defense for a person carrying a concealed weapon within an establishment banning guns. It would apply if the sign had fallen down, the person wasn’t an Arizona resident and the notice was first posted less than a month earlier.

The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Bill

June 8, 2009

H.R. 197, introduced in the U.S. House by Representatives Cliff Stearns’ (R-Fla.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.), would allow any person with a valid concealed firearm carrying permit or license, issued by a state, to carry a concealed firearm in any state, as follows: In states that issue concealed firearm permits, a state’s laws governing where concealed firearms may be carried would apply within its borders. In states that do not issue carry permits, a federal “bright-line” standard would permit carrying in places other than police stations; courthouses; public polling places; meetings of state, county, or municipal governing bodies; schools; passenger areas of airports; and certain other locations. The bill applies to D.C., Puerto Rico and U.S. territories. It would not create a federal licensing system; it would require the states to recognize each others’ carry permits, just as they recognize drivers’ licenses and carry permits held by armored car guards. Rep. Stearns has introduced such legislation since 1995.

• Today, 48 states have laws permitting concealed carry, in some circumstances. Forty states, accounting for two-thirds of the U.S. population, have RTC laws. Thirty-six have “shall issue” permit laws (including Alaska, which also allows carrying without a permit), three have fairly administered “discretionary issue” permit laws, and Vermont (and Alaska) allow carrying without a permit. (Eight states have restrictive discretionary issue laws.) Most RTC states have adopted their laws in the last decade.

• Citizens with carry permits are more law-abiding than the general public. Only 0.01% of nearly 1.2 million permits issued by Florida have been revoked because of firearm crimes by permit holders. Similarly low percentages of permits have been revoked in Texas, Virginia, and other RTC states that keep such statistics. RTC is widely supported by law enforcement officials and groups.

• States with RTC laws have lower violent crime rates. On average, 22% lower total violent crime, 30% lower murder, 46% lower robbery, and 12% lower aggravated assault, compared to the rest of the country. The seven states with the lowest violent crime rates are RTC states. (Data: FBI.)

• Crime declines in states with RTC laws. Since adopting RTC in 1987, Florida’s total violent crime and murder rates have dropped 32% and 58%, respectively. Texas’ violent crime and murder rates have dropped 20% and 31%, respectively, since its 1996 RTC law. (Data: FBI.)

• The right of self-defense is fundamental, and has been recognized in law for centuries. The Declaration of Independence asserts that “life” is among the unalienable rights of all people. The Second Amendment guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms for “security.”

• The laws of all states and constitutions of most states recognize the right to use force in self-defense. The Supreme Court has stated that a person “may repel force by force” in self-defense, and is “entitled to stand his ground and meet any attack made upon him with a deadly weapon, in such a way and with such force” as needed to prevent “great bodily injury or death.” (Beard v. U.S., 1895)

• Congress affirmed the right to guns for “protective purposes” in the Gun Control Act (1968) and Firearm Owners’ Protection Act (1986). In 1982, the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution described the right to arms as “a right of the individual citizen to privately possess and carry in a peaceful manner firearms and similar arms.”

For more information on H.R. 1074, please click here.

To see if your Representative is a cosponsor of H.R. 1074, please click here.

Again, please contact your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators and urge them to cosponsor and support these measures. For additional information on these bills, please visit www.NRAILA.org.

Bi-Partisan Congressional Majority Moves to Restore Second Amendment in National Parks

June 8, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009


On Wednesday, NRA-backed legislation to restore the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens in national parks and wildlife refuges passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 279-147.  Today, the measure was signed into law and, as specified in the legislation, will take effect in nine months, on February 22, 2010. This was a major repudiation of the gun control community’s anti self-defense agenda.

The current Department of Interior (DOI) regulations were amended by the Bush Administration in 2008, allowing law-abiding citizens to defend themselves by carrying a concealed firearm in national parks and wildlife refuges.  However, early this year, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. granted anti-gun plaintiffs a preliminary injunction against implementation of the new rule.  NRA has been working for the past several years in the regulatory, legal, and legislative arenas to achieve this policy change.

“It has been an NRA priority to change the old, outdated rule, and we are pleased that Congress passed this critical legislation,” said NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox.  “This step brings clarity and uniformity for law-abiding gun owners visiting our national parks and wildlife refuges.  NRA will continue to pursue every avenue to defend the American people’s right of self-defense.”

