Shannon's law (Arizona)

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Shannon's law refers to specific changes in Arizona statutes, enacted in 2000, making it a felony offense to discharge firearms randomly into the air.[1]

History[edit]

Shannon's law is named after Shannon Smith, a fourteen-year-old Phoenix girl killed by a stray bullet in June 1999. Smith's parents, after being informed that the assailant's activity constituted, at most, a misdemeanor offense, advocated stronger penalties, to prevent future tragedies of this kind.

Their campaign took them all over Arizona, and their efforts were supported by city councils of medium-sized Arizona cities such as Tucson. Then-Governor Jane Hull also joined them in their cause. After the Arizona legislature failed to pass the law twice in 1999, it finally received both state senate and state house approval in April, 2000, and was enacted in that July. The NRA supported the law and worked in cooperation to form the 'Shannon's Law'[2][3]

Current[edit]

Violation of Shannon's law is defined as a felony offense in Arizona. However, as with most felony offenses in U.S. jurisdictions, a person charged with this offense can strike a plea bargain with prosecutors, and may be eligible for only a misdemeanor conviction. The decision of whether such an offer is available lies solely in the hands of the prosecutor, and presently these offenses are being charged as "dangerous" offenses, thereby making the accused ineligible for probation under state law, requiring a prison sentence even for a first offense.

On December 31, 2003, police in the city of Glendale began using equipment which alerted them to the location from which a shot was fired. As random discharge of firearms are common in some areas of the U.S. on New Year's Eve, Fourth of July, and other holidays, four arrests of Shannon's law violators were made that night, and it is expected that more Arizona police departments will receive similar equipment.

Shannon Smith[edit]

Shannon Smith had been an award-winning athlete and honor student, and had graduated from the eighth grade a few weeks prior to her death. While she stood in her backyard talking on the telephone with a friend, a stray bullet hit her in her head, causing instant death. Smith's death sparked a furor among Arizona residents. Her funeral was attended by approximately 1,300 mourners. A monument, made with melted metal from confiscated firearms, was raised in her honor at her middle school by her classmates and friends. Tens of thousands of dollars in donations for the monument were primarily raised by Shannon's friends and classmates holding car washes.

After being informed by the police that random discharge of firearms was a simple misdemeanor, Smith's parents resolved to change the laws and ran a statewide campaign advocating harsher punishment for random shooters. Their campaign gained support from such people as then-Governor Jane Dee Hull. In April 2000, "Shannon's law" was passed.

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