Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers forgets 2011 Tucson mass shooting

PHOENIX – Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers has walked back a statement he made Monday in which he said Arizona “has been fortunate not to experience a major mass shooting.”

In 2011, a gunman killed six people and injured 13, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in a Safeway parking lot in the Tucson area.

“While Arizona has been fortunate not to experience a major mass shooting, that shouldn’t stop us from considering measures to prevent a tragedy like we saw over the weekend in Texas and Ohio,” Bowers, R-Mesa, said in the initial statement. The statement was posted on Twitter by CBS 5 journalist Dennis Welch.

Bowers’ office followed up within an hour, saying Bowers “erred in not classifying the 2011 Tucson shooting as a major mass shooting.”

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State Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, responded to the statement on Twitter.

“If Speaker Bowers has forgotten about the mass shooting in Tucson, which is in AZ, I’m sure @danielforaz and I could find some time to help him remember,” he posted. “The #AZLeg has never allowed a gun safety bill to be heard in committee the entire 5 years I’ve served. @GiffordsCourage.”

Friese and Rep. Daniel Hernandez, both Tucson Democrats, are among the most vocal state legislators pushing for tougher gun laws. Friese said Tuesday that he had not heard from Bowers.

“Mr. Bowers’ faulty memory to me is a foreshadowing of how we prioritize this issue,” Friese told The Republic. “I’m concerned it’s going to be business as usual for this issue next session. Our ideas won’t be given a hearing; the public will be silenced on this issue.”

In 2011, Hernandez, then a 20-year-old intern in Giffords’ office, ran to the congresswoman’s side after she was shot in the head and held his hand over the wound to stop the bleeding.

Friese, a trauma surgeon, tried unsuccessfully to save 9-year-old shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green. He then prepared Giffords for the first surgery that would save her life.

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The 2011 Tucson-area shooting was not the most deadly mass shooting that has occurred in Arizona. In August 1991, nine people were fatally shot at the Wat Promkunaram Buddhist temple in Waddell.

Over the weekend, mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, resulted in at least 31 deaths, with more than 50 people injured.

Follow Kyra Haas on Twitter: @kc_haas.

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