The National Park Service’s recent report revealed that 11 murders, 35 rapes, 61 robberies and 261 aggravated assaults occurred on parklands in 2006.  Our parks also contain hidden methamphetamine labs, marijuana fields and illegal drug and illegal alien smuggling routes.  In addition to these dangers and potential attacks from human predators, park visitors have to consider attacks from animal predators.  Between April and December 2007 there were at least a dozen grizzly bear attacks reported by park visitors.  Today, 31 states allow the carrying of firearms in state parks–all with safe and satisfactory results.

This bill provides consistency across our nation’s federal lands and puts an end to the patchwork of regulations that govern different lands managed by different federal agencies.  In the past, only Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands allowed the carrying of firearms, while National Parks and Wildlife Refuges did not.

In 1982, only six states allowed citizens to carry handguns for self-defense.  Currently, 48 states have some process in place for issuing licenses or permits to allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms for self-defense.  The NRA has long held that the regulations needed to be updated to reflect this change.

This move restores the rights of law-abiding gun owners who wish to transport and carry firearms for lawful purposes on most DOI lands and makes federal law consistent with the state law in which these lands are located.

“This common-sense measure, offered by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), gives law-abiding gun owners the option of protecting themselves in our federal parks and refuges.  We appreciate the efforts and leadership of Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and Representatives Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah), in ensuring a legislative remedy to amend out-of-date regulations and restore the Second Amendment rights of American gun owners,” concluded Cox.

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Congress Approves Bill Restricting Credit Card Industry, Allowing Guns in Parks

June 8, 2009


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The House voted Wednesday to join the Senate in approving sweeping restrictions on the credit card industry, as well as an unrelated measure, which the House passed separately, to allow loaded guns in parks.

The House approved the credit card overhaul measures by a vote of 361-64. Those measures would enact new restrictions on the industry, including a requirement that customers penalized by higher interest rates because they missed a payment are given a chance to reclaim their lower rate after six months.

The other measure, to restore a Bush administration policy allowing loaded guns in national parks, had been pushed by conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who persuaded the Senate to add it to its version of the credit card legislation.

The Senate bill put House Democrats in a tough spot, since they effectively were forced to vote against gun control Wednesday in order to avoid kicking the bill back to the other chamber again. (The House and Senate must approve the same bill.)

House Democrats, though, engineered a delicate legislative maneuver to extend anti-gun Democrats a chance to go on record against the amendment without torpedoing the overall bill. They did this by holding two votes: one for the credit card end of things, one for the firearms portion. This gave anti-gun members political cover by allowing them to vote against the gun measure and for the credit card bill.

But since the gun measure passed, by a vote of 279-147, it nevertheless gets attached to the main bill and becomes law if President Obama signs it. He is expected to do so Friday.

Despite objections from many Democrats over the firearms measure, 105 House Democrats voted in favor of it. On the Senate side, 27 Democrats voted to expand gun rights.

Among those who voted “yes” was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who had blocked Coburn’s amendment from coming to the Senate floor for more than a year. Seven other Western Democrats voted with Reid to support the Republican senator’s amendment, which allows a range of firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges as long as they are allowed by federal, state and local law.

Spokesman Jim Manley said Reid is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, adding that the guns in parks issue was a major concern for many Nevadans.

Meanwhile, the credit card portion is aimed at addressing consumer concerns.

The new restrictions would protect debt-ridden consumers from many of the surprise charges common in the industry, like over-the-limit fees and a charge to pay the bill by phone.

Some of the changes, including a requirement that cardholders receive 45-days’ notice before their rates are raised, are already on track to take effect in July 2010 under new regulations by the Federal Reserve.

But the legislation would put these changes into law and go further in restricting when and how banks charge people and who could get a card.

For example, the bill would require people under 21 to prove first that they can repay the money or that a parent or guardian is willing to pay off their debt if they default.

As banks scramble to make up for the lost revenue, cardholders who pay off their balance in full each month could also see annual fees become the norm and lucrative rewards programs canceled.

On the plus side for consumers, card holders who see their interest rate skyrocket because they have been late on a payment would get a chance at their older, lower rate if they pay their bill on time each month for six months.

