People who feel threatened could unholster their guns - and even point them at someone else - without running afoul of the law under the terms of a measure given preliminary House approval Monday.
Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said the legislation is designed to keep those who are simply seeking to defend themselves from ending up being charged with a crime.
"I'm just trying to protect the good guys," he said.
But Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said some new provisions that Pearce added to the bill actually do more than that.
He said the original measure said anyone who actually points a gun at someone else is not entitled to the legal shield.
In fact, Gallardo said, HB2629 even would allow someone to fire a gun at another person.
He said all that does is take what could have remained a nonviolent squabble and potentially turn it into a fatal shooting.
Current law already spells out that people can use deadly physical force when a reasonable person would believe it is "immediately necessary to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful deadly physical force." State statutes also permit use of that force to protect a third person or prevent arson of an occupied structure.
Other laws spell out exactly when someone can threaten to use - but not actually use - deadly physical force, such as trying to get someone off your property
HB2629 is "only for the purpose of averting violence against yourself when you feel threatened and intimidated," Pearce said. He added that the legislation is narrowly crafted, allowing the "defensive display" of a firearm only when a reasonable person would believe that he or she needs to show the gun to prevent the other person from using physical or deadly force.
But Gallardo said this new language goes beyond a person simply displaying a weapon.
As originally crafted, the measure would not have allowed someone to either point a gun at another person or fire the weapon. As approved Monday by the House, however, it permits both if "otherwise justified."
Gallardo said this goes beyond current statutes that allow those who have a weapon pointed at them to fire back.
"The biggest concern is the possibility of escalating something that, for the most part, would just be a little shove or fistfight" into "a gunbattle," he said.
Pearce, however, said only those people who have no intent of harming someone else would fall under the protection of the law. The measure requires a final roll-call vote before going to the Senate.