Arizona Ranked 8th Worst in Country For Gun Safety Laws

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords smiles after speaking at an event at Giffords Law Center in San Francisco, Tuesday, June 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By Alyssa Bickle

June 21, 2023

Founded by gun violence survivor Gabby Giffords and her husband Sen. Mark Kelly, the Giffords Organization noted that Arizona did not pass any significant gun legislation this year.

A recent study on gun safety laws says Arizona is missing the mark.

On its annual gun law scorecard, the Giffords Law Center gave Arizona a failing ranking with only two points on what the state does well regarding gun safety laws: prohibiting firearms at polling places and reporting mental health data.

The center shared eleven points on what the state is missing, from child-access prevention laws to assault weapon restrictions.

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Democratic Rep. Laura Terech of Scottsdale, a survivor of gun violence and former teacher, was not surprised that Arizona was given this ranking and said the standing laws are not in line with what the majority of Arizonans want.

Terech, who is also heavily involved with gun safety advocacy group Moms Demand Action, has voted against a number of bills this session that she says would have taken Arizona in the wrong direction on gun safety legislation, had they not been vetoed by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs.

The Republican majority of the legislature is what Terech says is feeding into this failing ranking.   

Republicans Oppose Gun Reform in Almost Any Form

Terech ran a bill this year that was related to school safety but didn’t deal with weapons. Had the bill ever been given a chance in the House, it would have exempted documents like school blueprints and floor plans from public records requests—preventing this information from landing in the hands of potential school shooters.

This bill would not have cost the state any money and did not need appropriation. It didn’t gain any traction, Terech said. 

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“It’s kind of the environment that we’re working on down there,” Terech said. “I would imagine that as long as we continue with this Legislature, that ranking will stay in place.”

Death by gun violence is one of the leading causes of death among children in the US. More than 200 people are shot every day in the US and more than 100 die, said Democratic House Rep. Jennifer Longdon, who is a champion for gun safety in the Arizona Legislature.

Costs like public safety responses to gun violence, healthcare and criminal justice costs are associated with these wounds—and there is work to be done to fix that, Longdon said. 

Maya Zuckerberg, president of Arizonans for Gun Safety, called the failing ranking “very well-deserved” and supports the Giffords Organization in its preventative approach to the problem, advocating for “common-sense gun laws.”

What are Common-Sense Gun Laws?

For Terech, common-sense gun laws mean speaking to voters and asking them if a law is too overly restrictive—not taking away guns from citizens, but keeping them and their communities safe, she said. 

For example, something like a three-day waiting period on purchasing a gun does not infringe on anyone’s rights, Terech said. 

Longdon, who was paralyzed by gun violence 19 years ago and is now a full-time wheelchair user, has worked for common-sense, data-driven solutions to gun violence so that other families don’t feel what her family has felt.

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“I think safe storage is a common-sense gun law. I think that a universal background check is a common-sense gun law. I think keeping guns out of the hands of people who are known to have a violent background by assaulting their domestic partner and abusing children is a common-sense gun law,” Longdon said. “These aren’t things that are ridiculous. These don’t infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. They’re not burdensome to responsible gun owners.”

These laws are reasonable measures that most Arizonans would support, like Christian’s Law, which would require gun owners to keep their gun or ammunition, or both, in a locked storage container, Zuckerberg said.

Christian’s Law was first introduced by Longdon and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Pawlik in 2020 and is dedicated to a Christian Petillo, a teenager who was killed in an accidental shooting while he was at a sleepover with a friend.

The bill was not advanced by the Republican majority and was held in committees in this past legislative session. 

In 2021, roughly half of Americans said they favored stricter gun laws, according to the Pew Research Center.

Gun Safety Training in Schools 

Republican Rep. Selina Bliss introduced a bill this year that would provide students in 6th through 12th grade with training sessions in firearm safety, but Hobbs vetoed it.

Arizonans for Gun Safety advocated against the bill because the language of it specified that the program would be developed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), politicizing the already delicate topic of students’ safety in school, Zuckerberg said. 

On the list of approved curriculum that fell under the description of the bill, it would have included the NRA, as well as several other curriculum developers the school could choose from, Bliss said. 

But, the bill was written in such a way that the NRA’s Eddie Eagle Program would have been one of the organizations qualified to work with schools—as the bill has language that matches the program’s webpage description.

Bliss said the education course was misinterpreted as a firearm training course, but the course was designed to be completed in the classroom, taught by volunteers, paid professionals, or teachers if they chose to participate.

Opponents of the bill said it was a way to open school doors to the NRA.

Bliss worked as a nurse for several decades before being elected into office, much of it in the emergency room where she saw the results of many accidental weapon discharges. This piece of legislation had the intent of making sure children get proper education on firearms, Bliss said. 

Balancing Second Amendment Rights

Much of the discourse surrounding gun safety is focused on citizens’ “right to bear arms” as stated in the Second Amendment.

The “well-regulated militia” text in the Second Amendment is the part often missed, Longdon said. 

Requiring gun safety training for gun owners before they purchase a gun is one solution to ensure gun owners are educated on the responsible practices for firearm use, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Arizonans for Gun Safety advocate for responsible gun ownership, not the removal of guns from citizens, Zuckerberg said. 

“Things like extreme-risk protection orders and background checks and safe-storage laws still allow you to carry a gun,” she said, “it just requires that you do so safely.”

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  • Alyssa Bickle

    Alyssa Bickle is an affordability and LGBTQ+ reporting intern for The Copper Courier. She expects to graduate in May 2024 with degrees in journalism and political science and a minor in urban and metropolitan studies. She has reported for Cronkite News and The State Press and is an assistant research analyst at ASU’s Center for Latina/os and American Politics Research.

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