Bills Narrowing Scope Of Shannon's Law Move Through Legislature

Published: Monday, March 6, 2017 - 3:27pm
Updated: Monday, March 6, 2017 - 3:37pm

In 2000, Arizona lawmakers passed Shannon’s Law in the wake of the death of 14-year-old Shannon Smith who died after she was hit by a bullet that had been fired into the air, seemingly at random.

The law makes it a felony to fire a gun within a mile of an occupied structure within city limits and makes it illegal to act with criminal negligence.

But now two bills that would narrow the scope of that landmark law are moving through the state Legislature. Both of the bills were approved by a Senate committee last week.

HB 2022 is the so-called “varmint bill,” and it would allow people to use a particular small-caliber shot to kill snakes and small mammals at close range.

And then there’s HB 2287, which would raise the legal standard to prosecute someone for shooting inside city limits. The idea here is that the current law could allow someone to be prosecuted for the “accidental” discharge of a firearm.

So, to find out more, I spoke with people on both sides of this issue. First, I talked to Gerry Hills, who is the founder of Arizonans for Gun Safety. She helped craft this legislation with Shannon’s parents and has worked to protect this law for 17 years. So, she says, this is personal to her.

And on the other side of the issue, I also got a hold of Charles Heller. He’s one of the founders of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, which has been pushing these two bills. And I asked him, first of all, to explain the difference between these small-caliber shots meant for rats or snakes, and a regular bullet.

HB 2022 and HB 2287 both passed the Senate Government Committee last week. Next, they go to the Rules Committee. And we’ll be sure to keep an eye on what happens next with these bills.

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