I attended the Arizona Citizens Defense League annual meeting in Phoenix on Saturday, 8 October, 2016. It was a 170 mile drive, one way, from Yuma. You can gauge the popularity of he event by the the crush crowd outside the meeting hall registering to get in. The majority of the membership, about 80%, were openly carrying.
AZCDL is one of the most successful state-level groups organized to restore the right to keep and bear arms. The group was founded by Fred Dahnke and a small group of activists in 2005. Fred was an early “Executive Member” of the Virginia Citizen Defense League, joining it early in 1994 back when it was the Northern Virginia Citizens Defense League.
Much of the success of AZCDL stems from the VCDL model, with some added tweaks learned by Fred and other members from previous organizations. In 2007, AzCDL had 300 members. In 2016, membership is now 14,000. And to dispel a myth, AzCDL is not a gun club. It concentrates on legislation and restoring the right to keep and bear arms.
There was only room for 500 at the annual meeting, which is why it sold out so quickly. One of those attending was Representative Bob Thorpe, LD 6, Flagstaff. He said this about AzCDL:
“I love the NRA. They are great folks, but they do not hold a candle to the AzCDL.”
AzCDL uses the incremental model, pushing for improvements to existing law while keeping the final goal of complete restoration of the right to keep and bear arms in mind. Here are some of the group’s accomplishments ranging from incremental to fundamental:
- Lengthening the permit period from 4 years to 5 years.
- Reduction of the initial 16 hour training requirement to 8 hours.
- Elimination of the fingerprint and training requirements for CCW permit renewals.
- Expansion of training experiences that qualify for a CCW permit.
- Expanding permit eligibility to 19 and 20 year olds with military service.
- Universal recognition, by Arizona, of concealed weapon/handgun permits held by residents of other states.
- Preventing law enforcement from confiscating a firearm from someone with a suspended permit if it is otherwise lawfully possessed.
- Reduction of the penalty for not having your CCW permit in your possession, when required, from a Class 2 Misdemeanor to a Petty Offense.
- Constitutional Carry – Restoration of the right of law-abiding adults to carry openly or discreetly without first seeking written permission from the government via a “permit .”
- Prohibiting state and local government officials from confiscating lawfully held firearms during a state of emergency.
- Strengthened state preemption of firearm and knife laws.
- Strengthened protection of the lawful use of firearms, air gun and archery equipment on private lands.
- Requiring state and local government buildings or events that prohibit weapons to provide temporary and secure storage that is readily accessible on entry and permits immediate retrieval upon exit.
- Prohibiting the courts from ordering the forfeiture of a firearm when a person is convicted of carrying in a state or local building where weapons are banned.
- Prohibiting political subdivisions (counties, cities, towns, etc.) from requiring or maintaining de facto registration records of firearms, or their owners, related to the temporary storage process
- Prohibiting state and local governments from maintaining identifying information of a person who owns, possesses, purchases, sells or transfers a firearm, except in the course of a law enforcement investigation.
- Preventing private or public employers, property owners, and others from banning firearms in a locked vehicle.
- Prohibiting firearms seized, abandoned or surrendered from being scrapped. They must be sold to authorized dealers.
- Repealing the prohibition on carrying a firearm in a game refuge.
- Allow possession of otherwise “prohibited” weapon (i.e., for self-defense) while hunting.
- Expanding the places where a weapon can be carried without a CCW permit in a vehicle to include a “map pocket.” (superseded by Constitutional Carry law).
All of these were accomplished in the state legislature by the hard work and dedication of AzCDL lobbyists, who maintain a daily presence while the legislature is in session. They plan and build support for legislation long before the legislature meets.
It doesn’t take 14,000 members to enact improvements aimed at restoring the right to keep and bear arms. Success builds membership, and membership builds success. There are several states that are lacking an AzCDL or VCDL type organization, and would benefit greatly from one.
The case for fully restoring the right to keep and bear arms is so strong, logical, and popular, that incremental advances can be won in most states. What’s required is a consistent presence at the capitol, focusing on long term goals, all backed up by an active and activist membership. There are numerous groups to use as examples, if the core leadership of a group can be found and organized, and those groups are always willing to share their experience with what works.
Arizona didn’t start with constitutional carry. As a proud member of AzCDL, I can tell you it took a lot of hard work and activism to get there.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.