Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Proposed Arizona Law Would Let Residents Shoot Snakes in the Grass

An Arizona bill that would make it legal to shoot snakes, rats, and other pests again within city limits passed the state house and is headed to the state senate for approval. The bill, which still has not become law, would provide a limited, permissible reason to fire off a gun within city limits, which is currently prohibited except in very limited circumstances.

The current prohibition is the result of a surprising tragedy that happened nearly two decades ago. In 2000, a Phoenix teen was killed by a stray bullet that had been fired off up into the air in celebration. Soon after the incident, a law was passed that made it a felony to fire a weapon within a city's limits in the state of Arizona. An unanticipated result of the ban was that property owners were no longer as free to use their firearms to shoot rats, snakes, and other vermin.

Shooting Snakes in the Grass, Literally

The bill, as proposed, will only allow Arizona gun owners to fire certain types of low caliber ammunition within the city limits, and generally only for the purpose of killing or scaring away rats, snakes, or other pests from their yards, or property, within a quarter mile of an occupied building. Basically, it legalizes shooting snakes in the grass on your property.

The 2000 law requires that in order to fire a gun within the city limits, a person needed to be at least 1 mile from an occupied building. This bill seeks to carve out a wider exception than that which already exists, while another separate proposal seeks to formally do the same with the 2000 law. If the bill passes the senate and is approved by the governor, Arizona's city dwellers will be allowed to shoot pests on their property using rat-shot, or other small caliber rounds.

Opponents believe that the law will lead to an increase in accidental shootings and gun violence as city residents will likely engage in shooting vermin more frequently. Proponents believe the law provides much needed relaxation of the current laws which are seen as too strict.

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