Gabrielle Giffords Tucson Shooting Puts Arizona's Gun Culture in Spotlight

The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords shines a harsh light on guns in Arizona.

Jan. 10, 2011— -- In the aftermath of Saturday's Tucson shooting that has left six dead and Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords clinging to life, many are looking at who and what is to blame in the world of Arizona's politics and gun control.

From Arizona's permissive gun laws to the toxic, us-versus-them environment that has permeated U.S. political discourse, political figures, pundits and the police have begun to point fingers.

Arizona's gun laws are among the nation's least restrictive – where guns are allowed in public spaces and buildings and concealed weapons can be carried without a permit by those qualified to own a gun.

"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," Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said at a press conference Sunday.

Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, is pointing to heightened language of discourse across the political spectrum, and reminding leaders that words have actions.

"We have a society that is trained to hate their government, and whether Rep. Giffords was shot because of her positions or whatever is irrelevant," Cleaver said.

"There is a great deal of animosity between elected officials and their constituency, we have created a monster," he added.

Fighting the "Monster"

Congresswoman Giffords had encountered that monster before.

In 2009, someone left a gun at one of her town hall meetings on health care reform.

Giffords refused to let the strong feelings of her constituents intimidate her.

"My belief is you've got to do your job, your job is to be a representative, and that's not just a job title, that's a job description. So if you're gonna represent people, you've got to get out and understand what they're thinking," she said at the time.

Giffords counts herself an opponent of gun control. In fact, she owns a Glock 9MM handgun -- like the weapon used to shoot her.

But Giffords herself has been critical of inflammatory political rhetoric.

Last Spring, she spoke out after Sarah Palin's political action committee put her district in the "crosshairs"ad.

"When people do that they've got to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said.

Days earlier, someone shot out the glass door of her Arizona office. No one was injured.

The ad now dominates the political debate even though no connection appears to tie it with the Tucson shooting.

Public Views on Gun Violence and Control

While the Tucson shooting brings the issue of the gun violence back to the forefront of the gun control debate, national polls provide an interesting perspective.

Seven in 10 Americans in a recent Gallup poll opposed banning handgun ownership - a position that's grown in recent years according to ABC News' pollster Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates.

But views differ on some specifics.

A majority of Americans have supported banning semi-automatic handguns, the same kind used in Saturday's attack.

There's been broad support to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people.

However, Americans overwhelmingly see gun ownership as a constitutional right, and express doubt that the availability of guns is the primary cause of gun violence.

Heinous crimes involving guns have not prompted more support for gun control laws in general.

Polls actually show the contrary, with public opinion shifting to more opposition to stricter gun laws over the years.

In an October Gallup poll, 44 percent of Americans favored stricter gun laws - tying the low and down from 78 percent from when the question was first posed in 1990.

ABC News' Chuck Sivertsen and Leezel Tanglao contributed to this report.