PHOENIX - Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) will introduce SB 1009 in the first legislative session of 2017. It's a bill that would modify current theft laws in Arizona to make stealing an American flag on display a felony and harshen the possible punishment.
"The American flag is the symbol of our country," said Kavanagh. "It's the symbol of everything great about our country -- particularly our freedoms."
Stealing one is already illegal, but the change could earn someone two years in prison.
Kavanagh said he came up with the proposal after people approached him upset about the current consequences.
"There were some flag thefts from poles in their community, and they thought stealing the American flag on display should be more serious," he said.
The crime may be serious. But is it actually happening?
Some local law enforcement agencies declined to comment on the proposed legislation. But spokespeople from various departments said theft of American flags is not a major issue in their jurisdictions.
Other department officials told 12 News they don't have the numbers readily available.
Kavanagh, a former police officer, says it's not about frequency. He simply wants to protect people's rights.
"Because it's on display, you're also stealing the expressive right of the person flying the flag," he said.
There are other types of flags people display which fall under the scope of freedom of speech but would not be protected by this change in the the law, such as the flag for the state of Arizona, an LGBT pride flag, or a flag from another country.
"I singled out the American flag because it is the symbol of our country. It is the one that is most often desecrated or stepped if you don't like a view, and I didn't want to create a massive litany of hundreds of different flags," said Kavanagh. "If you're concerned about the other flags, then tell the judge to throw the misdemeanor book at the person."