FOX News’ Chad Pergram and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Florida’s ‘castle doctrine’ provides rights for shooting would-be robbers

June 8, 2009
Susan Jacobson |Orlando Sentinel Staff Writer

May 4, 2009


In the past 4 1/2 months, six Central Floridians met firepower with firepower when they witnessed or were victims of a robbery. The past four times, a robber ended up dead.

Such shootings are routinely reviewed by state attorneys to determine if they were justified. But the chances of anyone being prosecuted are slim, lawyers said.

The reason: Florida law gives residents and business owners near-impunity to shoot invaders in their homes or businesses.

“If someone came in an office — mine or anybody else’s — and was trying to rob or commit a forcible felony, I have an absolute right to shoot them,” said Cheney Mason, an Orlando criminal-defense attorney who once found himself in just that position.

Laws vary from state to state, and Florida has one of the country’s more liberal approaches. Florida law doesn’t require residents to retreat before shooting home burglars. The provision, known as the “castle doctrine,” is thought to have originated in English common-law rules and the notion that “one’s home is one castle,” according to a Connecticut General Assembly attorney.

The presumption is that such a shooting prevents imminent death or great bodily harm to self or family, said Shane Fischer, a Winter Park criminal-defense lawyer.

Law provides some immunity

Shootings of business burglars are justifiable for similar reasons, said the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The law provides immunity from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits in most cases. Prosecutions are rare, Fischer said.

“The State Attorney’s Office is too busy prosecuting real crimes to prosecute a law-abiding citizen defending their business,” Fischer wrote in an e-mail to the Orlando Sentinel. “Plus, no jury in the world is going to have sympathy for the dead burglar.”

Prosecutors will review a March 31 shooting of a robber by a pharmacist and a Jan. 9 fatal shooting of a robber by a customer at a carwash, both in south Orange County. Ocoee police deemed the Jan. 7 shooting of an armed robber by a convenience-store customer justified. New Smyrna Beach police reached the same preliminary conclusion about a Feb. 7 fatal shooting by a pharmacy security guard.

‘Moral right to protect your life’

According to the National Rifle Association, 23 states have their own a version of the castle doctrine. A Connecticut General Assembly study found 15 states adopted castle-doctrine bills in 2005 and 2006.

Almost anybody other than convicted felons can legally own a firearm in Florida without a license, which is required only to carry a concealed weapon. But federal law imposes severe restrictions on short-barrel rifles and shotguns, silencers and automatic weapons such as machine guns.

“If somebody’s trying to kill you, you have a fundamental civil, human and moral right to protect your life,” said Alan Korwin, an Arizona author and publisher of gunlaws.com. “It is the most serious, traumatic, emotional situation you will ever be in.”

Mason doesn’t remember his experience exactly that way. When a drug dealer stormed into his office and scared his staff, Mason was ready with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol aimed at the man’s heart.

“I pulled a gun and ordered him out, and he ran away,” Mason said. “If you believe he’s armed and you’re threatened, you don’t have to wait until you’re shot first.”

Case histories

*March 31 A pharmacist shoots an armed robber at a south Orange County drugstore. The robber then shoots himself to death.

*Feb. 7 A security guard shoots dead an armed robber who tries to steal oxycodone from a New Smyrna Beach pharmacy.

*Jan. 9 A customer at a South Orange Blossom Trail carwash pulls a handgun when two men with a sawed-off shotgun try to rob him. One robber is killed.

*Jan. 7 A customer shoots a robber dead at a convenience store in Ocoee. “I’m upset that I did take a man’s life,” he says later. “But the man should not have robbed the place.”

*Dec. 23 A passer-by trades gunfire with a mugger in the parking lot at Orlando Fashion Square mall. The mugger is wounded.

*Dec. 23 A west Orange man, 91, scares off two home invaders by shooting his .38-caliber revolver. He misses.

*In 1997 and again in 1998 Orlando convenience-store owner Nam “Jay” Chun shoots and kills a robber. “I hate guns,” Chun said. “But if they mess with me, I’ll mess with them.”

