Beginning Thursday you can carry a concealed weapon in Arizona without a permit. We hope that if you choose to do so, you will also choose a safety course first - even though the training will no longer be required.

As the Star's Clayton Norman reports today, the state's new liberal weapons law will allow you to tote a firearm in your purse or briefcase or under a jacket without first taking a CCW (carrying a concealed weapon) safety course and getting a permit from the state.

Until Thursday, when the new law goes into effect, you can legally carry a weapon only openly, unless you have a concealed-carry permit. (You also can't carry if you're a "prohibited possessor" - for instance, if you've been found mentally incompetent by a court or been convicted of a felony.)

Supporters of the new law say it's all about freedom and extending Second Amendment rights.

Some supporters even argue that the more people who carry firearms, the safer we will all be from robberies, assaults and lunatic shooting sprees.

We think not. We suspect a bunch of armed citizens trying to intervene in such incidents will be more likely to endanger innocent, unarmed citizens than to prevail over the bad guys.

But the law's the law. So let's be responsible with these new freedoms.

For starters, especially if you're not experienced with firearms, take the CCW class, even though it will no longer be required.

Bart Graves, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, told Norman said that the smart thing to do is get trained in handling weapons "to learn how to use them and how to keep them safe and out of the hands of children."

"We understand the intent of the law," he said. "And we will abide by it, but we strongly encourage people to get training."

Brian Malte, state legislation director of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the group thinks Arizona's new law is "bad news" for public safety. The group agrees that training is a must.

"When one wants to carry a loaded handgun hidden on their person in public, it serves the public for that person to know the laws and the implications of using deadly force," he told Norman.

At this point, 25,948 people have concealed-carry permits in Pima County, Norman reported; the number of people carrying concealed weapons is bound to go up now that the class and permit barrier is coming down.

Josh Katz, owner of The Armory on Pima, supports the law, but said he's nevertheless sorry that fewer people will be seeking training.

And he warned that if you want to take your weapon out of state, you'll almost certainly still need a concealed-carry permit to avoid breaking other states' laws. Arizona has a reciprocity agreement with 32 states.

Even under the new law, as Norman reported, you can't carry weapons in schools, power plants, polling places, federal buildings - or any place where a sign specifically says weapons are prohibited.

Furthermore, you'll still need a CCW permit to carry a firearm into a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol (and, even then, you can't legally drink).

So, if you've decided you want to carry a concealed weapon under the new law, there are myriad reasons to take the CCW class and get a concealed-carry permit from the state.

The best one is safety.

Arizona Daily Star