US cities shouldn’t ban begging

Los Angeles Times: A war is being waged over panhandling, as cities and states pass tighter and tighter anti-solicitation laws to control transients and deal with chronic homelessness.

A 2011 report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found that more than 100 cities had some kind of restriction on panhandling.

Along with the bans on begging have come fierce constitutional challenges. Last week, a federal judge in Arizona was the latest to weigh in, ruling that the state’s law making it a crime to beg for money or food was an infringement of the constitutional right to free speech.

Bus fare

The case involved a 77-year-old woman who was arrested in Flagstaff after she asked an undercover police officer for bus fare. The judge’s ruling follows similar legal decisions in other states.

Arizona officials have agreed not to contest the ruling, and they will no longer interfere with peaceful panhandlers. Other cities and counties across the country should take note that such laws go too far.

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