The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has rattled her colleagues. Some, like Reps. Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), are modifying their own routines (with plans to carry guns to events in their districts, for example) while others are pushing for institutional or legislative changes, including: Increased police protection for lawmakers; new restrictions on certain assault weapons; and even a ban on using threatening language and symbolism against all federal officials, not just the president. Is Congress overreacting to the tragic shooting? (Watch an AP report about Congress on high alert)
Yes. Let's not destroy "everyday democracy:" "I don't want to minimize the awful tragedy in Tucson," says Ezra Klein in The Washington Post, but our response should start with acknowledging "that violent attacks on legislators are very rare." In that light, measures to make "community meetings more difficult and politicians more physically distant from their constituents" would be a step backwards, and an insult to what Giffords was trying to do.
"What the shooting shouldn't change"
But "eliminationist rhetoric" is a growing threat: Attacks may be rare, but threats against members of Congress are up 300 percent, says Paul Krugman in The New York Times. And we shouldn't ignore the cause: The increasingly "toxic rhetoric," overwhelmingly from the right, that urges "beheading," shooting, or otherwise eliminating opponents. There's nothing wrong with mocking and insulting politicians or their ideas, but "there isn't any place for eliminationist rhetoric," period.
"Climate of hate"
No. The real threat is to "free speech:" Here we go again with the "vile recrimination" and "slander of conservatives," says Joe Herring in The American Thinker. Democrats unleashed a similar "pogrom" against their small-government, pro-gun opponents after the Oklahoma City bombing, so it's no shock to see the same bogeyman of violence-inciting rhetoric being used now to kill "any speech or activities" that, like Sarah Palin's crosshairs map, "are effective against their agenda."
"Free speech in the crosshairs"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- Mike Huckabee's head-scratching advice to Christian voters
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- How Scotland's independence movement lost the vote and still won everything
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
- The Tea Party has its own immigration problem: Cuba
- Adrian Peterson and our misguided debate about spanking
Subscribe to the Week