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Tue, Feb. 25

Sponsor of bill to weaken ‘Shannon’s Law’ agreed to halt efforts on firing gun in city limits

PHOENIX — The sponsor of legislation to weaken “Shannon’s Law’’ agreed Tuesday to stop trying to allow people to fire off guns in the city within a quarter-mile of any residence.

Rep. Tony Rivero, R-Peoria, said there was too much pushback to his proposal from police and prosecutors who complained of the danger to public safety.

That opposition apparently left him without sufficient votes to get the measure approved Tuesday by the House as scheduled.

Rivero promised to restore the current standard which makes it a felony crime to fire a weapon within a mile of any occupied structure.

In exchange, prosecutors have agreed to drop their opposition to the other key provision of HB 2287 legalizing the criminally negligent discharge of a weapon within a city. Instead, the new law would require proof that someone knowingly or intentionally fired off a round before someone could face prison time.

But Deputy Pima County Attorney Kathleen Mayer said she does not think that change will significantly tie the hands of prosecutors.

The current law was enacted in 2000 in the wake of the death of 14-year-old Shannon Smith, a Phoenix teen who died when she was hit a bullet fired into the air. No one was ever arrested.

That law not only bars firing off a gun within a mile of any occupied structure within city limits but also makes it illegal to act with criminal negligence.

That is defined as acting in a way “that the failure to perceive (the risk) constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.’’

Rivero insisted that language allows people to be prosecuted for “accidental’’ discharge of firearms. But both Mayer and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery dismissed that contention, saying they have never brought charges against anyone for an accident.

Mayer acknowledged that removing “criminal negligence’’ from the law does increase the standard of what police have to allege and prosecutors have to prove when bringing charges when someone fires off a weapon.

But she told Capitol Media Services she’s not concerned, pointing out it still permits people to be charged with reckless conduct.

She said police departments believe it is more important for Rivero to abandon his proposal that it would be OK to fire off guns within a quarter mile of homes, schools and other buildings.

“We believe that the public will be adequately protected with the criminal reckless standard as long as we have the whole mile,’’ she said.

Rivero said he is crafting the agreed-to changes, though there was no immediate indication when he will bring the new version of HB 2287 to the floor.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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