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1/20 Phoenix, AZ: New AZ Law Bar on Minutemen Proposed
Released 21 January 2007  By Howard Fischer

Bar on armed civilian patrols offered
By Howard Fischer

Jan 20, 2007

PHOENIX -- A proposed new law would make felons out of members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps -- and probably some neighborhood watch groups.
HB 2286 would make it a crime for any individual or group not affiliated with law enforcement to patrol "to detect alleged illegal activity" if armed. Violators would be subject to up to 18 months in state prison.

The proposal by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, does not name names. But she said it is specifically aimed at the Minuteman organization "and other vigilante groups" that patrol the border looking for those entering the country illegally.

The purpose of the measure was not lost on Chris Simcox, state director of the Minuteman group. He said the measure is not only unjust but also unconstitutional, violating the right to assemble peaceably and the right to bear arms.

But Sinema said the government already infringes on these rights -- and apparently in a legal way. She noted, for example, that state law spells out there are certain places where someone cannot carry a gun.

Whether it ever gets before a court is doubtful: All of the sponsors, like Sinema, are Democrats in a Legislature controlled by Republicans.

In essence, Sinema's proposal would be taking two activities that are legal civilian patrols and carrying a gun and defining them as domestic terrorism if done together.

"Her bill would render all neighborhood-watch groups illegal, as well as the Guardian Angels," Simcox said. "And anyone who is not sponsored or sanctioned by a law enforcement agency would be deemed to be illegal."

Sinema, however, said there is a difference.

"Block watches are neighborhood groups that coordinate on a regular basis with law enforcement officials in their state," she said. "But we don't have block-watch people who strap on their weapons, put a flag in their hat, and then go and sit on the street who is going to shoot the person who is going to jaywalk."

She conceded, though, that nothing in her measure requires some proof that a person intended to harm anyone else before conviction as a domestic terrorist: merely patrolling with a weapon would be enough. But Sinema, who is an attorney, said that omission was on purpose.

"If you include a definition of 'intent' in the statute and if anything ever were to go to court, then obviously you'd have to be able to prove intent," she said, something that can prove difficult.

Simcox said his organization is interested only in reporting illegal activity -- in this case, crossing into the U.S. at places other than official entry points.

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