Saying gun violence is caused by everything from video games to abortions, House Republicans thwarted a last-ditch procedural move by Democrats Tuesday to force a vote on whether to ban “bump stocks” in Arizona.
On a party-line vote, lawmakers approved a maneuver by Majority Leader John Allen, R-Scottsdale, which had the House begin its regular debate calendar. That vote short-circuited the original motion by Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, to bring the issue of bump stocks to the floor, get lawmakers on record and, potentially, have the ban enacted into law if the Senate and Gov. Doug Ducey would go along.
The issue is not a surprise.
Bump stocks came into public consciousness last year after a gunman used one to massacre 58 people in Las Vegas.
In January, Friese introduced legislation to outlaw any type of device that can be attached to a firearm “to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle.” But he could not get HB 2023 heard in the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee where it was assigned.
That led to Friese’s procedural motion Tuesday to bring the measure directly to the House floor for a vote. But Friese, a trauma surgeon, focused not on bump stocks but on the larger issue of violence.
“It’s devastating to tell a mother that her child has died because he simply stood at the door while gunfire was occurring in the streets near their home,” he told colleagues. And Friese said this isn’t about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms but instead about “an accessory to a gun that allows a weapon to fire hundreds of rounds a minute.”
But Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said Friese’s legislation is misfocused.
“What I am absolutely stunned by is the proliferation of video games that teach our children to kill, to teach our children to kill effectively, and to teach our children to kill without retribution,” he said.
Finchem said the lesson is that killing someone on a game “is easily overcome by pressing the reset button.” He said those games have “cheapened life.”
Rep. Ken Clark, D-Tucson, argued that any link between gun violence and video games is “spurious” at best.
Clark said youngsters in other countries have the same access to video games but don’t have the same rate of gun violence. The difference, he said, is that guns are just more accessible in this country.
“We are awash in guns,” Clark said.
But Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, agreed with Finchem, saying video games “desensitize” children. But she said the problem does not end there.
“We are in a culture of death where it’s OK if you have an unwanted pregnancy to just go ahead and kill that child,” she said.
And Townsend had another answer to school shootings: Arming teachers or others.
“A majority of these shootings happen in gun-free zones,” she said.
Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley, said the usual reaction after an event like last week’s shooting in Florida is for people to say that they have the victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers. Butler said that prayer may be appropriate — for most.
“But here we are as lawmakers in our state,” she said. “We are in a unique position to stand and to act.”
As to the issue of bump stocks themselves, Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said lawmakers need to separate the device, which essentially uses the energy from a fired round to rapidly reload the chamber and fire off another, from the “lunatic” who used it in Las Vegas.
“Bump stocks, from my understanding, were originally designed for people that had problems shooting a gun,” he said. “It was a way for them to shoot without pulling the trigger.”