"The last thing we want people to think is that this is one big shooting gallery. It's not, it's a good place to live and raise your kids and retire."
Thorpe said he's not suggesting that lawmakers come to work armed, as some have done in recent years. He just said he believed fellow legislators might feel safer in some situations with body armor.
Thorpe said he understands that some might criticize the move, especially since the Legislature has rejected every effort to tighten gun laws in Arizona in recent years. But he said his view is that mental health issues are behind most violent events, like Giffords' shooting.
"I support people owning guns and doing that lawfully, but we've got some wackos out there," he said.
Thorpe said he's supporting a stalled effort in the state Legislature to appropriate $250,000 to expand a program to train teachers, first-responders and others to recognize people having a mental health crisis and intervene. Giffords' attacker, Jared Lee Loughner, suffered from mental illness.
While rejecting gun control measures, he said he's open to more action on keeping the mentally ill from obtaining guns.
"I'm very interested in trying to pass some piece of legislation which would cause our government officials, whether its teachers or law enforcement, to keep track of people where's there's red flags being raised," he said. "And that certainly didn't happen with Loughner."