Amber Underdown, 21, loves her Second Amendment rights.
“I come from a family that loves going out and shooting guns, so I feel very close to them when I go out shooting,” Underdown said. “Plus, it’s a lot of fun. It’s quite the adrenaline rush.”
Underdown, a Cave Creek native, comes from a long line of gun aficionados. She grew up with guns and said most of her family members enjoy them as well.
The Underdown’s aren’t alone — Arizona has a love affair with guns.
Forty-five gun shows are scheduled in Arizona this year. There is no firearm registry. There is no state permit required to carry openly or conceal a shotgun or rifle unless the carrier is younger than 21 years of age. There are a few places that prohibit guns, including public schools, polling stations on election days and nuclear generating stations.
The Center for American Progress ranks Arizona as No. 4 in the nation for highest levels of gun violence in 2014. The CAP reported 14.6 gun deaths for every 100,000 people in Arizona during 2010. That was 40 percent higher than the 10.3 national average.
A study done by the Behavioral Research Center’s Rocky Mountain Poll states that Arizona’s support for stricter firearm laws has decreased from 42 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2015.
Charles Heller, the media coordinator for the Arizona Citizens Defense League, supports the state’s gun laws.
“They are a tool,” Heller said. “If you have a problem, you don’t try and limit your tools. Guns are valid and valuable tools. You don’t reduce your tool cabinet when you need to do a project.”
While gun violence holds a high rate in the state, many Arizonans stand by their Second Amendment rights.
“I live alone, so it helps me sleep at night knowing I can protect myself, because you just can’t count on the police showing up in time,” Underdown said.
Lawmakers in Phoenix think along the same lines. They consistently pass some of the most pro-gun laws in the country.
“We have the best gun laws in the nation,” said Alan Korwin, owner and operator of the Bloomfield Press in Scottsdale and gunlaws.com. “People who want their freedoms cling to them very tightly and check encroachments on their freedoms. Efforts to deny us rights that we already have are not well-received. We are the linchpin of freedom. Firearms are part of that reason.”
Arizona consistently ranks as the best state for gun owners due to its non-restrictive laws, a competitive shooting culture and Gunsite, which is the country’s oldest and most well-known private shooting school. The Bloomfield Press, the largest publisher and distributor of books on gun laws, ranked Arizona as the No. 1 state for favorable gun laws in 2010.
This year, a number of pro-gun bills have been proposed, including House Bill 2320, which would exempt Arizonans who carry a concealed weapons permit from being disarmed in state and local government-owned properties, unless everyone is required for a weapons screening, as a method of self defense.
Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, is not against firearm ownership, but feels as though Arizona should be more restrictive on gun laws. “I think this is much bigger than guns,” Everitt said. “Our concern, like the Tucson shooting, is that someone with every red flag in the world owning a gun, or someone that failed a background check being able to go to a private gun owner and purchase a gun.”