US Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others were shot today at a Democratic constituent meeting in Arizona. The shooting rampage has left 6 dead, including a 9-year-old girl, and 14 others wounded. Congresswoman Giffords is undergoing surgery after suffering a shot to the head. Police have arrested a 22-year old male suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, and are looking for a second person-of-interest. Police believe the shooting was an assassination attempt directed at Congresswoman Giffords.
US District Judge John Roll was killed in the attack. Judge Roll, appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, famously presided over a civil rights lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants in 2009. After he certified the case, saying it could go through, he began receiving death threats and he and his family went under protection for a month. US Marshal David Gonzales said after talk-radio hosts cranked up the controversy, it spurred audiences into making threats. The judge received hundreds of death threats throughout the Arizona illegal immigration controversy.
President Obama spoke of the shooting, calling it an “unspeakable tragedy.” He also said that “such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society.”
Congresswoman Giffords was one of several candidates featured in a Sarah Palin attack ad featuring gun scope crosshairs over their districts.
No one should seek political gain out of a tragedy such as this. If this attacker had targeted a Republican politician, I would be just as outraged. But, we must stop the build-up of aggression in our political system. Many politicians and political spectators, such as Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and many “Tea Party” leaders have begun using increasingly violent imagery in their political messages. Followers have been told to “lock and load”, seen political opponents under gun scope crosshairs, and been urged to stop them “by any means necessary”.
I implore everyone to reject violent, angry, and fear-mongering political messages. Many will try to manipulate you in to forgetting we live in a democratic society. We have rights. Yes, we have our disagreements, but we must solve them through the democratic process, through rational debate.
I urge the Republican Party to reject the voices that spew messages of hate and fear. Republicans and Democrats must stand together against violence. While I repeat that no one should seek political gain from a tragedy such as this, we should not forget the warnings that came with every one of these incendiary political ads. Many in the media, bloggers, and politicians spoke out against this dangerous escalation of our political discord.
Here is a passionate plea from MSNBC host Keith Olbermann to reject calls to violence, and violent imagery from our politics.