PHOENIX — Arizona Rep. Daniel Hernandez Jr., D-Tucson, pleaded with his colleagues on Wednesday to take action in order to prevent the recent school shooting in Texas from happening in Arizona.
Bills advocating for gun reforms have been already introduced, Hernandez noted on the House floor, yet other lawmakers are not allowing them to advance through the Legislature.
The issue of gun violence is particularly personal for Hernandez, having survived a deadly mass shooting in 2011 that killed a 9-year-old girl.
Hernandez was an intern for former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords when a gunman opened fire at an outreach event in Tucson outside a grocery store. Six people were killed and several more were injured including Giffords.
On Wednesday, Hernandez recalled cradling Giffords after she had been shot in the head and assisting her until paramedics arrived. Hernandez was later credited with helping to save Giffords' life.
Hernandez, who is running for a seat in Congress, said too many mass shootings have occurred since 2011 and the country has fallen into a passive routine in how it responds to each of them.
"We have a uniquely American problem," Hernandez said during a speech on the House floor.
The Democratic lawmaker blamed the "Washington gun lobby" for wielding too much influence over his colleagues and pushing them to thwart gun reform bills in the Legislature.
"We can stop another awful thing from happening," Hernandez added.
Several references to the Texas shooting that killed 19 children were made by lawmakers throughout Wednesday's proceedings as lawmakers from both parties made passionate pleas to find ways to stop more violence from occurring.
Arizona Rep. Joanne Osborne, R-Goodyear, shared her own personal story of gun violence on the House floor.
She described her family being held up at gunpoint by robbers and the lasting effect it had on her children.
"I have been through those traumas," said Osborne, who called for directing more research and resources on addressing mental health.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, expressed sympathy for the lives lost in Texas and lamented over the excessive amount of violence depicted in media and entertainment.
State Rep. Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix, condemned her colleagues for spending most of Wednesday focused on bills outlawing "critical race theory" in Arizona's classrooms rather than addressing gun reforms.
"We spent this day protecting our children from the danger of thought in the classroom rather than addressing the issue of gun violence in our schools. It’s offensive," said Longdon, who is a survivor of gun violence.
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