Larry McMurtry on Tucson, guns and Dupnik

by David Safier

Larry McMurtry has lived in Tucson, he writes, " for most of the past 30 years," which I didn't know. But I do know his literary output, which includes "Lonesome Dove," "Last Picture Show," "Horseman, Pass By" (adapted for the screen as "Hud"), "Terms of Endearment" — a total of 30 novels. He's also a gun owner.

Here are some passages from his Thursday op ed in the Washington Post:

[Clarence] Dupnik has been elected eight times; few residents of Pima County can remember a time when he wasn't sheriff. He has been roundly criticized for his strictures about rabid speech. I thought that he was magnificent and his point obvious. Ask the Indians and the Mexicans; the latter are usually referred to as "illegal aliens," though none of them comes from outer space.

Dupnik is accused of being hard on Tucson, though he wasn't, particularly. I have lived in Tucson for most of the past 30 years and I love it. The barrio is elegant; there's good adobe; the Mexican food is excellent, particularly on the south side.

But I wouldn't call it easy, and I wouldn't call it safe.


It was from Tucson, in 1871, that the perpetrators of the Camp Grant massacre – more than 100 Apache women and children were clubbed to death – set out, and it was in Tucson that a hundred of the killers, at the insistence of President Ulysses S. Grant, were put on trial and acquitted in 19 minutes. The killers stole 27 Apache children, only six of whom were returned. This border has always been cruel.

In tourist Tucson you miss all this. The city does possess some Sonoran charm, though I would not call Sonora particularly safe, either.

The folks who run Tucson naturally do not want it compared to Tombstone, a mining community that, like other mining towns in Arizona, has always been hard. Tombstone, on Oct. 26, 1881, was the site of the most famous gunfight in American history – an accident, really. The three available Earp brothers – Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt – plus their friend Doc Holliday, merely wanted to run the troublesome Clantons out of town. But someone panicked, and the balloon, as we now say, went up.

Even so, only three people died, whereas Loughner alone accounted for six in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains.

0 responses to “Larry McMurtry on Tucson, guns and Dupnik

  1. Reviewing, Sheriff Dupnik’s words from the initial press conference, he referred to Arizona, not Tucson, per se, as being the ‘Mecca’

    “When you look at unbalanced people, 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.”

    Also, he didn’t refer to any of the right wing talking heads or the Tea Party and yet they were the ones who cried foul immediately.

  2. Larry McMurtry is a part-time resident of Tucson who has many friends here. I think he actually took up, or at least considered taking up, full-time residence here during the 1990s when he had the bookstore on North Stone Avenue.

    His son James, a fairly successful musician, also spends a lot of time here.