Ariz. lawmaker says pointing gun was inadvertent

July 12, 2011 - 7:29 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — A gun-toting Arizona state senator is on the defensive, drawing criticism after reports emerged that she pointed her raspberry-pink semi-automatic pistol at a reporter while demonstrating its laser sight during an interview.

It's not the first time that Republican Sen. Lori Klein of Anthem has made headlines in connection with a personal weapon.

In January, Klein carried a different gun to the Legislature's opening joint session. That was just two days after the Tucson shooting rampage that left six people dead and 13 others wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The latest incident, which occurred in June, was mentioned in passing in a lengthy story published Sunday by The Arizona Republic about Klein's practice of carrying a gun to the Capitol.

The Arizona Guardian posted a story on its website Monday drawing attention to the June instance mentioned in the Republic.

Subsequent online commentary generally said Klein ignored a basic tenet of gun safety: Don't point a weapon at somebody unless you're willing or intending to shoot.

The exact circumstances of what happened during the June interview in the Senate lounge are in dispute, but Klein acknowledged that her gun at one point was pointed at Republic reporter Richard Ruelas.

"I pointed it at him," Klein told a Republic photographer in an audio recording posted online by the Republic. The audio was from a later segment of the interview.

Klein did not respond to calls for comment Monday and Tuesday, but she issued a statement in which she said Ruelas placed himself in front of the gun while she was demonstrating its sight.

The reporter, who declined to be interviewed Tuesday, told Phoenix television station KPNX-TV that in an interview aired Monday night that he didn't move.

The Republic and KPNX are both owned by Gannett Co.

An initial version of Klein's statement didn't mention Ruelas changing position, saying only that she pointed the gun at a wall to demonstrate the sight.

Noble Hathaway, an NRA-certified gun-safety instructor and president of the Arizona State Rifle Pistol Association, said he doesn't know Klein and wasn't familiar with details of her encounter with Ruelas.

However, from a gun safety standpoint, "I can't imagine anybody purposely taking it out and pointing it at somebody," Hathaway said Tuesday during an interview.

A senator who clashed with Klein over illegal immigration legislation during the regular session said Klein's pointing of the gun at Ruelas was irresponsible.

"The number one responsibility of a gun owner is gun safety," said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.

Gallardo called for a Senate ethics probe, but Ethics Committee Chairman Ron Gould said he doesn't plan one because Ruelas hasn't complained and there's no indication that Klein acted with malice.

Gould, a Lake Havasu City Republican, said Tuesday he has declined in the past when he's been asked by reporters, fellow lawmakers and others to show them his gun.

"I don't want to get into the same kind of situation that Sen. Klein got into," he said. "Any time you take the thing out you risk something happening. I think it's bad form."