A proposed new law, HB2007, would make it a felony to wear any sort of disguise to evade recognition or identification in the commission of any public offense. If only it stopped there. Felony charges can also be applied to donning any sort of mask during civil protests, a political event or any public event. According to the language of the bill, class 6 felony charges would apply for the person wearing the disguise.

Sadly, this appears to be the latest, poor attempt to deal with public rioters, something that has been a serious problem, particularly from leftist groups like ANTIFA, since the election of Donald Trump. However, this proposal is entirely wrong-headed, and has huge potential downfalls.

Back in February, state Senator Sonny Borrelli introduced SB 1142 which would have expanded the state’s racketeering laws to include rioting, and specifically redefine the language to include actions resulting in property damage. Thankfully, that monstrosity never found the light of day for public debate.

Now comes HB 2007. This proposal may not be as ambitious as its legislative predecessor, but its goal is similar, and its swipe at the right of individuals to privacy, freedom of expression and freedom to gather peaceably, without fear of retribution, is just as galling.

The legislation was crafted by Representative Jay Lawrence (R-Scottsdale), who describes himself as a constitutional conservative. There is very little constitutional about the proposed measure.

While no one wants to see destruction of property, there are already laws on the books that deal with rioting and those who would destroy things, making the latest law superfluous from that perspective. The real effort is to put an end to people wearing masks and, behind that disguise, engaging in pernicious behavior.

Lawrence admitted as much when he cited the violence that has played out at several political rallies throughout the nation as the inspiration for his legislation.

How exactly would outlawing disguises prevent someone from engaging in violent behavior? It may act as a deterrent for some people, but it won’t keep those intent on violence from perpetrating it. What it will do is prevent others from attending events incognito for fear of retribution. Some people don’t want to be seen associating with certain political affiliations.

There are plenty of reasons why people don’t want to be identified publicly, not all of which are dubious, especially as it concerns political rallies. They have every right to cover their faces.

The language of the proposal as it currently stands makes it a felony charge to even show up at a “public” or “political” event in some sort of a disguise that is not business-related.

Anyone caught wearing a disguise at such an event could be stopped by a peace officer to determine if they have committed a public offense, whatever that is.

The statute itself creates even more potential problems by disallowing, not just full disguises, but impartial ones as well. What exactly qualifies as a partial disguise? Would that be left up to the courts? Or arresting officer? How is any of this conservative? It certainly isn’t American.

The Boston Tea Party — men dressed up as Indians to hide their identity from British authorities — was carried out by individuals who most people, but especially conservatives, consider to be patriots.

There is nothing inherently wrong with hiding one’s face; indeed, it is a right to privacy we all possess.

Will there be some who take advantage of that right to attempt to evade identification in the commission of a crime? Sure, but that’s no reason to take everyone else’s rights away, and a self-proclaimed conservative should know better.

Joseph Morgan, a native Tucsonan, received a master’s degree in U.S. history from the University of Arizona. Contact him at commonsensemorgan@gmail.com

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