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Voices From Arizona

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OSCAR LEON (VOICEOVER), TRNN: On January 8, in the corner of West Ina Road and Oracle in suburban Tucson outside a Walgreens store, a gunman suddenly unleashed hell on the people that attended an event called "Congress on Your Corner". Jared Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head before killing six other people. Congresswoman Giffords survived the attack. As America felt the shock, one of the voices that were most revealing was the one of Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a personal friend of Giffords and Judge John McCarthy Roll.

SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK, PIMA COUNTY, ARIZONA: But again I’d just like to say that when you look at unbalanced people, how they are–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.

LEON: After these strong statements by the sheriff, I attended the event "Together We Thrive" to find out what the Tucsonians have to say about this.

UNIDENTIFIED: Yeah, I do think the media has had a negative impact on everything that’s been going on here. And the TV, definitely. It’s, like, very different here lately when it comes to politics. It’s been very different. And for us, that we live here.

UNIDENTIFIED: No, I think it’s very out of hand, and I think that Sheriff Dupnik spoke the truth when he said that we need to tone down the tearing down the government, we need to tone down the hatred and animosity, ’cause it doesn’t do anything for anybody, it doesn’t bring any help. And that’s a big part of the reason why we came down here today, to support, to try and bring the city back together.

UNIDENTIFIED: It has become a mecca for racism, bigotry, and hatred. It’s divided friends and neighbors. It’s been that heated. I personally within the past couple of years have felt the–you just feel the whole pressure, the whole negativity across–everywhere you go.

UNIDENTIFIED: It could happen anywhere. So, I mean, I don’t know why it’s fair to say the political "mecca" even, ’cause why does Mecca have anything to do with this?

UNIDENTIFIED: Politics in Arizona are absolutely crazy beyond all belief. Tucson, I feel like, is more a mellow, you know, more liberal city. You know, Phoenix is where things like this happen.

UNIDENTIFIED: I think considering this year’s election it’s justified to say that, how much propaganda and lies there were behind the candidates that were running. But I’d say overall we’re not the capital of bigotry. I think there’s other states that represent that better than Arizona. I’d say if gun laws continue to get more lax, it’s definitely–there’s potential for there to be more problems, like, considering how lax the gun laws already are. But at the same time, I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to learn the responsibility that comes with owning a gun. I don’t necessarily think that owning a gun leads to this sort of thing. I think it’s the person behind the gun. I think the media has a lot to do with the animosity that people feel towards the government also, just because there’s so much propaganda with the right and the left, especially in Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED: I feel safe in America, but there’s just a lot of people out–there’s a certain few out there who just don’t like us, and it’s hurting America as a whole.

UNIDENTIFIED: I would say maybe in other parts of Arizona, but not in Tucson. People are generally really cool with one another out here. I’ve found it to be a very accepting and just a great place to live. I didn’t have–. But I do know what the sheriff was talking about. That sort of vitriol he was speaking of is definitely permeated some of Arizona politics.

UNIDENTIFIED: But I don’t think Tucson is the capital. But the United States has a lot of rhetoric and vitriol right now within politics, and I think right now it’s a time to reflect on the attitudes that both parties have. I think it’s–we–both parties should reflect on their behaviors and we should change our attitudes toward parties. We shouldn’t see each other as enemies but friends working together.

UNIDENTIFIED: I think Sheriff Dupnik said the right things. I think, you know, that does capture a feeling of a lot of our community. And this gentleman, you know, obviously he was mentally ill. Whether he was motivated by politics or not I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t help it, because the things that are being said in the political arena are very negative and very aggressive, and I’m sure that contributes to it.

UNIDENTIFIED: I think we all have our preconceived notions of people. And when the media is portraying people in a bad light, it’s very easy to make our emotions double, you know, to increase them in intensity, possibly even leading someone to do something like what happened here. You know, in the proximity that we are to Mexico and with all of the racial tensions that are around here, I absolutely think that we are the center of it. You never hear people complaining about Canadians who are immigrating here; it’s always Hispanic people. And I think that we are indeed the very center of the problem here, of the political heat for immigration.

UNIDENTIFIED: I think it is. It is. There’s so much hatred with living on the border. The whole immigration issues, everything that’s happening right now, the whole eyes, news, everything is here in Arizona. And that’s probably true. Just before the shooting, you had the big incident happening on the border with a border patrol agent shooting a 15- or 16-year-old kid crossing from Nogales, Sorona, to Nogales, Arizona. So, I mean, I think that kind of sparked, and now this is happening, so it could be.

UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The way that we as Latinos have been criminalized in Arizona, imagine if the shooter was Latino. We will be executed by now.

UNIDENTIFIED: I don’t know if it’s the capital, but things have gotten ugly. Things have definitely–politically, the language, the ideas that people are talking about are just getting too extreme, I think. There’s a culture of violence in this country, and gun–so many people have guns in this country. They are too easy to access.

UNIDENTIFIED: You know what? The media is doing its job. And it’s the government’s job to get out there and talk to the people, and I think Congresswoman Giffords was doing just that. And whether–I don’t think the media had a big influence on it. I think just with social networking and just how the Internet is with blogging, you can’t control that. That isn’t the media. That’s just everyday people going online and speaking their mind.

UNIDENTIFIED: I think there’s animosity. There’s definitely a lot of animosity in Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED: I think we take the Constitution a little too much at heart, and they try and nitpick at every little thing, and just they’ve got to remember that everyone’s equal.

UNIDENTIFIED: I mean, I think Arizona as a state, being a state that allows you to conceal and carry a weapon pretty much anywhere, you know, including grocery stores and malls, things like that–bars you can conceal and carry a weapon–you know, that might be something that needs to be looked at a little bit more seriously when we have events that happen like this.

UNIDENTIFIED: I think it’s important for us to stop, look, and listen to what the community is saying and really listen to our people. And then we can make a change positively.

UNIDENTIFIED: –and it has nothing to do with politics, and he was completely wrong in his views on the issue. It’s one person that was violent, and he chose to act out in an unlawful way. So it has nothing to do with politics.

UNIDENTIFIED: For us, and not only for a lot of people in the country, but for a law enforcement official, specifically Clarence Dupnik, to politicize this before we knew anything about the individual I think really cast a bad shadow on Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED: Just because people are drinking and driving doesn’t mean we make driving illegal or drinking illegal. I mean, just because a couple of people screw up doesn’t mean we should limit and restrain all the people that actually follow laws and abide by and are given and who have fought for our Second Amendment.

UNIDENTIFIED: I think the media does the best job that they are able to, but the whole truth is never portrayed in the idiot box. What happened to bring me your poor, your tired, your wretched masses, yearning to be free? And now it says "no vacancies". Screw that. We can lose–like, we can lose the wall. We can lose the wall. Why don’t we just make it a state?

UNIDENTIFIED: City perhaps, but I also feel the Senate Bill 1070 brought a lot of negative animosity to groups of people, and now they’re–it gave them an incentive to come out and act in negative ways and say negative things and be racist. And maybe this is what caused Gabrielle Giffords and those other victims to undergo this tragedy.

End of Transcript

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