By PAUL DAVENPORT/Associated Press
PHOENIX - Law enforcement officials on Thursday said public safety would be put at risk by proposed legislation that would allow Arizonans to carry concealed weapons without state permits and allow those with permits to take concealed weapons to schools when picking up and dropping off students.
State Sen. Sylvia Allen, the bill's sponsor, said public safety would be enhanced, not diminished, if her bill becomes law, particularly in the state's urban areas.
One of several gun-rights measures advancing in the Legislature, the bill would replace the current misdemeanor for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, with one prohibiting use of a concealed weapon for violent or other serious crimes.
The bill (SB170) proposed by Allen of Snowflake and 21 other Republican lawmakers is scheduled to be considered today during a special meeting by the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of a crush of bills now being considered in the wake of legislative approval of a new state budget.
State Attorney General Terry Goddard and a dozen county and municipal law enforcement officials said the lack of now-required permit training could heighten tension in everyday situations. The training includes advising that permit-holders announce possession of a concealed weapon during police encounters, officials said.
If the bill becomes law, officers ‘‘have to treat every single person that they come in contact with as armed and dangerous,'' said Jack Harris, Phoenix public safety manager.
Allen scoffed at that argument, saying that criminals will continue to carry concealed weapons, with or without a permit. She said she is sponsoring the bill because residents have a right to defend themselves and shouldn't have to put up with burdensome permit requirements.
‘‘This is to protect our citizens,'' she said.
Allen said she would never suggest that people not get the now-required training on firearms law and testing for familiarity and accuracy of an applicant's weapons use, but that it shouldn't be a state requirement.
The state constitution provides a right dating from statehood in 1912 to bear arms for defense, and it's legal in Arizona to carry a gun openly, as in a hip holster.
A state law from 1994 allowed residents 21 and older to carry a gun concealed if they get a state permit, which Goddard called ‘‘a special privilege.''