Giffords Predecessor: ‘There Isn’t Anything in Arizona That’s Uniquely Different’

Jan 10, 2011 2:40pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords over the weekend has prompted a reexamination of the nation’s gun laws, with a particular focus on Arizona, with its lax laws about gun ownership in addition to its tinderbox politics on immigration and other hot-button issues. But on ABC’s “Top Line” today, former Rep. Jim Kolbe – who represented Giffords’ district in Congress for 22 years before retiring in 2006 – said it’s a mistake to conclude based on this incident that there’s something amiss about Arizona’s culture. “There isn't anything in Arizona that's uniquely different,” said Kolbe, R-Ariz. “We have been the epicenter of the illegal immigration, and the frustration of people about that has been tremendous. There's no question about that. And I agree with the sheriff when he said that our political discourse needs to be cooled down, we need to lower the tone.” “But I think it's a tremendous mistake to link that to this particular incident, which seems to be an incident caused by or undertaken by a seriously deranged young man and doesn't seem to have any kind of connection to a specific political issue.” Kolbe – who has maintained close ties to Giffords and her staff despite being a member of a different political party – said he sees no reason to change Arizona’s gun laws. Attacks like Saturday’s are “the kind of thing that comes with the territory of being in politics,” Kolbe said. But he added that politicians and others should take the moment to reexamine the tone of debate and discussion.  ”There's a tone, a rhetoric that I think we haven't seen before. I don't know what to attribute that to, whether it’s just a kind of a decline in the character of Americans, I don't think that’s the case. I think Internet and communications has a lot to do with it.”  ”People can put the most outrageous things out there, and it feeds on itself. So we do need to lower this tone. We do need to have a civil discourse. We need to be talking about health care, we need to be talking about immigration, but we need to talk about it in a way that leads us to find solutions, not just to try to make hits against each other.”  He also made the point that it’s not realistic to provide “high-level” security for all 535 members of Congress. “There is no possible way you are going to be able to provide security for every member of Congress that you do for a president or a high-level official, even the leadership in the Congress, the speaker and the majority and minority leaders. You just can't do that for 535 other members of the House and Senate.” Watch the “Top Line” segment with former Rep. Jim Kolbe HERE.

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