flyer for SB 1165 and HB 2543 Moms Demand Action Flyer|Photo by Jessica Swarner

Moms Demand Action founder says it’s “shameful” Republicans let the clock run out on legislation.

Update

Legislation that would prevent domestic abusers from possessing guns failed to make it to a vote this legislative session, Moms Demand Action said Friday. 

The Arizona House and Senate Judiciary Committees chose not to take up SB 1165 and HB 2543 before their Feb. 21 deadline. 

“It’s shameful that Arizona Republicans let the clock run out on legislation to disarm domestic abusers, and instead spent their time on risky gun proposals that would make Arizonans less safe,” Tracey Theisen, a Moms Demand Action volunteer, said in a press release. 

Original Story

More than 100 gun reform activists gathered at the Arizona Capitol Thursday, demanding legislators address the rise in gun violence seen throughout the state.

The rate of gun homicide by an intimate partner was 66% higher in Arizona than the rest of the country between 2012 and 2016, a statistic groups like Moms Demand Action want the state legislature to address.

The mothers and other volunteers were at the Capitol to lobby for SB 1165 and HB 2543, two proposed bills they say would reduce the state’s number of deaths due to domestic violence. Both bills would enact stricter regulations on weapons to prevent people who have been determined to be a threat or have been convicted of certain crimes from possessing guns.

Despite gun rights being a divisive issue in the U.S., the legislation has bipartisan support. Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, introduced the House bill, while Rep. Kathy Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, introduced the Senate bill. Each proposal has one Democratic and one Republican co-sponsor.

Supporters say the bills would not violate the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Rather, the legislation would:

  • Bar abusers convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes from possessing a gun;
  • Bar abusers who are subjects of orders of protections from possessing a gun; and
  • Require abusers who become barred from possessing a gun to promptly turn in guns they already own.

Advocates said it’s time Arizona joins the 29 other states that have closed loopholes allowing dangerous people to own guns.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety (Moms Demand Action’s parent group), laws that prohibit abusers subject to orders of protection from purchasing or possessing guns are associated with a 14-16% lower intimate partner firearm homicide rate. And the benefits extend beyond gun violence, the group claims. States with gun laws targeted at abusers have seen a 10-12% lower total intimate partner homicide rate.

Photo by Jessica Swarner

What Motivates the Activists

Thursday’s group came equipped not just with data and statistics, but with stories. For some Moms Demand Action volunteers, the effects of gun violence are personal.

Team lead Tracey Theisen told the group she narrowly escaped an abusive relationship when she was younger. She said her ex-boyfriend would threaten her with a gun and leave it around the house to intimidate her. When she decided to leave after nine months of physical violence, she said her ex went to grab his gun from the closet – but to Tracey’s relief, it wasn’t there. He had left it at his brother’s house. 

“I’ve always known that luck was with me on that day … but what I didn’t realize until I started volunteering with Moms Demand Action was how many other women are in this position and are not as lucky as I am,” Theisen said at a press conference. 

Longdon, the House bill’s sponsor, was paralyzed after a random drive-by shooting in 2004. “[Gun violence] is the issue that brought me here to work on these laws,” she said at the press conference. 

Longdon said there’s much more work to be done to reduce gun violence in Arizona, but a “lack of courage” in the legislature is holding the state back.

“How many of you memorize what your kids are wearing out the door, wondering if they’re going to come home tonight? It happens,” she said.

For some, seeing people suffer and die in mass shootings was enough to get them involved. 

Jessica Manos, a mother of four, remembers taking her six-week-old son out of their house in Newtown, Connecticut, for the first time on Dec. 14, 2012. That was the same day 20 children and six adults were killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in their town. 

“I just stood there with this newborn baby, [thinking] ‘What kind of world did I bring my child into?’” Manos told The Copper Courier. “And I knew that I had to do something to stop the epidemic.”

For Mary Grove, a teacher in Flagstaff, the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando that killed 49 was what got her involved with the group. Her career in education also had her worried about the safety of students. 

“I have that concern, too, with children in the classroom,” she said.

Photo by Jessica Swarner

What They’re Working For

Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts said Arizona simply needs to get up to speed with the rest of the country when it comes to gun safety. 

“Here in Arizona, weak gun laws are threatening women’s lives,” she said at the press conference. 

Activists tried to get versions of SB 1165 and HB 2543 passed last year, but they didn’t make it to a vote. 

Longdon encouraged the crowd to remember the struggle to get these bills passed when it comes time for them to vote in this year’s upcoming elections.

“If we don’t do it this time, I need every one of you on doors this summer, knocking, registering voters, bringing everyone out,” Longdon said. 

“It’s something that we’re not going to give up,” Grove added.