Activists, Democratic lawmakers push for action on gun bills

PHOENIX - Democratic lawmakers were joined by student activists at the state Capitol on Monday, calling on the Republican-led Legislature to act on stalled bills designed to curb gun violence.

Jordan Harb, a high school student from Mesa and an organizer of a planned March 24 "March for Our Lives" student rally in Phoenix, said the protest is in response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida that killed 17.

"Our state Legislature has time and time again failed to heed our words and live up to protecting the 1 million students here in Arizona," he said. "Today, nearly 4 weeks after the Parkland shooting our legislators and the governor need to know that we will no longer be ignored."

He described a lockdown at his school three years ago. "Luckily it was just a false alarm," Harb said. "But for 200 schools since it has been a terrifying reality."

Harb also said students at many high schools plan to walk out Wednesday and have 17 minutes of silence in memory of the Florida school shooting victims, 14 of whom were students. Another visit to the capitol is also planned, he said.

"Whether they want to or not, we will be there and we will make sure that they see us," Harb said.

"We're playing Russian roulette with her kids," said Roosevelt School Board Member Lawrence Robinson. "No kid should have to be a victim of gun violence; no kid should have to lose a friend, a limb, a life because we can not do what's right."

Four Democratic-sponsored gun bills haven't received committee hearings during this year's session. The proposals include one mandating universal background checks for all gun purchases, a ban on bump stock devices and proposals to remove guns from domestic violence offenders and the mentally ill.

State Sen. Sonny Borrelli, a Lake Havasu City Republican, said he was opposed to any gun proposals until courts report all felonies to databases for background checks.

"Make the system that we already have work," Borrelli said. "And if that's not working then let's have a conversation on what else. I have a huge problem of undermining (the) Second Amendment, undermining their Constitutional rights."

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has said he is working on school safety proposals but has not sought action on the stalled bills.

"While I don't yet know what shape it may take, there's certainly a strong desire among my colleagues to move legislation this session to improve school safety in light of recent shootings around the country," said Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard. "I expect we'll see some further discussion on that this week, and I look forward to that conversation."

Democratic Rep. Randy Friese, a Tucson trauma surgeon who was on duty when former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and 18 others were shot in 2011, said the students organizing the march in Arizona and across the nation "are showing more leadership on this issue than our state has shown in decades.

"For many, many decades our state has chosen to go in the wrong direction, moving away from legislation that supports gun safety and responsible gun ownership," Friese said. "The time has come for us to change direction."

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