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State Rep. Nate Bell Criticized for ‘Boston Liberals’ Tweet

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LITTLE ROCK – An Arkansas lawmaker apologized Friday for the timing – but not the content – of his tweet that questioned whether “Boston liberals” wished they had an assault weapon to protect themselves while police searched for a Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

On Friday morning, Republican Rep. Nate Bell posted on Twitter: “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?”

Bell’s comments rapidly spread online, as police hunted for a suspect in Monday’s bombing that killed three. He was quickly criticized by top Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature.

“I don’t regret the content as much as I regret the timing,” Bell, R-Mena, told The Associated Press. “I really didn’t think about it going to Boston and was generally expressing my personal view of how I would have felt in that situation myself.”

In the interview and in a prepared statement he sent out, Bell said that he was expressing his views on gun rights and regretted sending it while the manhunt was still unfolding.

“I was basically just expressing my frustration, I guess, if I had been a person who was living there last night and my elected officials had prevented me from being able to defend myself and my family,” Bell told the AP. “I would have felt pretty powerless and wanted to express that.”

House Speaker Davy Carter apologized to Boston on Friday for Bell’s remark, which he called “inappropriate and insensitive.”

“I can assure the people of Boston and the people of Massachusetts that Arkansans have them in their thoughts and prayers during this tragic time,” Carter, R-Cabot, said in a statement released by his office.

The top Democrat in the House called Bell’s comments “tasteless.”

“The people of Boston are not cowards. They are patriots,” House Minority Leader Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said in a statement issued by state Democratic Party. “No one, including Rep. Bell, should ever infer that the American people are anything other than courageous, and the only words we should be offering to the people of Boston are those of support and of prayer.”

House GOP leaders also distanced themselves from Bell’s remark.

“Rep. Bell’s remarks do not reflect our caucus’ position,” House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said in a statement released by the caucus. “Politics shouldn’t be the focus of the terror attack in Boston, and all Members, political parties, and pundits should remember that. “

The tweet was not the first time Bell’s online musings have attracted criticism. In 2011, state Democrats called on Bell to apologize for writing on Facebook that “comparing Dems to Nazis is wayyyy to easy” and cited Democratic-backed legislation. Bell later said he wasn’t calling Democrats Nazis.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.)

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