This afternoon at approximately 1:00 p.m. EST, there was a tragic assassination attempt against Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona’s 8th district. The attempt involved a semi-automatic weapon and took place at a supermarket in northwest Tucson, Arizona, where the congresswoman was hosting an event to meet residents of her district, as she has similarly done in the past. Giffords is reportedly in critical condition with a head wound. Six other bystanders were killed, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. The congresswoman recently won her third term in the House with a 2% victory margin. Her previous election victories were both double-digit margins.
The gunman is in custody and has been identified as Jared Loughner, 22. Loughner legally purchased the weapon, which was a Glock 19, on November 30th. Nineteen individuals were wounded in the attack. Further details about the assassination attempt, such as the intent of Loughner, are still unclear as of 8 p.m. EST. Our thoughts and sorrowful sentiments are with Rep. Giffords, the other victims, the families of the victims, and the pursuit of justice.
There hasn’t been an assassination of a congressman since 1978, when a gunman in Guyana shot Democratic Representative Leo Ryan. The last congress member assassinated in the United States occurred in 1968, when a gunman attacked Democratic Senator Robert Kennedy.
Meanwhile, this catastrophic event highlights the political polarization throughout the country. For instance, take a look at the map below, which is a publication from Sarah Palin’s Political Action Committee. As you can see, the map displays districts of Democratic Representatives who voted for the recent health care law in districts that John McCain won in 2008. Though, instead of labeling these twenty districts with a generic symbol, the map utilized crosshairs to label each district, including Rep. Giffords as one of the targets. While Sarah Palin is not in anyway whatsoever connected to this assassination attempt, this map symbolizes the increasingly polarized rhetoric of American political figures. Whether it is on the left or the right, radicals or mentally unstable individuals may easily misconstrue irresponsible and uncivilized discourse such as this.
Rightly so, Palin’s PAC removed the map from its website this afternoon. Though, it is a shame the nation let our discourse devolve to a point where only a horrific event has the ability to prevent political figures from utilizing violent metaphors. Regardless of political affiliation, all public figures have a duty to understand their influence and live up to the highest standards, especially since the growing digital culture only increases this influence. If anything is gained from this tragedy, it would be an evolution of our political rhetoric. Again, our thoughts are with Representative Giffords and the other victims.