Update: Here’s a petition from Advocates for Snake Preservation.
Recently, a bill has been introduced that would allow people to shoot guns within city limits, as long as they are firing in the direction of a snake or rodent. Personally, I don’t feel comfortable with people in apartment complexes, in populated areas, near schools and shopping areas, and right next door firing guns in random directions. There’s also the dangerous precedent that this sets for our native wildlife; to be treated as pests rather than something to be respected.
If you’d like to help, email members of the committee, or state Representative Jay Lawrence to let them know your concerns.
Here is the relevant information.
RE: House Bill 2022
AMENDING SECTION 13‑3107, ARIZONA REVISED STATUTES; RELATING TO FIREARMS.
Rep. Jay Lawrence
Committee (email or call these people):
Sally Ann Gonzales
Anthony T. Kern
While form letters can be useful, individual letters and arguments are better. Form letters are often treated as one letter and accepted/dismissed as one. We have a lot of experienced, knowledgeable people interested in this, so please take time to email, tweet, or FB Rep. Lawrence on this issue.
For an example of the argument, here is my letter to the committee:
Here is what I am sending. If anyone wants to use or add to any argument made here, please do.
Dear Mr. Lawrence,
I am writing in regards to House Bill 2022: Creating an exception to statute 13-3107, Unlawful discharge of firearms, to allow discharge of firearms within municipality limits with the purpose of eliminating rattlesnakes or rodents.
I am the owner of Rattlesnake Solutions, a local rattlesnake education and conservation group. My team are frequent visitors of Scottsdale and serve your constituents on a daily basis. I am also an amateur herpetologist with specialization in local rattlesnake species, and a regular educational speaker at regional parks and wildlife-oriented organizations. I have 15 years of daily experience with the conflict that exists between our growing urban areas and native wildlife. I believe my knowledge in this area can be helpful to you when considering HB2022.
First, I very well understand the fear that some people feel about snakes. It is deeply rooted in our culture. To many, including, I believe, your constituent whose experience has fueled the creation of HB2022, this may seem like a common sense issue. However, the facts do not justify our fear or the perceived danger that snakes pose. In fact, the promotion of irresponsible wildlife handling methods actually creates new threats, and exacerbates existing ones.
Based on my professional experience, it is my estimation is that HB2022 will actually result in an increase of venomous bites within urban areas, and create the possibility for additional injury in the form of firearm-related accidents.
Please consider the following:
Each year in the United States, an estimated 7,000-8,000 people per year are bitten by venomous snakes, resulting in 8 to 15 deaths. The bite victims, as well, are often intentionally handling the snakes, herpetologists and professional handlers, and others who are not accidental bite victims. It is estimated that, of bite victims in Arizona, roughly 1/3 are attempting to kill, capture, or harass the snake. Bites managed by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center show 50% to 70% of bites happen to individuals in performing these actions.
This leaves bite victims that are accidentally bitten by snakes that are not seen, or not seen until after the bite has occurred. This means that individuals who would take action themselves under the exception offered by HB2022 will intentionally place themselves into the highest bracket of bite victims. Rattlesnakes are quite capable of delivering a venomous bite even after being shot, and if the numbers show anything, it is that subsequent handling and photo opportunities are irresistible.
In Arizona, there are numerous methods to safely handle the removal of snakes. In Scottsdale, in particular, this service is performed free-of-charge by the Fire Department, in addition to non-profit organizations such as the Arizona Herpetological Association and Phoenix Herpetological Society. Additionally, dozens more entities exist to service your constituents in the event that wildlife needs to be removed. With all of these options available across the state, there is no added safety to gain from allowing a homeowner to shoot a snake. HB2022 encourages behavior that any herpetological professional, emergency response, or venomous snake specialist would believe to be reckless and dangerous. If someone sees a snake, and chooses to keep their distance rather than approach it (armed or otherwise), all danger is negated. Rattlesnake bites are not a significant threat to Arizonans living in areas potentially affected by HB2022.
There is also the added danger of additional firearm discharge in populated areas. Does HB2022 consider densely populated areas of the city, apartment and condo complexes, and areas near schools? There is also consideration for law enforcement, and how to handle the introduction of legal gunfire in highly populated areas, fired with only the requirement that it be directed towards an animal. It is my hope that the concerns of the community has been considered in the creation of HB2022.
I know that, personally, I would have great concerns if my own neighbors were firing at rats in their backyard, rat-shot or otherwise. HB2022 must assume a common responsibility and understanding of firearm safety, which seems at odds with the purpose of 13-3107. I personally do not trust that every gun owner within city limits possess the level of safety awareness to prevent accidental gunfire mishaps. This is a high price to pay for what is essentially a feel-good action for some individuals who choose to ignore safer options.
My intention is not to convince anyone of the value of our native wildlife, especially in areas of urban conflict. I realize that these are not animals appreciated by many; it’s expected, and this nature of this irrational fear needs to be considered. It is my personal opinion that personal responsibility is an important factor here, being the choice for many to create homes within desert habitats and maintain naturalistic landscaping. This is a choice made by many of your constituents, and all the beauty come caveats of being a good citizen and neighbor.
If I or my organization can provide any information or aid on this matter to your staff or constituency, please assume you will have whatever help is needed. Likewise, I have a desire uphold the safety of Arizonans; HB2022 will not acheive that goal.
I will end with 2 links. One is an unfortunate incident where a child was killed by a police officer attempting to kill a (harmless) snake with a gun. The second is the complete list of venomous snake related deaths in the United States. Please take note of the number from Arizona who would have been helped by HB2022 in the last 20 years.