Tucson shootings: One year later, has America learned anything?

The deadly rampage left six people dead, and nearly killed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Now, the tragedy's anniversary is prompting a fresh round of soul-searching

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) smiled after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at a memorial service Sunday that marked the anniversary of last year's deadly Tucson shooting.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Laura Segall)

A year after suffering a near-fatal gunshot wound to the head, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) led hundreds of people in the Pledge of Allegiance on Sunday in an emotional ceremony marking the first anniversary of the Tucson shootings. Many participants wept as two 10-year-olds talked about their friend, Christina-Taylor Green, who was one of the six people killed. Some cheered as Giffords' husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, said that the 13 people who survived their injuries proved that "alongside human frailty there is also strength." In the wake of the tragedy, politicians and citizens alike swore that they'd disavow violent rhetoric and adopt more respectful tones. But a year later, has the nation really matured?

Yes. This tragedy served as a wake-up call: "The Giffords shooting helped create an abrupt sobering-up of the public dialogue," says Tom Zoellner at The Daily Beast. Tucson's last city elections "passed with hardly an ill-tempered word spoken." The man behind Arizona's "roiling battles over immigration," former state Senate president Russell Pearce, was booted by his own constituents, and tough-guy Sheriff Joe Arpaio's stock is falling. Tensions remain, but the rhetoric has cooled — and that's a start.

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