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Arizona Rep. Lawrence apologizes for comments about minorities, guns

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PHOENIX – An Arizona state legislator has formally apologized for insensitive remarks he made at a gun violence forum in Phoenix more than two weeks ago.

Rep. Jay Lawrence (R-Scottsdale) said in a statement released Monday he was sorry for telling a crowd at a town hall that minority communities were better armed than police and had to be stopped.

“I apologize for my comments at the March for Our Lives event last month,” the statement read.

Lawrence, whose district also includes Fountain Hills and Rio Verde, made the comments Aug. 29 at First United Church of Christ in Phoenix, days after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio stunned the nation.

A number of state lawmakers and congressional candidates were invited to the event, hosted by March for Our Lives Arizona.

When the topic of gun violence’s impact on black and Latino populations came up, Lawrence said:

“I hate to bring realism to any of the conversation … Black and brown communities, if you look at the weapons that they have, they are not licensed. They are better armed than the police officers who are supposed to be controlling them. They have firearms galore. Black and brown communities, black communities in particular, have gangs.

“And the gangs have to be stopped.”

In his apology, Lawrence, who was first elected to the Arizona House in 2014, said, “I shouldn’t have singled out specific communities while discussing the challenges that law enforcement face as they combat gangs and organized crime in our state.

“I certainly didn’t intend to denigrate or offend anyone, and I sincerely apologize for my poorly-worded comments.”

Lawrence, a former talk-show host at KTAR News 92.3 FM, finished the statement with, “I’m glad that this incident has taught me to choose my words more carefully in the future.”

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