Don't Rush to Politicize Arizona Shooting

Wait until we have all the facts before making this just another act in our awful politics.


A monstrous act was committed in Tucson this morning. This is what we know from news reports: Someone with a gun opened fire at a constituent event which Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was holding at a grocery store. Giffords was among those shot.

This remains uncertain or entirely unknown: How many victims this tragedy will claim, whether the congresswoman will pull through, the identity of the shooter—reportedly taken into custody—and their motivation.

This last is an especially important point right now. People are pointing out that Giffords’s 2010 opponent had an M-16 rifle shooting event to rally supporters against her over the summer; and that the congresswoman was on Sarah Palin’s famous congressional target list, illustrated with cross-hairs aimed at congressional districts on a map of the United States. Speculation has already begun that this murderer must be a right-winger, a gun nut, a Tea Partyer. And they very well may be. Or their twisted reasons for this act could be unrelated to politics or come from a different political view. But right now we just don’t know. [Photo Gallery: Gabrielle Giffords Shooting in Arizona.]

We’ll find out soon enough. But leaping immediately to assign political blame to this tragedy distracts from and cheapens this morning’s events by making them yet another act in a political process that seems ready to spin out of control at the margins.

There will be time for politics. When the shooter’s story comes out we will all have the opportunity to argue about what drove them to this heinous act and—if these speculations are born out—examine whether our politics really has spun out of control at the fringe and to what extent the wink, nod, and dog whistle crowd in the mainstream are culpable for this.

In the mean time we can only hope and pray for Gabrielle and the other victims, and their families. I met her several years back when we were both on a young leaders’ trip to Switzerland, two in a small handful of Democrats in a predominately conservative group. I’ve counted her as a friend since and followed her ascension to Congress with delight. Like many modern friendships, ours has mostly been sustained with the occasional E-mail exchange; I haven’t seen Gabrielle in years—I can only hope I get to again.

Update: Details about the alleged shooter are starting to emerge.

Sunday update: Here's the latest, from Face the Nation, with more details about the alleged shooter.

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