One of the candidates running for the Arizona state Senate shocked gun control advocates last week when he recalled shooting and killing a woman in reported self-defense over 50 years ago. During a meeting organized by the gun control group Moms Demand Action, Republican Bobby Wilson said he shot and killed a "crazed" woman in an act of self-defense after she allegedly shot at him with a rifle when he was in bed one night in 1963. However, he did not specify at the meeting that this woman was his mother.
While Wilson has been clear about the fact that he killed his mother on his campaign website and in his book, it was only after the meeting, in an interview with the Associated Press, that he spoke publicly about it.
Wilson — who is running for the state Senate to represent a southern Arizona district — said he isn't trying to hide anything by omitting the fact that it was mother he had killed. His mother was "insane," he alleged to the AP, and shot at him six times in their Oklahoma farmhouse before he shot and killed her. His 17-year-old sister also died that night, according to his book. At last week's meeting, Wilson implied that this experience shaped his beliefs about guns and gun rights.
“The only way you’re stopping a crazy madman who’s killing innocent people is that you better have a good guy there with a gun,” Wilson said. "You can pass all the laws you want to in this world, and when you've got somebody out there that wants to harm somebody, they're going to do it if you don't stop them."
The audience at the meeting was shocked, and video footage shows that boos echoed throughout the crowd as Wilson spoke. But according to The Arizona Republic, Wilson only told meeting attendees part of his story. Citing court records from the time of the incident, The Arizona Republic reported that Wilson was originally charged with murdering his mother and sister and that he confessed to doing so. However, he reportedly withdrew this confession later on the grounds that he had amnesia about the night's events, and an Oklahoma judge ultimately dismissed the charges against him.
The backlash against Wilson was swift after he spoke at the meeting hosted by Moms Demand Action. In attendance at the meeting was Rep. Daniel Hernandez, a Democrat who was on the scene when former congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot back in 2011 and who now represents the district in which Wilson is running. Hernandez told reporters that Wilson addressed the Giffords shooting when he spoke — to argue that the congresswoman should have had more security.
"I've never ever heard someone be so aggressive in that view, and also to drag Gabby into it, I thought, was so distasteful and so disgusting," Hernandez said.
Giffords was also reportedly at the meeting, along with many other survivors of gun violence.
Rather than be deterred by the criticism he received, Wilson took to Facebook to praise himself for being the only Republican candidate with the "guts" to defend the NRA at a gun control meeting.
"I was greeted with boos and catcalls," Wilson initially posted. "Loved it!"
Then, as the backlash against him continued to swell, Wilson posted on Wednesday that he understood "how President Trump feels now with all the fake news stories making the rounds about me." He ended that post by joking that he might "run for President one of these days."
Wilson is currently running in a primary race against Republican Shelley Kais, who told the AP that voters didn't need a candidate with "controversy like this swirling around them." Both Wilson and Kais are vying for a seat currently occupied by Arizona state Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, a Democrat.