The attack today on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords left 6 dead, including a nine year old girl, and 18 wounded. The congresswoman, who had been reported killed by NPR and other media outlets, survived and is in ICU after being shot in the head. U.S. District Judge John Roll is reported to be among the dead. Both Rep. Giffords and Judge Roll have been the target of threats.
An anti-government activist is reported to have been the gunman, according to Slate.
The New York Times reports on threats to Rep. Giffords:
Last March, after the final approval of the Democrats’ health care law, which Ms. Giffords supported, the windows of her office in Tucson were broken or shot out in an act of vandalism. Similar acts were reported by other members of Congress, and several arrests were made, including that of a man who had threatened to kill Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington.
And in August 2009, when there were demonstrations against the health care measure across the nation, a protester who showed up to meet Ms. Giffords at a supermarket event similar to Saturday’s was removed by the police when the pistol he had holstered under his armpit fell and bounced on the floor.
During the fall campaign, Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, posted a controversial map on her Facebook page depicting spots where Democrats were running for re-election; those Democrats were noted by crosshairs symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun. Ms. Giffords was among those on Ms. Palin’s map.
AZCentral.com is also reporting this afternoon that Judge Roll was the target of threats:
In 2009, he faced death threats over a $32 million civil-rights suit filed against an Arizona rancher by illegal immigrants.
At the time, Roll and U.S. Marshal's officials attributed the threats to hysteria from talk radio.
He and his wife were placed under federal protection for a month, a process he described as "unnerving and invasive."
Sources told The Republic that Roll was among the six killed Saturday at Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' event in Tucson.
Judge Roll was appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.
In 2009, as the debate over health reform raged and town hall meetings deteriorated into near brawls, the National Council of Churches issued a statement urging civil discourse:
Individuals cannot express their best hopes and acknowledge their deepest fears within a climate of intimidation and character assassination, and all too often this climate is the product of racism and xenophobia. Too much is at stake for the good of our society for us to continue down this dangerous path. The essential nature of our national compact, to enfranchise the views of all, is imperiled in a hostile and suspicious environment. In this moment, then, we call the members of our churches, our political leaders, and all people of good will to somber reflection on the ways we might restore dignity and civility to our national discourse both as a matter of social ethics and to bolster the highest traditions of democratic process.
The prophet Isaiah (1:18) declares God’s message to the people to “Come let us reason together”. This injunction might serve us well in the present moment. Reason, (yakah), in this passage does not refer to a dispassionate meeting of the minds but, rather calls for convincing, persuading and presenting a case for a point of view. Vigorous, principled debate advances our thinking and clarifies the challenges before us. Respect for neighbor strengthens the fabric of our communities.
Let us then, as a people, draw from our deepest traditions of faith and heritage to gain a renewed sense of community marked by honesty and mutual respect. Let our moments of rigorous debate be tempered with a profound sense of the dignity and worth of each person. Let us debate ideas on their merits and exercise restraint in expression of our own best conceptions. Such a disciplined dialogue holds great promise, honoring our differences and confirming our perception that we are a people joined in our mutual aspiration to live the lives for which we were created.
Let us as member churches and brothers and sisters of other living faiths model the civility to which our sacred texts command. Throughout its history, the conciliar ecumenical movement has provided a common venue for persons to express and debate differing viewpoints in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Let us make clear to ourselves and others those marks of civility that represent the best of our faiths and that can serve as foundational to rigorous, honest public discourse for the common good.
There is too much violence in our society today and politicians like Sarah Palin and media figures like Glenn Beck seek with intention to fan those flames with full knowledge of what the consequences might be. We do not know enough about the alleged gunman to say what set him off on this mass killing spree but we do know that rhetoric can provoke those who are unstable. We need to tone down our politics, tone down our language, keep our political opponents off Palin-style "hit lists," and treat each other with respect and kindness even when we have profound disagreements over public policy or theology. All Americans should pray today for an end to violence and for the families involved in this shooting.
6:34 PM Update: Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik said this evening:
“The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, I think Arizona has become sort of the capital, we have beome the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry...” “There’s reason to believe that this individual might have a mental issue, and I think that people who are unbalanced might be especially susceptible to vitriol.”
In the meantime, the sheriff's office also announced that a search for a possible second suspect was underway.