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Bar on armed
civilian patrols offered
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
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
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
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
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.