Arizona Lawmaker's Gun Incident Sparks Debate
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
A reporter in Arizona says a state lawmaker deliberately pointed a loaded handgun at him during an interview outside the state Senate chamber in June. But if the allegation is true, it is not a violation of the chamber's rules, according to the chairman of the Arizona Senate Ethics Committee.
Richard Ruelas, a reporter with The Arizona Republic , contends in an article published Sunday (July 10) that state Senator Lori Klein intentionally pointed her .380-caliber Ruger handgun at him while he was talking to her for a story about the first-term Republican's outspoken advocacy of gun rights. Klein disputes that account, saying that while she did show Ruelas the weapon to help him with his story, she did not aim it at him. Instead, she says, Ruelas sat down on a couch that happened to be in the gun's laser sight line.
Either way, the incident is not a violation of Arizona Senate rules, says Senator Ron Gould, the chairman of the chamber's Ethics Committee. Gould tells Capitol Media Services , a Phoenix news agency, that the incident is only a violation "of the first rule of gun safety, which is don't point a gun at anything you're not willing to shoot." If Ruelas had a problem with the incident, Gould says, "he should have made a police report."
According to Capitol Media Services, it is "unofficial policy" in Arizona that state senators can carry guns into the Capitol building, though the public does not have that right. Nine states allow visitors to bring guns into the Capitol, as Stateline noted in a story earlier this year .
The incident is not the first time Klein has found herself in the spotlight for carrying a loaded gun onto the Capitol grounds. Indeed, Ruelas chose to profile Klein because she was stopped by security in January — two days after the fatal Tucson shooting aimed at U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords — for bringing her Ruger handgun into the Capitol on the occasion of Governor Jan Brewer's annual speech to the legislature. That incident provoked a debate in Arizona over whether guns have a place in the Capitol, but Senate President Russell Pearce said that he would not consider changing the policy of allowing lawmakers to bring them in.
"The best thing you could do to protect freedom for yourself and others is to have good citizens that are capable of protecting themselves and others," Pearce told Capitol Media Services after the January incident. "I would never have a policy that restricts members."