A Mountain Reflection: Politicizing Arizona Shooting a Mistake

January 12, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

REMEMBERED: A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial near the district office of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), a day after a gunman allegedly opened fire during a public event titled Congress on your Corner outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
REMEMBERED: A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial near the district office of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), a day after a gunman allegedly opened fire during a public event titled Congress on your Corner outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others during a public meeting with constituents in Tucson, on Jan. 8 shocked many Americans, and is a tragedy. As of Monday, the casualty report was 6 dead and 14 wounded.

Giffords, shot in the head at close range, is showing signs of recovery, reportedly giving a thumbs-up to doctors. “Every day that goes by, we are slightly more optimistic,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Lemole, according to an L.A. Times report.

Americans sympathize with the victims, and political sentiments for most of us don't come to mind. When I see this event being used for political reasons to inflame passions, I am disgusted.

The spark came initially from Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. At a weekend press conference with FBI Director Robert Mueller, Dupnik said, “Rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates” impacted “people who are unbalanced personalities.” He was implying suspected shooter Jared Loughner was motivated by political rhetoric.

Sheriff Dupnik, a fellow Democrat in an elected office, attended functions and election victory parties with Giffords, and knew some of the other victims. Obviously, this case has a personal element for Dupnik. He also has a professional responsibility for the murder investigation. FBI head Robert Mueller will oversee the investigation, according to a Department of Justice statement.

In a follow-up interview with Democracy Now!, Dupnik's comments centered on gun legislation, and how TV and radio talk shows and public anger may have incited the shooting incident. The sheriff called Arizona “an ultra-right, ultra-conservative state … victimized by the gun lobby.” He also told ABC news, "He could have purchased this gun in any state. It's not just Arizona."

People commented on a map from last year, marked with crosshairs, posted on Sarah Palin's website. The map shows House seats targeted in the lead-up to Nov. 2010 elections, to complement Palin's pre-election slogan of “Don't retreat; reload.” One of the targets was over Giffords's district.

On CNN's “State of the Nation,” Sen. Dick Durbin referred to Palin's graphic as “toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response.”

Congressman Robert Brady (D-Penn.) wants to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to use symbols or language viewed as threatening toward a legislator or federal official.

An article Monday by The Center for Public Integrity referred to a 2009 Homeland Security (DHS) report warning of future attacks by lone wolves, due to a rise in right-wing extremism. The article said that DHS backed off from the report under criticism from Republicans, “including future House Speaker John Boehner.” It called the report prescient.

What is being asserted is that somehow the Tea Party, conservatism, right-wing political factors and even House Republicans somehow played a role in the senseless murders committed by a man who is mentally unstable, and who praised Hitler’s book Mein Kampf.

This in itself is toxic rhetoric.

The recent elections and shift in legislative power were a statement to Washington to stop partisan bickering (which itself was extreme at times), and start serving the interests of the people.

“Where I come from the person who is actually shooting is culpable,” said aide to Sarah Palin Rebecca Mansour, in a radio interview Saturday night. I agree.

Maybe Loughner did what he is accused of simply because he was a confused nut with violent tendencies. For now, that's where the evidence leads; that is part of this tragic story.

jim.fogarty@epochtimes.com