News & Politics

AZ Bill Would Allow Residents to Shoot Nuisance Wildlife

On Tuesday, Arizona Republicans approved a bill that would allow residents to shoot a rat or snake with a small-caliber weapon “loaded with tiny pellets.”

Opponents said the bill would encourage firearm use and put people in populated areas at risk. They claimed that police would be unduly burdened with calls about gunfire while others objected to killing wildlife and the dangers of stray gunfire.

Rep Jay Lawrence said his bill is about the Second Amendment and not about shooting snakes and rats.

“This is not a kill-animals bill, it has nothing to do with killing snakes, it has nothing to do with killing rats, cats or dogs,” Lawrence said. “This is a firearms bill, strictly and totally.”

Why shouldn’t a resident be able to kill a dangerous snake or an annoying rat? Arizona is in the desert and there are plenty of snakes, some dangerous, slithering around.

Gun-rights advocates support House Bill 2022, which changes a landmark 2000 law against celebratory gunfire enacted after a stray bullet struck and killed a Phoenix teen. The law made it a felony to fire a gun within city limits.

It has an exemption allowing people to shoot nuisance wildlife but opponents have argued that the new measure will encourage more gunfire in cities and towns.

“Opponents” always claim things like this, as if once people get “permission” from the state they will turn into gun-wielding maniacs.

“I’m concerned about relaxing the restrictions on use of firearms within city limits,” said Democratic Rep. Kirsten Engel of Tucson. “Generally, I think those two do not mix too well and we could see an increase of injuries to people as a result of this bill.”

And there is concern that trying to kill a venomous snake with a small-caliber firearm will lead to more snake bites.

“I’m concerned because snakes are a beneficial part of our ecosystem,” she said. “They actually get rid of rats.”

Republicans counter those concerns by pointing out that BB guns pose a bigger threat than the vermin-killing pellets.

“Believe me, we aren’t the Soviet Union yet, so we do have a legitimate use for firearms,” said Rep. Eddie Farnsworth. “By having this shot included in what we can use within a quarter-mile (of an occupied building), we actually are making people safer.”