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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.
Gun Watch

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  1. I couldn’t attend this year’s meeting because tickets sold out too quickly for me to take advantage of it. I did attend last year’s event in Tucson. Great call out for the organization, proud to be a member.

    I’ve done some Gun show volunteer work with the organization as well.

    • You could draw a picture of a Pokeman or a jackalope and label it “Allah” – there is not, so far as I know, any statement in Islam as to what Allah looks like and it would appear that all of the revelations to Mohamed in the Koran were delivered by an angel. (Once again, so far as I know.)

      What gets their dander up is when you attempt to draw a picture of Mohamed, even though there are historical, Muslim, artworks showing the prophet. In reality, no one actually has any idea what Mohamed looked like as there does not appear to be any depiction of him rendered during his lifetime, so any picture or drawing of an Arabic-looking man could be labeled “Mohamed”.

      The thing I have trouble with is that somewhere around 50% of Muslim men seem to be named Mohamed. Can you draw pictures of them and not have it misconstrued as an attempt to draw a picture of the prophet?

  2. dang I wish this model could set up in California. It would be nice to have something better then “Mother My I” for gun rights.

      • Look again, they are a safe Democratic state, backpedaling on gun rights.

        Possibly has something to do with free stuff, no responsibility. Maybe even illegals voting.

  3. The tenor of this posting suggests that there are lessons to be learned from AzCDL, VCDL, and the other State organizations. But, what exactly are these lessons?
    What worked in AZ or VA won’t necessarily work elsewhere. The extent of PotG who vote in each State is probably a critical element. Perhaps we need a different strategy for States with different ratios of PotG/non-gun-people. Constitutional-Carry is probably a bridge-too-far in States where PotG are not already dominant. Perhaps the low-hanging-fruit is to be found in reducing the penalties for being discovered in a gun-free-zone or prohibiting landlords from imposing a gun-free zone policy on their tenant shop-keepers.
    What puzzles me is why States with relatively good gun laws elect Federal senators who undermine gun rights. E.g., PA has Casey and Toomey while also having one of the highest carry-permit rates. Should we be looking at a strategy of re-directing our efforts in strong pro-gun States to electing pro-gun senators?

    • Create a core group that has long term goals but is open to incremental change.

      Build membership through the types of strategies shown to be effective by AzCDL and VCDL.

      Have a presence at the legislature when they are in session.

      Use email as the primary communication tool. If you must use Facebook, make its use secondary. Email makes for direct, easy communications with legislators.

      Concentrate on incremental change that you can build on.

      Wisconsin is an example with lots of activists that need organization, has no permanent lobbyist at the legislature (that I know of), and seems a little hostile to incremental change. I believe Wisconsin carry depends primarily on facebook.

      Just stopping bad legislation is the sort of success that can be used to build membership.

    • McCain has been in office for 32 years, long before the Internet or talk radio. He is a darling of the “progressive” media in AZ, and has been impossible to dislodge because of his war hero status. He has lots of money from the elite establishment to fight with.

      Flake ran as a libertarian leaning small government Republican, but was immediately co-opted by McCain, though it seems to be a willing seduction.

  4. Wonder what citizens could do if government for and by the people adopt 2A, not only as a natural right but law of the land, not subject to interpretation. The net effect would be individual safety, continuation of liberty, a whole lot less paperwork, and a reduction in government interfering with our lives.

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