The full spectrum of American politics is outraged and disgusted by Saturday’s shooting in Tucson. A federal judge and nine-year-old girl are dead, among others, and a Congresswoman and others are in critical condition, fighting for their lives. I pray for the victims and their families.
Leaders who are unwilling to denounce hate speech or to adopt policies that curb gun violence cannot gain absolution with condolences and expressions of horror when attacks occur. They may not be directly responsible, but these attacks do not occur in a vacuum. If leaders are held accountable for what happens on their watch, they will be better leaders, and our streets will be safer.
Anyone who says gun violence is "senseless" but cannot support sensible gun regulation should not be taken seriously. Rejecting the culture of hatred and violence has to happen BEFORE an attack takes place. The past year included campaign “target” lists with gun-style crosshairs marking map locations including Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ district; fundraisers where donors got to fire guns at targets with faces including that of Representative Giffords; incendiary rhetoric and pandering legislation allowing Arizona police to stop anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant; a new expansive Arizona law allowing a concealed weapon WITHOUT A PERMIT. Representative Giffords, a centrist Democrat who supported the recent Health Care Reform Bill, is herself a gun owner and gun-rights supporter.
Our national and local rhetoric consistently demonizes political opponents and glorifies the right to violence. The rate of gun deaths in America in 2005 was over 10,000. Sensible gun regulation is just that -- sensible. Calls for violence against the government and its officials -- not just the violence itself -- should be denounced and prosecuted. We need to break free of a political culture driven by fear and threats.