Boom in Gun Sales Fueled by Politics and the Economy

June 8, 2009
By Sean Gregory Wednesday, Apr. 08, 2009
A customer samples a handgun at a shop in Glendale, Calif.
A customer samples a handgun at a shop in Glendale, Calif.
Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty

Americans are afraid of this economy. As a result, they’re getting locked and loaded. To wit: Jacquita Baker, a soft-spoken single mother from Kentwood, Mich., near Grand Rapids. She works as an administrative assistant at the Grand Rapids Urban League and is studying criminal justice at a local university. As of Monday, she’s the proud owner of a shotgun. Why bear arms now? “The economy played a large part in my decision,” says Baker, 27. “When people don’t have jobs, they might go breaking into people’s homes. I want to be safe in my home.”

She’s not alone. Three recent tragedies have thrust gun control back into the national discussion. On April 3, a Vietnamese immigrant in Binghamton, N.Y., shot and killed 13 people at an immigrant service center before taking his own life. On April 4, a Pittsburgh, Pa., man opened fire on three police officers responding to a domestic-disturbance call. All three officers died. That same day, a man from Graham, Wash., distraught that his wife was planning to leave him for another man, shot and killed his five children and then committed suicide. These horrible tragedies are already roiling gun-control advocates. But those who strive to see shotguns sidelined have to cope with another stinging reality: gun sales are soaring.

According to the SportsOneSource, a research firm that tracks the sporting-goods industry, firearms sales in large retail outlets are up 39% this year. Shops across the country are reporting ammunition shortages because stores can’t meet demand for bullets. Data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which the industry uses as a proxy for overall firearms sales, are also revealing. From November 2008 through March 2009, FBI background checks, which are required every time a federally licensed gun dealer makes a sale, rose 29.3% over the same period a year earlier. In November alone, checks jumped 42%, to 1,529,635, the largest monthly total in the decade that the system has been in place. “Consumer demand is unprecedented,” says Larry Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry.

Two factors are fueling the rise. The first is political. It’s no coincidence that a record number of background checks occurred in November, the month Barack Obama was elected President and the Democrats took control of Congress. People grew anxious that the Obama Administration would ban semiautomatic weapons, so they rushed to buy guns before legislation could be passed. In a December survey by the research firm Southwick Associates, nearly 80% of active hunters and target shooters said they believed firearm purchases would “become more difficult” under the new Administration and a Democratic Congress. “Everybody is waiting for when the next foot is going to fall in taking away the right to bear arms,” says Doug VanderWoude, owner of Silver Bullet Firearms in Wyoming, Mich., near Grand Rapids. He estimates that business is up 50% in 2009.

The last Democratic President, Bill Clinton, put into law an assault-weapons ban in 1994. President George W. Bush allowed that ban to expire, but last month Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, said the Administration wanted to reinstate Clinton’s ban. “The gun culture is hypersensitive,” says Miles Hall, an Oklahoma City gun-shop owner. “If someone sneezes in Washington, we hear it and get nervous. There’s a lot of anxiety out there.”

A new market of gun buyers is emerging. Hall estimates that some 80% of his sales since the election have been to first- and second-time gun purchasers, many nervous that this may be their last chance. “Thus far, the Obama Administration has done what they set out to do,” says Joe Keffer, who owns a shop in New Holland, Pa. “And therein lies the concern.”

For gun-control advocates, this dynamic is bitterly ironic. Tough government talk against firearms, amplified by the Obama Administration’s popularity, has actually helped spark a sales increase. It’s yet another cost of good intentions.

The recession is another factor in the sales jump. Guns are expensive — Baker, for example, paid $200 for her shotgun — yet fear trumps the cost of a weapon for people worried that the economic crisis will lead to more crime. “Protection of the family, protection of the home, is utmost on people’s minds,” says Keffer. Many big cities have indeed seen crime tick higher during the downturn. But in the wrong psyche, this sentiment can carry deadly consequences. For example, the mother of the Pittsburgh man who shot and killed the police officers said her son had been stockpiling guns and ammunition “because he believed that as a result of the economic collapse, the police were no longer able to protect society.”

Gun advocates stress that a few extreme cases shouldn’t penalize law-abiding citizens who exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Roy Richmond, for example, just bought his first small handgun. He’s the heat-packing pastor of a nondenominational church near Oklahoma City. He’s carrying the weapon for protection. “Things are getting worse and worse,” he says. “There needs to be some people out there with guns.” With the weapons business booming, Richmond and his fellow firearms advocates are seeing their wish fulfilled.