Our country has once again been shocked by gun violence. A young man and possible co-assailant (I am purposely not adding to the publicity the young man is getting by not naming him) allegedly opened fire with an semi-automatic weapon with extra clips. In a matter of seconds, he shot about 25 people who had gathered at a grocery store for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s meeting with constituents. At least 5 people were killed, including 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, U.S. District Court Judge John Roll and Gabe Zimmerman (Gifford’s director of community outreach who was engaged to be married.)
(Update 1/10/11) It seems that the alleged shooter had been influenced by the vitriol spewed in the last campaign, intolerance of those supporting health care reform, and websites listing political targets of Tea Party some leaders, including the site of former Alaskan Gov Sarah Palin. (Please note I said seems, as we won’t know what motivated him until the suspect talks.) Although it now seems that the alleged gunman may or may not have been directly influenced by intolerant and violent speech and behavior, such speech has impacted people in the past. For example, take a look at the Insurrection Timeline – a website which lists instances when vitriol contributed to violent actions.
It seems to me that in recent years political reporting (esp on the 24 news channels) and political discourse has focused on accusations, yelling, over simplifications and pointing fingers. The price for this trend may have begun to reveal itself with violence like what happened today.
As the Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik (the county where the shooting occurred) said,
”When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” the sheriff said. “And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”
Proverbs 18:21 teaches us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. I hope that Sheriff Dupnik’s words lead us to work to end the anger, hatred and bigotry so prevalent today.
Most of all I pray for a refuah sheleimah (a complete healing) of Rep. Giffords and all those injured in today’s shooting. I hope and pray that the families of those murdered find strength in one another and that their loved one’s memory is a blessing.