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Arizona Senate rejects law to allow ‘snake shot’ ammo in cities

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PHOENIX (AP) — It will remain illegal in Arizona for city residents to fire small-caliber guns loaded with tiny pellets to shoot rats or snakes after the state Senate rejected legislation easing a ban on shooting inside city limits.

Monday’s 15-15 vote means Republican Rep. Jay Lawrence’s bill is done for the year unless one of two Republicans who joined all 13 Senate Democrats in opposition is persuaded to change their position.

That appears unlikely, after GOP Sen. Kate Brophy McGee read a letter on the Senate floor from a retired California law enforcement officer who urged her to oppose the measure. Asked why he voted against the bill, Republican Sen. Bob Worsley said he thought it was “silly.”

“We do get snakes in our yard, we just let them move on their way,” Worsley said. “It’s just a silly law.”

Lawrence said in an interview after his bill failed that he will try to get Worsley to change his mind. Under the Legislature’s rules, a bill can be brought up once for “reconsideration” after it has failed to pass a formal vote.

“If you happen to be a gun owner and you want a different type of ammunition in your quiver, as it were, there’s nothing silly about it,” Lawrence said. “It is a form of ammunition, and any individual who believes in the Second Amendment and the right to have a firearm and the right to have any ammunition you choose, is not silly.”

The proposal would have amended a landmark 2000 law aimed at celebratory gunfire enacted following the 1999 death 14-year-old Shannon Smith, who was hit by a stray bullet while in her backyard. The law makes it a felony to fire a gun within city limits or within one mile of an occupied structure, with exceptions for self-defense or for dispatching a nuisance animal with a permit.

The bill passed the House on a party-line vote in February.

Proponents say people need to be able to legally kill snakes or rats using the special “snake shot” ammunition. Opponents worry about unrestricted shooting causing public safety concerns and the unnecessary killing of wildlife.

More importantly, the bill contained no restrictions on the number of shots someone could fire or required that the small rounds only be used to kill a nuisance animal.

Republican Senate President Steve Yarbrough, who voted for the bill, said he understood the reasoning behind it.

“If you had, for example, those terrible roof rats you could actually shoot those critters out of your citrus trees where they love to congregate,” Yarbrough said.

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