Sheriff’s Thoughtful Remarks On Gifford’s Shooting Spark Debate

It's not the first time Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has taken a bold stance against bigotry in the state.

By Julianne Hing Jan 10, 2011

The shock of this weekend’s shooting spree in Arizona has yet to wear off, but in the race to make sense of alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner’s motivations, the debate has already become intensely political.

Out of the furor of voices came some thoughtful words this weekend from Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who said at a press conference this weekend that the anti-immigrant political climate in Arizona could have influenced Loughner.

When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl responded on Sunday, the Huffington Post reports, calling Dupnik’s remarks "inappropriate." Kyl said:

First, I didn’t really think that that had any part in a law enforcement briefing last night. It was speculation. 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 he was very mentally unstable as was pointed out in the piece.

It’s probably giving him too much credit to ascribe a coherent political philosophy to him. We just have to acknowledge that there are mentally unstable people in this country. Who knows what motivates them to do what they do? Then they commit terrible crimes like this. I would just note Gabrielle Giffords, a fine representative from Tucson, I think would be the first to say don’t rush to judgment here.

Dupnik and Kyl disagree about other things, too. Kyl is an outspoken proponent of harsher immigration enforcement, while Dupnik also made headlines last year for saying he would not enforce SB 1070.