Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), the six people killed, and the many others injured Saturday morning near a Tucson Safeway are some of the latest victims of the United States’ intense love affair with guns.
I say “some” because we all know that many other lives have been destroyed by gunfire in America since a man with a Glock opened fire at Giffords’s “Congress on Your Corner” event.
Giffords, 40, was unconscious but alive this morning at Tucson’s University Medical Center, where doctors and nurses have been treating her for a shot to the head. A nine-year-old girl who was born the day of the 9/11 terror attacks is among the six fatalities.
“Pundits” and GOP talking heads have been doing their best to dismiss any blame directed at Sarah Palin and Jesse Kelly, Giffords’s Palin-endorsed opponent in last year’s election. The shooter was deranged, they correctly say. Palin and friends can’t be held in any way responsible for what a deranged many does, they add – and that’s where they’re wrong.
Republican/Tea Party scaremongering about government “oppression” pushes all the wrong buttons on people who are on the verge of violence. Palin isn’t the brightest bulb on the chandelier, but surely she can understand that.
As well, gun rhetoric and metaphors are cues to the deranged that gunfire is the remedy to what ails their beloved country. The acceptance and endorsement of firearm actions signal to the unbalanced and angry that pulling a trigger is at least as valid a means to political change as marking a ballot or holding a peaceful rally.
Allow me to point out as a Canadian that guns need not be so important to a country’s political culture. Indeed, some of the background to the Tucson massacre seems bizarre and barabaric from up here.
If a Canadian political leader issued a list of “targets” with a graphic depicting rifle scope crosshairs, she would be roundly condemned for doing so.
If a candidate for Parliament were to hold a gun-centered campaign event with the inducement of getting to fire “a fully automatic M16” – and an opponent’s name cluttered in near the word “target” and after the word “remove” in an event notice – the backlash would be quite damaging to the candidate and his party. In fact, I’m pretty sure such a candidate would be dumped by any mainstream party in Canada.
But not in the United States, where talk of “Second Amendment remedies” and the sight of a protester toting an assault rifle outside an Obama rally get criticized but don’t seem to be a really big deal. It’s quite sad.
In closing, here’s a brief TV news report of one of Giffords’s previous public meet-and-greets – the sort of event that may become a rarity after the Tucson massacre.