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Rosalea Barker: Arizona


by Rosalea Barker

The 48th state has always been a pain in the United States’ left butt, geographically speaking. After the defeat of the Mexican army in 1847, the US could have taken over all of Mexico but chose not to and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo instead established a border that was based on an inaccurate map. Senate debate on the treaty was notable for the reluctance of the US to add a quotidian of poor, ignorant peasants—mostly Catholic—to its population.

Some years later, with the debate over slave vs. free states becoming embroiled with the ambitions of those Southerners who wanted to see a transcontinental railroad from San Antonio to San Diego, President Franklin Pierce authorized his US minister to Mexico to make an offer to the cash-strapped Mexican government for some additional land that included flat land suitable for the railroad. The Gadsden Purchase was completed via the Treaty of La Mesilla in 1853, and the treaty was ratified in the US Senate on June 1854. As this 2004 article in the Tucson Star notes, Mexicans view it not as a “purchase” but a belligerent act.

At the time, present-day Arizona was part of the New Mexico territory of the United States. The first Arizona Territory included parts of New Mexico, and was created by citizens who supported the Confederate cause, not the Union. The Wikipedia entry puts it this way:

At the outbreak of the Civil War, sentiment in the area south of the 34th parallel was in favor of the Confederacy. Territorial secession conventions were called at La Mesilla and Tucson on March 16, 1861, that adopted an Ordinance of Secession that declared itself independent of the United States and established the provisional Confederate Territory of Arizona with Owings as its governor, and petitioned the Confederate Congress for admission. The Confederate Territory of Arizona became officially recognized when President Jefferson Davis signed the proclamation on February 14, 1862. To commemorate this event, February 14, 1912, the fiftieth anniversary, was selected as the official date of statehood for Arizona.

In the light of current dissatisfaction with the United States federal government, it is interesting to compare a map of the states and territories claimed by the Confederacy with the list of states that have a reciprocal agreement to honor Arizona’s (optional) concealed weapons permits. With the exception of Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and western states formed from territories after the Civil War, all the reciprocating states seceded from the Union. (I’m just saying!)

The Arizona Citizens Defense League claims it “was instrumental in the introduction and/or passage of the legislation” that is known as the Constitutional Carry law, which the ACDL says eliminated “the prohibition and penalties for law-abiding adults who carry a weapon discreetly without first seeking written permission from the government via a ‘permit .’” (Putting the word “permit” in quotation marks is anti-government code alerting sympathizers to a “tax” disguised as a fee.)

“The State of Arizona has long been the home to defenders of personal liberty and the freedoms enshrined and protected by the Constitution of the United States and our State Constitution,” said AZ Governor Jan Brewer in the April 2010 press release upon her signing of the legislation into law. Arizona has allowed “open carry” of guns since it first became a state; this legislation was to do with carrying loaded concealed weapons. Brewer succeeded to the office of Governor in January, 2009 after Democrat Janet Napolitano resigned to take a post with the Obama Administration. Prior to that, Brewer was Secretary of State, and criticized by some for being absent from the state when it held its primary elections that year. She was instead heading the AZ delegation to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Jan Brewer after casting Arizona’s vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.

Given her credentials within the Republican Party, and her attractiveness to the anti-tax, anti-immigrant, anti-gay marriage, pro-gun lobbies both within and outside the GOP, it’s within the realm of possibility that Brewer might make a bid for the presidential nomination herself next time around. A December 2008 article on the Arizona Republic website points out that “Nearly every race that Jan Brewer has run - from her first primary for the state House of Representatives in 1982 to the tough, often down-and-dirty contest for secretary of state in 2002 - has been contested, often fiercely. Often, she faced more experienced opponents, including incumbents.”

The article—unfortunately, in the light of the recent supermarket parking lot shooting in Tucson—goes on to say that “As a political neophyte in 1981, Brewer acknowledges being ‘dumbfounded’ upon learning that politics required approaching total strangers in supermarket parking lots asking for their signatures on her nominating petitions (‘And son of a gun! They'd sign it!’).”

But Arizona, like much of America, has always had a fascination with a gun-toting (or -touting) momma, especially one who sticks it to the government in some way or other. Back in 1899, when the saloon singer Pearl Hart was on trial in Tucson for robbing a stage coach at gunpoint, the local newspaper editorialized in favor of her stance that she “would never consent to be tried under a law she or her sex had no voice in making.” The jury took all of ten minutes to acquit her of the robbery charge.


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