Arizona lawmakers block bump stocks debate after Florida shooting

Feb 20, 2018, 3:30 PM | Updated: 5:28 pm
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)...
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

PHOENIX — The Arizona House of Representatives blocked a discussion to ban bump stocks on Tuesday, the same day President Donald Trump directed the Justice Department to implement a nationwide ban.

Bump stocks, a gun modification tool that allows a rifle to fire at rapid speeds, were used by Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock when he shot and killed 58 people from the Mandalay Bay hotel.

The debate to ban the bump stocks fizzled out shortly after the shooting, but got new breath after a 19-year-old shot and killed 17 people — mostly teenage students — at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Bump stocks were not used in the Florida shooting, law enforcement officials said.

But on Tuesday, members of the Arizona House blocked the debate with a 34-25 vote.

All 35 Republicans opposed putting the measure up for a vote, with some arguing instead that violent video games should be banned.

Rep. Randall Friese pleaded with members to act to stem what he called “an epidemic of gun violence” that is touching the lives of children.

“We must act. The country is waiting for us to act. The time is now,” Friese said. “We have an obligation to take action, we have a mandate, we have the authority to take action.

“And if we don’t recognize our authority to take action we are failing – we are failing our country, we are failing our children, we are failing our students,” Friese said.

Democrats regularly introduce bills that tighten Arizona’s loose guns laws, and they routinely go nowhere.

Meanwhile, majority Republicans each year advance proposals designed to make the state even more gun-friendly. Arizona doesn’t require a permit to carry a concealed weapon and bars cities from enacting tighter restrictions.

Republican Rep. Mark Finchem of Oro Valley said guns weren’t the problem, instead blaming violent video games that he said “teach our children to kill.”

“We have so cheapened life in this nation with video games of make-believe that tell our children it is OK to behave that way,” Finchem said.

“Well, quite frankly, it is not OK. It’s not OK for a kid to pick up a self-defense weapon and use it against other people and then claim that he didn’t appreciate what his actions were. That is the root of the problem.”

Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend of Gilbert blamed the changing culture, “a culture of death where it’s OK if you have an unwanted pregnancy to go ahead and kill that child” and psychotropic medications to treat the mentally ill with the increasing gun violence.

The Republican pushback brought an incredulous response from the top House Democrat.

“I sit here and I listen to the extreme excuses and connections _ `you know what, if we really want to address this we need to outlaw videogames.’ That’s insane,” she said. “I listen to people saying `well, it’s because of mental illness.’

“Mental illness has existed, will continue to exist, it exists across the world, but only in the United States do we have this problem,” she said. “Because of a prolific abundance of guns and access to anybody who wants them, mentally ill or not.”

Trump announced shortly before the final Arizona vote was cast that he “signed a memorandum directing the attorney general to propose regulations to ban all devices that turn legal weapons into machine guns.

“I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized … very soon.”

The president said he ordered U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to begin looking into the legality of bump stocks in December, about two months after a gunman killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more during the Roue 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas strip.

“As I said in my remarks the day after the shooting, we cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make a difference.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona lawmakers block bump stocks debate after Florida shooting