AZ Border Legislation Proposing Lethal Force

By Robyn Spradlin

by Danielle Dolin

New legislation is making its way through the Arizona legislature that would allow ranchers along the southern border to use lethal force to protect their property from trespassers.

HB 2843 sponsored by State Rep. Justin Heap attempts to curtail illegal immigrants’ habits of cutting across private ranches after illegally entering the U.S. by expanding the state’s Castle Doctrine – the use of lethal force when someone trespasses or breaks into your dwelling.

According to Heap the bill is designed to close a loophole that he says had led to larger numbers of migrants and human traffickers moving across farm and ranch land.

The legislation came about as 73-year-old George Alan Kelly, an Arizona rancher awaits trial after he fired on a group of illegal immigrants trespassing on his property and killed 48-year-old Gabriel Cuen-Butimea in the process. Under the new legislation, Kelly would have been justified in allegedly killing any of the immigrants. The bill expands the Castle Doctrine to allow the use of deadly force if an intruder invades a shooter’s residence or their land and the shooter feels threatened.

According to Heap, “Language like ‘and’ ‘or’ ‘either’…that one word can completely change the meaning of how this law is then applied.”

He added, “If a farmer owns 10,000 acres of farmland, his home may be a half a mile away from where he is, and if he sees someone on his land, can he approach them and (remove) them from his property? This is an amendment to fix that.”

The Arizona Mirror reported criminal defense attorney Jack Litwak believed the legislation would extend the self-defense laws to justify the use of deadly force in situations like Kelly shooting Cuen-Buitimea.

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

If the legislation is passed, it’s expected Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs will veto it.

Arizona Cattle Grower’s Association (ACGA) President Mike Gannuscio gave Christian New Journal (CNJ) insight into the rancher’s perspective.

He said he’s both a rancher & a farmer, who depends on legal migrants entering the U.S. to work but he told the CNJ, the cattle ranchers are bearing the brunt of the Biden administration’s failure.

Gannuscio said many of the immigrants were coming to the U.S. hoping for a better life, but the one’s that comesdoes harm ruins it for everyone.

“I have a $29,000 reward up for the illegal immigrant that killed one on my ARGA members.”

Gannuscio told CNJ that in 2010 Robert Krentz Jr. a well known and loved rancher had reportedly seen an illegal immigrant in need of help on his ranch and called border patrol.

Reportedly, when Krentz didn’t show up to meet a family member, a search party was organized, and he was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Suspicions remain that the illegal immigrant he encountered ended Krentz’s life.

Gannuscio went on to say that every time he left his wife and family, going to check water or other necessary tasks, he wondered who might possibly invade his home. Will it be a terrorist, a MS13 gang member?

“Every rancher along the border has the same thoughts,” he said. “They live in absolute fear for the safety of their family.”

Gannuscio indicated that he was 100% for legal immigration, but the illegal influx had to stop. He indicated that the livelihood of Arizona ranchers was hanging in the balance.

Wellheads (a necessity to water livestock or irrigate crops) were being broken, fences cut, livestock killed, breaking and entering into ranch houses, not to mention ranchers lives endangered. He questioned his cattle escaping because of cut fences and entering Mexico,

“How do I get my cattle back?” he lamented, noting it’s illegal for him to cross into Mexico.

“This is what we’re dealing with. We’re stuck,” Gannuscio asserted. “We’re tired of being the butt end of this administration’s failure to enforce border law.”

Gannuscio added that he was determined to be part of the solution, not the problem, telling CNJ, “I love Arizona and that’s why I’m running for sheriff of Mojave County,” Gannuscio said.

Robyn Spradlin is a freelance journalist working as a contributor for Christian News Journal covering news and politics on the national and state levels. She has worked as a copywriter for Victory News on the Victory Channel since 2022. Robyn has a BA in Communication Studies and an MA in Journalism from Regent University and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association. She is an author, evangelistic minister and a musician. She lives in South Florida, where she enjoys the outdoors when she’s not writing.

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