You might expect gun-shop owners to be big fans of the new state law that will allow adults to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
If so, you'd be wrong.
Asked about it before Friday's signing by Gov. Jan Brewer, many firearms merchants paused, considered their words and started cautiously weighing the law's pluses and minuses. One local firearms instructor and his employer spoke strongly enough against the law's possible effects that gun-rights activists took offense and planned a protest this morning at their store.
The conflicted feelings about the liberalization of concealed-carry laws illustrate a broader division among gun enthusiasts - between the pragmatists willing to accommodate some legal restrictions on guns, and the purists who see restrictions as degrading their constitutionally protected freedoms.
The pragmatists worry that the new law will lead some Arizonans to carry a concealed weapon without knowing how to use it or knowing the laws that come into play the second they pull out a gun. Under existing law, applicants for a concealed-carry permit must take an eight-hour course, take a shooting test and submit to a background check.
The results of removing that requirement could be disastrous for uneducated gun owners and those around them, said Douglas MacKinlay, owner of Diamondback Police Supply, 170 S. Kolb Road.
"While I do believe in the right to own firearms, it also comes with tremendous responsibility, and part of that responsibility is knowledge. Without knowledge, problems arise," he said.
The new law goes into effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends. If lawmakers stick to a typical session length, the new law should be in place sometime in August.
The purists agree that it's better to be educated, but they don't think it should be government- mandated. They point not just to the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but to Article 2 Section 26 of the Arizona Constitution: "The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain, or employ an armed body of men."
Tucson firearms instructor and radio host Charles Heller said people have predicted doom over lifting gun restrictions before and have been wrong.
"Every time they've told us there's going to be blood in the streets, there's been rather clean streets," Heller said.
The conflict between pragmatists and purists was in evidence this week after gun-rights activists saw an interview that firearms instructor Jim Stover of the Marksman Pistol Institute gave to KGUN, Channel 9. In the April 9 broadcast, Stover said of the bill, then pending: "Our lawmakers - they think it's the most amazing thing in the world. I think it's the most stupid thing that they can come up with."
David Bliss, a Tucson gun-rights activist, wrote a letter to Marksman owner Barbara O'Connell, calling Stover's comments "extremely offensive."
"Basically what this man is saying is that he has no respect for the Constitution of the United States," Bliss wrote.
He also argued that Marksman, which has two stores and indoor pistol ranges in Tucson, has a financial interest in maintaining the old system because the store offers concealed-carry classes and because permit applicants may take their shooting test at the ranges.
O'Connell denied that the financial motive would be significant to her business and said: "With a CCW (concealed-carry weapons permit), those who carried had proved they knew how to load a gun, had been introduced to safe gun handling, and knew a semblance of state law. Now we have to wait and see if it's going to be a free-for-all."
The debate between the pragmatist and the purist escalated and led to Bliss' organizing today's protest at Marksman's East 29th Street location.
Even though the bill has been signed, the Arizona Department of Public Safety will continue to offer concealed-carry permits, and most gun enthusiasts said a permit will be worth having. The main reason: More than 30 other states recognize Arizona's permit, allowing permit-holders to carry a concealed weapon in their states.
On this, the pragmatists and purists agree.
On StarNet: Read more about what your legislators are doing at azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or at email@example.com