PHOENIX — The Arizona House voted Thursday to make the state the third in the nation to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit, sending the governor a bill that would allow Arizonans to forego background checks and classes that are now required.
The legislation, approved by the House 36-19 without discussion, would make it legal for most U.S. citizens 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon in Arizona without the permit now required. Currently, carrying a hidden firearm without a permit is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican who sponsored the measure, said last week that he added changes requested by Gov. Jan Brewer’s office, an indication that she is likely to sign it. The governor can sign or veto the measure, or allow it to become law without action.
If the legislation is enacted, Arizona would join Alaska and Vermont in not requiring permits to carry concealed weapons. Forty-five other states require permits for hidden guns, and two states — Illinois and Wisconsin — prohibit them altogether.
Supporters say gun restrictions only affect people who want to follow the rules because criminals will carry hidden guns regardless of the law. Nearly all adults can carry a weapon openly in Arizona, and they shouldn’t face additional restrictions when they want to hide the weapon, supporters argue.
“What’s dangerous is when they’re in criminals’ hands, not citizens’ hands,” said Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, a bill sponsor.