A Republican state legislator in Arizona is taking a lot of heat this week after she allegedly pointed a loaded gun at a reporter's chest during an interview at the state capitol.
Sen. Lori Klein, an ardent gun-rights advocate, was showing off her raspberry-pink handgun to a reporter outside the senate chambers recently. That's when she reportedly decided to aim it at the reporter's chest in order to show off her laser sight. The reporter was Arizona Republic writer Richard Ruelas, and he mentioned the incident in a larger profile of Klein in a piece that ran Monday:
"Oh, it's so cute," Klein said, as she unzipped the loaded Ruger from its carrying case to show a reporter and photographer. She was sitting on a leather couch in a lounge, just outside the Senate chamber.
She showed off the laser sighting by pointing the red beam at the reporter's chest. The gun has no safety, she said, but there was no need to worry.
"I just didn't have my hand on the trigger," she said.
The incident has sparked a stark retort from at least one local gun safety expert.
“Whoever would do something like that needs to have a better grounding in gun safety before ever laying a hand on a firearm,” Rob Mermelstein, the range master of the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club, told the Arizona Guardian.
He added her actions were "unconscionable" and violates every gun safety standard he teaches at the club. He also said incidents such as this hurt the cause of those fighting for Second Amendment rights.
"It goes with out saying firearms owners are waging a nonstop battle for PR and any type of incident like this is not favorable to the gun-owing public," he said.
But according to Klein, the story isn't what it seems. In a statement to the Arizona Republic, she said the reporter walked in front of the gun while she was showing the laser sight to the photographer:
I was asked to show the reporter my weapon so that they could take pictures of it. I ensured that the chamber was clear before displaying the weapon. That is basic gun safety and something that I do instinctively, just like virtually every gun owner.
The photographer, who was behind me at the time, asked me to show him the laser sight and I did so, turning it on and shining it on the wall in front of me (away from the photographer). During this demonstration, the reporter came and sat down in the sofa in front of me, placing himself in the line of the laser sight.
He noticed the light, then I noticed the light, then I turned it off.
"I apologized and let him know that he was safe because I keep my finger out of the trigger guard," she added. "Again, that is basic gun safety." However, she did say that she will not be showing it off anymore, and that any future demonstrations will have to take place at a gun range.
Still, Ruelas is sticking by his story. In a separate piece, the Arizona Republic says that there were two separate laser demonstrations, the one mentioned by Klein, and the one where she pointed the gun at Ruelas:
"She had (the gun) out, and I looked down and saw the red dot on my chest," Ruelas recounted Monday. He said he didn't ask Klein to demonstrate the gun's feature, nor did he realize until much later in his interview that her gun was loaded and did not have a safety. That became clear, he said, when he was recapping the interview for the sake of his photographer, who had missed the earlier parts of their conversation in the state Senate lounge.
Later, Klein trained the laser site on a blank wall to demonstrate it for the photographer.
Ruelas also claims that his recordings of the interview support his side of the story, because they refer to two separate instances. He told his side of the story to the local NBC affiliate:
"It happened a month ago," Ruelas wrote on Twitter Monday night, "so it's understandable that Sen. Lori Klein has a different recollection of the incident than I do."
(video h/t NPR)