Saying guns are special, the state House voted Thursday to make taking one from someone a crime.
Never mind it already is.
Approved on a 41-15 margin, HB 2338 spells out that someone commits the crime of aggravated assault by taking a firearm that someone else legally possesses. That's a Class 4 felony and carries a presumptive prison term of 2 1/2 years.
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell questioned the need for special legislation.
Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, the sponsor, said there was no specific event behind the move.
“This is somewhat of a preventative situation,” she said.
“When you think about home invasions, when you're trying to protect your home, and in the event the perpetrator attempts to take away your weapon, it gives the police something else to use when they go through the judicial proceedings,” Barton explained. Anyway, she said, the goal is to keep a burglar from using the weapon against the owner.
Campbell said that explanation holds no water.
He pointed out it's already a crime to steal someone's gun. That's a Class 6 felony with a one-year presumptive prison term, and burglary of a home is a Class 3 felony carrying a 3 1/2 year presumptive prison term.
Campbell said if criminals are not deterred by that penalty he doubts that stacking another charge on top would make a difference. He also questioned why a special penalty for a gun, versus a knife, a baseball bat or even a bow and arrow.
“A firearm is a deadly weapon,” Barton responded. “Removing somebody's firearm from them is a serious action.”
“Wouldn't it be a serious action if I stole somebody's knife from them, or a baseball bat?” Campbell asked.
“People don't carry baseball bats for self defense,” Barton said.
But Campell remained unconvinced, saying there are probably lots of Arizonans who have a baseball bat by the bed for self defense.
“For some reason, we are obsessed with firearms,” Campbell said, quipping that if the Legislature continues its trend of special legislation to protect guns and gun ownership the next step might be to require everyone to have a firearm.
The measure now heads to the Senate.