An Arizona Senate candidate who shot and killed his mother in self-defense is using the gruesome childhood memory to back his anti-gun control rhetoric.
“The only way to stop a crazy madman killing innocent people is you better have a good guy there with a gun,” GOP candidate Bobby Wilson told crowds brought together Moms Demand Action in a Tuscon church earlier this month. “I’m here to tell you I'm living proof of that.”
Gun control advocates broke out into heckles and boos at the start of his remarks, but they were stunned silent when Wilson detailed how he fatally shot and killed a crazed attacker in self-defense more than 50 years ago.
“When I was 18 years old, someone was hell-bent on killing me in my sleep one night,” he recalled. “It’s three o’clock in the morning, I wake up to find a rifle in my face — a semiautomatic rifle at that — and the bullets started to fly and I started diving for cover.”
RELATED: 6 prominent young people fighting gun violence
6 prominent young people fighting gun violence
6 prominent young people fighting gun violence
Emma González, 18, "Fight for your lives before it's someone else's job"
Emma González, an 18-year-old senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, has become one of the most prominent faces of the student-led movement.
After the Valentine's Day massacre, González and other student survivors began working to contact politicians, advocate for legislative change, and organize the march on Washington.
"The people in the government who are voted into power are lying to us," González said on Saturday before leading several minutes of silence. "And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and are prepared to call B.S."
Jaclyn Corin, 17, "What if leading politicians valued children's lives over dollars?"
Jaclyn Corin, the 17-year-old junior-class president at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, has said that her way of coping with the tragedy is to distract herself "with work and helping people."
On Saturday, she affirmed the Parkland students' commitment to shedding light on the daily gun violence that disproportionately affects communities of color, but doesn't receive as much attention as mass shootings.
"We recognize that Parkland received more attention because of its affluence," Corin said during her speech in Washington. "But we share this stage today and forever with those communities who have always stared down the barrel of a gun."
After the president tweeted on Monday that despite all the "fake news, "our country is doing great!" Corin responded, "96 deaths by firearm every day is not what I call great."
David Hogg, 17, "First-time voters show up 18% of the time in midterm elections. Not anymore."
David Hogg, a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, has also become a national face of the anti-gun violence movement. Hogg has given multiple national media interviews and spoken at several events in the wake of the shooting.
On Saturday, Hogg encouraged the crowd to take action and vote.
"We're going to make sure the best people get in our elections to run not as politicians, but as Americans. Because this — this — is not cutting it," he said.
Some of President Donald Trump's most fervent supporters, gun rights activists, and alt-right bots have attacked Hogg, along with other Parkland survivors, online. High profile members of the conservative media, who disagaree with Hogg's support for gun control, have called him an "extremist" and a "useful idiot."
(Rolando Otero/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Naomi Wadler, 11, "People have said that I am some tool of some nameless adult. It’s not true."
Naomi Wadler, 11, was the youngest speaker at Saturday's march in Washington and provoked an enormous reaction from the crowd, celebrities, and politicians.
The fifth-grader from Virginia, who led a walkout at her school, said she was at the march to "represent the African-American girls whose stories don't make the front page of every national newspaper."
"I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential," Wadler said, adding that she'll be a voter in "seven short years."
"My friends and I might still be 11 and we might still be in elementary school, but we know. We know life isn't equal for everyone and we know what is right and wrong," she said to thunderous applause.
Cameron Kasky, 17, "Welcome to the revolution."
Cameron Kasky, a theater kid at Majory Stoneman Douglas, began speaking out shortly after the shooting, which he and his brother, who has special needs, both survived.
"Can't sleep," Kasky wrote in a Facebook post. "Thinking about so many things. So angry that I'm not scared or nervous anymore ... I'm just angry."
Kasky began speaking with national media and joined the group of Douglas students leading the public response to the shooting.
"Welcome to the revolution," Kasky said to cheers on Saturday.
(RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
Edna Chavez, 17, "I learned to duck from bullets before I learned to read"
Edna Chavez, a 17-year-old from South Los Angeles, spoke at the rally on Saturday about her brother, Ricardo, who was a high schooler when he was shot and killed.
Chavez said the kind of gun violence that took her brother's life is so "normal" in her neighborhood that she "learned to duck from bullets before I learned how to read."
"Ricardo was his name," Chavez said. "I lost more than my brother that day. I lost my hero."
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Wilson said he dodged at least six bullets before he managed to pull his own single-shot rifle out from under his bed and kill the shooter. While the Senate hopeful did not specifically name his mother as his attacker during the July 9 event, he said in a follow-up interview with the Associated Press that he is not trying to hide anything.
He wrote about the incident in his 2012 book “Bobby's Trials” and his campaign website also identifies his “deranged mother” as his attacker. Wilson said she was “insane” and shot at him while he was in bed in their Oklahoma farmhouse in 1963.
“She tried to murder her children in the early hours of the morning and only Bobby survived the deadly chaos that followed,” his bio reads. His sister died that night and his house also burnt down.
“I’m lucky to be alive twice over,” he said, telling crowds that he is living example that a “good guy with a gun” does provide safety and security.
The Arizona Republic reported that Wilson was imprisoned following the deaths, but after two trials, the court eventually dismissed the case in the early 70s. Wilson said he never confessed to anything at the time though, as he had amnesia and did not fully piece the incident together until years later.
Jacob Martinez, an organizer with March for Our Lives AZ, alternatively suggested that the Republican’s experiences emphasize the importance of locking up guns and providing emotional care and help to those who may need it.
“He should know better than anybody that something needs to be done,” Martinez said. “The fact that he can’t acknowledge that speaks volumes.”
Rep. Daniel Hernandez, a Democrat who represents the same district Wilson is running in, said the remarks left most present in shock. Many people at the forum had been gun violence survivors, including Gabby Giffords — a former congresswoman who was shot in Tuscon in 2011.
Hernandez said Wilson also discussed the shooting, saying that Giffords should’ve had security with her.
“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,” he said.
Wilson however, has remained mostly unfazed by the criticism. The night of the forum he wrote on his Facebook page that he was the only Republican candidate with the “guts to appear.” I was greeted with boos and catcalls,” he said. “Loved it!”
Over the weekend he called on his supporters to purchase newspapers detailing his “defense of gun rights, Second Amendment before a crowd of angry Trump haters. Even Gabby Giffords was there,” he noted. But by Tuesday, Wilson seemed weary of the attention his remarks were getting.
“I know how President Trump feels now with all the fake news stories making the rounds on me,” he posted late last night. “Oh well; as he said there is no such thing as bad publishity. [sic] Guess I will run for President one of these days!”
Wilson, who moved to Arizona in the mid-1990s, is running for a seat currently held by Democrat Sen. Andrea Dalessandro.