Rep. Allen West decries ‘opportunism’ in wake of Arizona shooting; has no plans to change rhetoricby George Bennett | January 11th, 2011
Within hours of the shooting that killed six and critically injured Giffords, some commentators placed the massacre in the context of the nation’s heated political climate and blamed the tea party movement, Sarah Palin and other conservatives although no public evidence has suggested accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner was associated with or sympathetic to any of them. Some critics pointed to West’s own words — such as saying citizens must be “well-informed and well-armed because this government that we have now is a tyrannical government” — as contributing to that climate.
West has rejected such criticism and accused those making it of trying to score political points.
“One of the concerns I do have is the political opportunism that has come out of this. That’s kind of deplorable and unconscionable what some people are doing. This is not the time to start looking for grandstanding and things of that nature,” West said on his way into a West Boca Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Boca Lago Country Club.
Asked if he had any regrets about his choice of words in the past, West said, “No I don’t, because I think when you look at the president saying don’t bring a knife to a gun fight and the fact that the president talked about if the Republicans were to win in the midterms we’re going to have hand-to-hand combat.”
He also said a blogger in Broward County had once said West should be skinned alive, so “I think there are some things that both sides need to be concerned about.”
West, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, has said his references to “bayonets” and military imagery are metaphorical — and he has no plans to stop using them.
“Now that I’ve been sworn into Congress I’m still the type of person that, if there are means by which I can inspire people, I will use historical references and metaphors, which is what I have done. But my background is, I am a tough guy and in tough times we have to use a little bit of stronger language when you start talking about the future legacy of my country,” West said.
“Look, I’m not anyone that anyone should be concerned about. I’m just an everyday guy.”
West told the breakfast that he’ll consider greater security at meetings with constituents, but “we cannot allow those events (in Arizona) to separate us from our constituents…..It’s not so much about my protection. It’s about your protection. I want to make sure that you can come out in a free and safe environment.”
West told reporters that he has a concealed weapons permit “and so when it’s appropriate I make sure that I take the necessary precautions. I’m not so much worried about my own protection, I’m worried about the protection of the constituents.”
West said he wasn’t armed at today’s event. At least two of West’s colleagues — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Heath Shuler, D-N.C. — have said they’ll consider arming themselves at constituent events.