Arizona lawmakers react to Texas mass shooting as pro-gun bills move in Legislature
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and lawmakers at the state Capitol mourned the loss of young students and adults in a shooting at a Texas school Tuesday, the deadliest massacre at an elementary school in a decade.
Ducey ordered flags at state buildings be lowered to half-staff through sunset Saturday in memory of the victims, which includes at least 18 schoolchildren.
“Our prayers are with the parents, families, students and staff of Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, at this unimaginable time,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “Today’s events are heartbreaking and soul-wrenching. We are thankful for the heroic efforts of medical professionals, law enforcement and community members who responded so quickly."
Officials in Texas, including Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, said an 18-year-old shooter went into the elementary school in Uvalde just before noon Central time on Tuesday and opened fire. About 16,000 people live in Uvalde, roughly 85 miles west of San Antonio.
The shooter was likely killed by police, Abbott said.
Ducey has billed himself a Second Amendment proponent, and he's previously made strides to make Arizona more friendly to gun owners and the industry. He's also supported creating a court process like those commonly allowed via red-flag laws that permit law enforcement or relatives to go to court to temporarily remove someone's weapons.
Arizona Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, who lost the ability to walk after she was shot in a still-unsolved act of violence in 2004, was supposed to give the invocation as the House of Representatives convened on Tuesday. But on her way to the session, Longdon said she realized what she had written was inadequate to address the Texas massacre of schoolchildren.
With permission from House leaders, she instead led a moment of silence for the victims.
“These families, along with others experiencing gun violence — they deserve that moment of reflection from us,” Longdon said. “But it is not enough.”
Longdon is a gun owner herself who has introduced several firearm-related bills, including a proposal for mandatory storage of guns and ammunition. In February, she joined a national Democratic effort to overturn “stand your ground” laws.
Shootings reignite debate on gun laws
The shooting immediately rekindled the divisive political debate over gun control and Second Amendment rights in Arizona's statehouse.
In Washington, D.C., the shooting comes as Congress debates what measures to take in response to a racist massacre at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, just 10 days ago that killed 10 people.
President Joe Biden, speaking Tuesday, decried the gun industry and issued a call to lawmakers to stand up to lobbyists: "It’s time to turn this pain into action.”
Ten years ago, when he was vice president, Biden addressed a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults.
Following the Texas shooting, Arizona Senate Democrats released a statement expressing “heartbreak” over the murders and urging the failure of two bills now moving through the Legislature.
One of the bills would extend the places in which holders of concealed weapons permits can carry firearms, while another allows anyone driving on school grounds to legally have a loaded weapon in their vehicle.
“Choosing inaction every time our school children are hunted in their classrooms sends a clear message that the life and wellbeing of our children is not more important than unfettered access to firearms,” the statement says. “These bills should not move forward.”
In 2018, Ducey introduced a school safety plan following the devastating shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that called for improving the criminal history database and more counseling and law enforcement resources at schools. Ducey secured $20 million more funding for counseling and school officers, but his signature agenda item, creating a court process to prevent mentally ill individuals from purchasing weapons, did not come to pass.
Ducey last year signed a law that makes it harder for citizens to sue the gun industry. He signed another measure that prohibits enforcement of federal firearms laws or regulations "inconsistent" with those in Arizona.
At the time, the governor said it was proactive for "what is possible to come out of the Biden administration."