What Is a Defensive Display of a Firearm in Arizona?

defensive display of a firearm - person showing gun in pocket

What Is a Defensive Display of a Firearm in Arizona?

Under Arizona law, it is not illegal for a person to display their firearm when justifiably defending themselves against physical harm, or protecting themselves against attempted unlawful or deadly physical force.

A woman from Phoenix stops for gas very late one evening on the way home from work. As she’s pumping her gas, another car pulls into the pump behind her. Two men get out of the vehicle. One walks toward the gas pump, while the other stands in front of the car, staring at the woman. 

When she finishes pumping her gas and starts to walk back towards her car, one of the men pulls a knife, yells at her to stop, and demands her wallet. The woman looks at both men and tells them she is carrying a loaded gun. She then moves her jacket aside so they can see the gun holstered on her side. 

As this situation unfolds, a Phoenix police officer happens to drive by the gas station. He pulls into the station when the man is showing his knife and the woman is showing her gun. He orders both people to drop their weapons and calls for backup. After the police interview both parties, they arrest the two men and release the woman under ARS 13-421 for the defensive display of a firearm. 

What Is ARS 13-421? 

In our scenario above, the young woman feared for her safety from the young man with the knife. She verbally told them she was carrying a loaded gun and physically showed it to them, both of which are acts of defensive display of a firearm in Arizona under ARS 13-421.

A defensive display of a firearm in Arizona happens when a person:

  • Tells another person they have a firearm on them or in their immediate vicinity
  • Places a hand on their firearm while it’s in a holster or another containment area, such as a pocket or purse
  • Displays their firearm in a way that makes the other person understand they are trying to protect themself

When is defensive display not justified? 

Arizona ARS 13-421 also explains when a person cannot use a defensive display of a firearm cannot as a defense. Defensive display is not justified if: 

  • One person deliberately provokes another person to use unlawful physical force 
  • Uses a gun during a serious offense (as defined under ARS 13-705) or a violent crime (as defined under ARS 13-901.03)

In our scenario above, if the woman carrying the gun had provoked the men to deliberately get into a fight with her, she would not have been able to use the defensive display of a firearm as a defense. 

Or, if the woman carrying the gun had been in the middle of a serious offense, such as robbing the gas station, and displayed her gun when the two men tried to stop her, she could not use ARS 13-421 as a defense. 

Arizona Gun Rights Lawyer in Phoenix

Although Arizona is an open-carry state and has laws in place that allow people to defend themselves, gun owners still need to abide by certain rules. If you ever find yourself facing potential criminal charges, you need an Arizona gun law expert like Todd Coolidge to ensure that your rights are upheld. Call or send us a message today to schedule a consultation at our Phoenix or Chandler offices.

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