February 9, 2011 9:56:00 AM
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- An Alabama legislator who told a Republican audience it was time to "empty the clip" when addressing illegal immigration said Tuesday he wasn''t advocating violence, but others found his remarks frightening and reckless after a deadly Arizona rampage.
Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said he used the phrase "empty the clip" in a speech Saturday to the Cullman County Republican Club, but not in the sense of firing all the ammunition in an automatic or semiautomatic weapon.
He said he was trying to demonstrate that it will take a wide array of government action rather than a single bill to solve illegal immigration and several other problems faced by Alabama.
"It was a metaphor and anyone who thinks that advocates violence, their sanity probably needs to be questioned," he said in an interview.
Beason, one of Alabama''s most outspoken legislators on immigration, has blamed Democrats in the past for killing his bills. Now that Republicans are in the majority and Beason chairs the powerful Rules Committee, he has promised a new push when the Legislature convenes March 1.
His remarks Saturday about immigration were first reported by The Cullman Times.
"Democrats do not want to solve the illegal immigration problem because they know, this is a fact, that when more illegal immigrants move into an area, when their children grow up and get the chance to vote, they vote for Democrats," he said Saturday.
Beason ended his speech by advising Republicans to "empty the clip, and do whatever has to be done."
State Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy said the remark was "reckless rhetoric," considering a gunman used a semiautomatic pistol with a 33-round clip to kill six people and wound 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz.
"Senator Beason''s remarks in Cullman were unnecessary and dangerous, particularly in light of the recent tragic shootings in Tucson," Kennedy said.
Immigration advocate Helen Rivas of Birmingham called Beason''s choice of words frightening.
"When I first read it, I was shaking," she said.
She said the remarks were especially troubling because Beason chose to make them in Cullman, an overwhelmingly white city that once was known as a "sundown town" because blacks feared being their after sunset. She said some of those attitudes still exist toward immigrants.
"Some are afraid when they see people who don''t look like them," Rivas said.
Beason said he made the comment after telling a story about a family visiting a big city and being approached by an armed robber. He said a Democratic father would sympathize with the bandit and try to help him. Another father might pull a gun and fire one shot to stop the robbery. But another father might empty his clip to protect his family.
"It was about doing everything you can," he said.