Arizona law enforcement officials this week are still looking for the person or persons responsible for a recent series of freeway shootings on Interstate 10 near the capital city of Phoenix, increasing the reward to $50,000 for information that leads to an arrest. While police have questioned a man in relation to the incidents and arrested three teenagers in copycat incidents, they've seemingly come up empty regarding the 11 shootings since Aug. 29, which have not resulted in any deaths.
Amid the intense manhunt, Arizona remains a state with some of the nation's loosest gun laws. As many continue to debate the effectiveness of the Second Amendment, Arizona, where permits to carry guns openly or concealed are a relative afterthought, continued to be consistently ranked among the top states for gun owners, largely because of its limited firearm restrictions.
The only preconditions for owning a gun in the state are: to be at least 21 years old, have a felony-free criminal record, and be neither an undocumented immigrant nor considered by the court to be a danger to oneself. Even further, Arizona is one of a handful of states that have constitutional carry laws, essentially meaning someone can be in possession of a concealed weapon without a permit as long as she/he is legally allowed to carry a gun. Only five states have constitutional carry laws, including Alaska, Wyoming, Kansas and Maine, according to Reuters. In certain instances, Arizona does issue permits, which are required to carry a gun into certain venues, such as a bar.
— #NBC7 San Diego (@nbcsandiego) September 13, 2015
That stands in stark contrast to a handful of other states with much stricter gun laws. In New Jersey, for instance, it is illegal to even possess a gun unless you have the proper permit, and Connecticut requires anyone who wants to carry a handgun concealed or openly to have a permit.
Most guns are legal in Arizona, which only outlaws firearms that shoot more than one shot automatically from one pull of the trigger without a manual reload, rifles with barrels longer than 16 inches, and shotguns with barrels longer than 18 inches. Arizona authorities haven’t released what type of bullets they found at the scenes on I-10, making it unknown what type of gun the shooter, or shooters, used, but the gun laws apply equally to handgun, rifle and shotgun ownership, making it as easy to get a pistol as it is to get a shotgun.
As a result, the state has been called one of the best places to own a gun, and Guns & Ammo, a magazine that covers firearms, ranked Arizona in 2015 tops for gun owners, ahead of Vermont, Alaska and Utah.
But the state’s lack of restrictions have also sparked protests. A group of gun regulation activists rallied last Thursday in Phoenix as part of the “Whatever It Takes Day of Action,” a national rally urging Congress to reduce gun violence through legislation. The children of a shooting instructor killed last year when a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot him with an Uzi submachine gun at a shooting range have also launched a petition online urging legislation to prevent children from using the same type of guns used in their father’s death.
Some activists in Arizona have pushed for tighter gun control regulations, but it looks unlikely leaders from the state will do the same in the state legislature. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, who has received an A rating from the National Rifle Association, has voted against a ban on restricting high-capacity magazines.
“We do need to strengthen the background check system, but universal background checks, I think, is a bridge too far for most of us,” Flake has said.