Controversial Bill Eased Shooting of Migrants, Feared Encouragement of Vigilantism

Controversial Bill Eased Shooting of Migrants, Feared Encouragement of Vigilantism

A GOP law that would have allowed Arizona ranchers to murder migrants who crossed their property at any time was vetoed by Governor Katie Hobbs on Monday.

The changes Rep. Justin Heap, R-Mesa, wanted to make to Arizona’s “castle doctrine” law would have expanded the legal justification for people who shoot migrants crossing their land, even though the bill’s sponsor described it as closing a loophole that has led to “increasingly larger numbers of migrants or human traffickers moving across farm and ranch land.”

Hobbs vetoed House Bill 2843, citing it as just another instance of radicals operating within the Arizona legislature.

In her veto letter, she stated, “This legislation as written values property over human lives and incentivizes vigilantism. This proposal would alter traditional laws on self-defense to allow the unnecessary use of deadly force and further embolden a culture of armed vigilantism and violence with impunity.”

According to current legislation, the use of lethal force must be justified by the property owner’s sense of threat from an intruder inside their house.

However, Heap’s bill would have expanded the situations in which lethal force can be justified by allowing it to be employed in cases where an invader is just on someone’s property and the owner feels threatened.

Heap has since denied that the law was meant to have an effect on migrants, as have many of his Republican colleagues.

However, criminal defense lawyer Jack Litwack stated in a February interview with the Arizona Mirror that the new law would provide a much wider defense for those who use lethal force.

“The idea with the Castle Doctrine is that you are supposed to be able to defend house and home,” he stated. “This seems to broaden it to say you can shoot someone that’s just on your actual property.”

Litwak stated that he thinks Heap’s legislation would expand the definition of self-defense laws to include situations that would allow the use of lethal force, such the one that resulted in a migrant’s death close to Nogales.

In that instance, the rancher is pending prosecution for second-degree murder.