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Arizona Sheriff Slams Right-Wing Media and Gun Laws: "Arizona Victimized by Gun Lobby" ... Conservative Media "Make Millions Inflaming Public"

Arizona Sheriff Dupnik stood by earlier comments that the right-wing has created a climate of hate that can lead individuals to violence.

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AMY GOODMAN: Sheriff Dupnik, I want to play a clip of Republican senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. He was interviewed on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. Bob Schieffer questioned him about your comments.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The Sheriff of Pima County blamed the vitriolic political rhetoric that has consumed the country—that is his phrase—for this happening. Do you feel that that was a part of this?

SEN. JON KYL: First, I didn’t really think that that had any part in a law enforcement briefing last night. It was speculation. And I don’t think we should rush to speculate. I thought that the report that we just saw from Tucson seems to have it about right. We really don’t know what motivated this young person, except to know that he was very mentally unstable.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, your senator, Sheriff Dupnik. Sheriff Dupnik, your response?

SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: My response is, precisely what I said before, I stand by. In my judgment, people who are mentally unstable are very susceptible to the kind of rhetoric that’s going on in our country. And I think that we all have a responsibility to take a look at that. I think it’s sad, the state that America has become, where we have a political system that, in my judgment, is totally broken. And anger plays a large role in the things that are going on. And there are people who play to the anger in our people and who encourage it.

AMY GOODMAN: You made a very important point at the end of this news conference, and it has to do with people who are mentally unstable. I had a few questions to ask you about this.


AMY GOODMAN: One is, what about the fact that Jared Loughner, who was kicked out of Pima County—at least, suspended—Pima County College, as mentally unstable, a potential danger to himself and others, clearly a problem—how was he able to purchase a gun in Tucson?

SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: Well, he could have purchased a gun anywhere in the United States of America, based on the laws that we have. Mental incompetency is a reason to disqualify a person, but you have to be declared mentally incompetent by the court system. And he has not been declared mentally incompetent. And there are millions—maybe I overstate—maybe tens of thousands of people just like this individual in our country that are vulnerable, make our politicians especially vulnerable. I know that in Congress, there’s considerable angst as to what happened in Tucson, Arizona. And I think they all realize that when they’re out of public, they are very rarely—unless there’s some specific information or intelligence that there may be a problem, they are unprotected. And I think that we need to take a look at how we can do a better job in law enforcement of protecting our elected officials and our political figures.

AMY GOODMAN: Sheriff, this is from the Treatment Advocacy Center: "Arizona jails or imprisons 9.3 times more people with severe mental illness than it hospitalizes," the second worst in the nation. "Arizona has 5.9 psychiatric beds per 100,000 population," also the second worst rate in the nation. Nevada is worse on both scores. "Arizona is home to more than 50,000 people with schizophrenia, of whom a minimum of 25,000 are likely to be untreated at any given time."

You talked about how times have changed as you’ve been in law enforcement for decades, more than half a century.

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