Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Chandler toy-gun airsoft law needs to be repealed

Arecent interview portrayed Airsoft guns as dangerous and destructive. The destructive force of the projectile of these so-called weapons can and does leave a welt but rarely. It is very unlikely to break window glass or scratch car paint. Are these guns too much for use in a public park around smaller children? Perhaps. A criminal act? No.Yet Chandler feels it necessary to have on its books the recently publicized ordinance 11-6, a law that makes it a crime merely to possess such an instrument. I say instrument because the law states that the possession of any instrument capable of firing a projectile qualifies. You do not actually have to fire it, harm anyone, harass anyone or damage anything. If your 7-year-old goes into a store and buys a Nerf gun, unwraps it, and emerges into a public place, then 11-6 has been violated.If this isn't enough, Chandler makes this a Class 1 Misdemeanor, a criminal offense. It is punishable up to six months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. According to the federal courts, and the state, a misdemeanor does not entitle you to a trial by jury. You will be tried by a judge who is paid by Chandler.
Chandler police showed up on my door because a friend of my son was shooting a soft-air gun from my son's car. Nobody was hurt, nobody was threatened. The witnesses to this crime were concerned there might be property damage, but there is none. Now both my son and his friend are being prosecuted for a crime, and in practice, a cranky judge could require that both of them spend time in jail.Rest assured, I am not happy with my son's actions, and he got in trouble for it, and the gun (read that toy) was taken. But the actions of the police and our government are way out of line considering the offense.My elected officials tell me that no police officer would ever cite someone violating this law unless some harm was done. They tell me that he might have been shot. Yes, that is indeed a real risk, and if I throw a banana peel out on the sidewalk, someone may slip and they may break their neck, but that doesn't make it a criminal act. We cannot punish based on the extreme bad luck scenario. A crime is all about intent.I recommend several remedies, all of them needed, since our government has apparently lost its good sense and perspective. I call upon the Chandler City Council to repeal this ordinance immediately. If another is needed in its place, then I recommend civil fines only, and that it require that someone actually does harm in some way, not merely possess a projectile-shooting toy. Prohibition from places of common public enjoyment, such as a park, makes sense, provided it is in plain view (not in a vehicle).I call upon the Arizona Legislature to remove from cities the right to pass local criminal statutes, and limit severely the amount of a civil fine, say not to exceed $2,500.A crime should be known intuitively. It should involve intent to harm or profit at the unwilling expense of another. Not the mere possession of something like a toy. If it's serious enough to be jailed for, it's serious enough for one standard statewide. Lastly, I call upon the federal government and the state Legislature to restore our constitutional right to jury trial by peers. The incarceration of someone even for one day is too harsh a punishment to not have a right to a jury, and there are no limits on how high a fine can be. The state can take your life assets away from you without so much as a nod by your peers. Folks, do you have any idea just how far your government has gone in the name of expediency and convenience? Apparently, the only toys that are dangerous is the law, which is being treated like a toy by our government.

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