U.S. Rep.-elect Ann Kirkpatrick, a Flagstaff Democrat, is not ready to take a stand on the proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.


(Updated with a brief comment from Sen.-elect Jeff Flake, at the bottom.)

The third member of Congress scheduled to represent Southern Arizona next session is not taking a stand yet on a possible assault-weapons ban.

Late yesterday, I asked U.S. Rep.-elect Ann Kirkpatrick, through her spokeswoman, what her position is on a possible assault-weapons ban or a ban on selling high-capacity magazines. Kirkpatrick, a Democrat from Flagstaff, was in a meeting in Casa Grande Monday night and didn't get back to me till today with this written response:

"We need everything and everyone at the table if we are going to engage in an earnest, productive conversation about taking action. I have always been a strong supporter of the Second Amendment right to responsibly bear arms. But we have to take a hard look at our safety laws and procedures, our mental-health system, and the ways that gun violence is afflicting our society."

This view contrasts with the two returning members of Congress from Southern Arizona, Democrats Ron Barber and Raúl Grijalva. In my story today, both expressed strong support for banning the sale of so-called assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Barber, who was severely wounded in the Jan. 8 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, also has a guest opinion on the topic in today's Star.

They also pushed for improvements in the system for identifying and helping the mentally ill, as well as keeping firearms out of their hands.

Although all three are Democrats, they represent significantly different populations. Kirkpatrick's district includes most of rural eastern and northern Arizona, where support for gun-rights is especially strong. Her vast district stretches all the way south to Oro Valley and Marana.

Kirkpatrick painted herself as a daughter of rural Eastern Arizona in her campaign and proudly proclaimed herself a gun owner with an A rating from the NRA.

For his part, Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain's staff issued a statement calling for a national discussion — something Barber and Grijalva said the country needs to move past.

"Senator McCain believes we need a national conversation on all the issues this tragedy has raised, including but not limited to gun laws. He's open to considering proposals and looks forward to engaging in that conversation."

Sen.-elect Jeff Flake, also a Republican, issued this written statement: "In the new year and the new Congress, there will be plenty of opportunities to debate these issues. For now, we need to focus on honoring the victims and providing comfort to their families."