Arizona Sheriff Slams Right-Wing Media and Gun Laws: "Arizona Victimized by Gun Lobby" ... Conservative Media "Make Millions Inflaming Public"
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Editor's note: In the interview below, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman talks to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik about the right wing media's violent rhetoric. Dupnik also slams Arizona's lax gun laws, calling the state the "Tombstone of the United States." The first segment consists of comments from Dupnik's press conference; in the second part Goodman asks the Sheriff to elaborate on his argument that the tragedy highlights the real-world dangers of extreme right-wing talk.
The court documents filed Sunday suggest that the attempted assassination of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was premeditated. While the motivation for the attack remains unclear, the picture emerging of the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, is of a severely disturbed 22-year-old with mental health issues. We speak with Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.
AMY GOODMAN: As we talk about terror in Tucson, the attack on people in Tucson who had come simply to speak with their Congress member, to speak with Gabrielle Giffords. She was shot through the head. A federal judge was killed, John Roll, as well as a number of bystanders. Many are also injured.
One of the major news conferences that was held this weekend was with the FBI director Robert Mueller. Extremely rare in an attack like this for an FBI director himself to come out to lead the investigation. He stood with Clarence Dupnik, who wrapped up the press conference. We’re going to go to a clip of what the Sheriff of Pima County had to say and then go to him live in Tucson, Arizona. This is Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.
REPORTER: You’re a Democrat, and this is obviously more than just another case that came by your office, under you. You know these people, several of them, for a long time. I’ve seen you at functions with Gabby, and parties, when you guys both won. Tell us a little about your personal feelings on this matter.
SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: Well, it’s very hard. I have a—I vacillate between extreme sadness and sorrow and shock and extreme anger.
REPORTER: Sheriff, I would like for you to [inaudible] your own comment, that freedom of speech does not come without consequences. Do you care to clarify that or elaborate on that?
SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: Could you ask the question again, please?
REPORTER: Certainly. Last night you made a pretty general statement that freedom of speech does not come without consequences. Do you care to elaborate on that?
SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: Well, I think that when the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates, and to try to inflame the public on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, has impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with.
REPORTER: Does he have an attorney, [inaudible]?
SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: I don’t know.
REPORTER: On Loughner and his criminal past, is it something that came up in background checks when he applied for—when he bought the pistol?
SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: I do not know the answer to that question.
REPORTER: Sheriff, what are your observations about the state of the Arizona gun laws in light of what happened?
SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: Well, I think we’re the tombstone of the United States of America.
REPORTER: Could you explain?
REPORTER: Was that a reference to the town, Sheriff, or is that metaphorical?
SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK: I have never been a proponent of letting everybody in this state carry weapons under any circumstances that they want. And that’s almost where we are. The legislature at this time is proposing that students and teachers be allowed to have weapons in schools and in college. You know, colleges ought to be run by the college presidents, not the Arizona legislature. But that’s the ridiculous state to where we have become. And we have one more question.