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Arizona Gun Laws Among Most Lenient In U.S.

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On November 30, Jared Lee Loughner went to a Sportman’s Warehouse in Tuscon, Ariz., and purchased a Glock 19 semiautomatic weapon, after passing an instant background check.

He allegedly used that weapon in the January 8 shooting rampage that killed at least six people and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 13 others in Tuscon.

Arizona’s gun laws, among the most lenient in the country, allowed Loughner to conceal and carry his firearm without a permit, explains Washington Post reporter James Grimaldi. Grimaldi, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, wrote a piece on Sunday about Arizona’s gun laws.

“Essentially, there is very little obstacle to purchasing a weapon in the state of Arizona,” Grimaldi tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “There are laws that require you, federally, to be at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun. But basically state law permits anyone 21 and older to own a firearm and also, to carry it concealed in the state. That’s different than many other states, many of which have stricter gun laws.”

In January 2010, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill which repealed an Arizona state law that required gun owners to have permits to carry concealed weapons. Arizona’s previous governor Janet Napolitano, now the Homeland Security secretary, had vetoed previous attempts from the gun lobby to scrap the permit requirement.

Arizona also allows gun owners to carry their weapons almost everywhere in the state, including government buildings and inside the state Capitol. Exceptions exist for private businesses and doctor’s offices.

“There’s a proposal [in Arizona] that would allow teachers and students to carry [weapons] into classrooms and that was meant to be a hedge against what happened at Virginia Tech,” says Grimaldi. “It’s permitted in a bar [to carry a weapon] in Arizona if the person who has the weapon is not imbibing in alcohol. It’s also permitted on school grounds currently if the person is picking up or dropping off a child as long as the weapon is unloaded and the gun owner remains in the vehicle.”

Grimaldi reports that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave Arizona “among the poorest ratings of any state.” Out of a possible score of 100 points, for rules or laws designed to limit access to guns, Arizona received just 2 points.

In addition to his piece on Arizona’s gun laws, Grimaldi is also working on a story for Tuesday’s Washington Post about the restrictions placed on -- or not placed on -- mentally ill people trying to purchase weapons.

“There’s a question of whether the national instant [background] check system was thorough enough to include [Loughner],” Grimaldi says. “Was there something that should have been in there? Should he have been in there because he had been diagnosed with a mental illness? Was there some other thing that could have been in the system? The question is probably out there today: Should there be more restrictions in this [background] database? But I think you’ll also see ... a little bit of pushback from the Second Amendment folks who believe that some people may end up in that database who shouldn’t be in that database.”

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