( – promoted by DocHoc)
Oklahoma would do well to learn a lesson from today’s shooting of Arizona congressional representative Gabrielle Giffords.
Today, lone gunman Jared Loughner attended a town meeting, hosted by Rep. Giffords, and opened fire with a handgun. By the time his rampage ended, Loughner killed five people and injured thirteen others. The dead include a nine year old and federal judge John M Roll. No doubt, in the days ahead, we will learn more about Mr. Loughner; but for now; we can deduce from his YouTube videos that Loughner was a disturbed young man with an obsession over illegal immigration and illiteracy. Representative Giffords, who opposed Arizona’s legislation calling it “extreme” became an all too easy target.
The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords didn’t occur in a vacuum; it happened in a larger political context where public anger, resentment and inflammatory rhetoric, fanned by Arizona public officials and the state’s extreme right, lit the spark of a volatile powder keg.
Representative Giffords faced unprecedented opposition for her congressional seat–especially from the Arizona Tea Party and Republican Jesse Kelly. The Tea Party, known for their fiery rhetoric and name-calling, most recently placed Representative Giffords on Sarah Palin’s Target Map illustrated with a rifle scope.
The use of guns in political discussion has become standard fare in Arizona-especially among Tea Party Candidates. At a recent Tea Party rally held on the Arizona-Mexico border in support of 1070, former Senator Pam Gorman wore a gun and shoulder holster. In June, as part of Republican Jesse Kelly’s election campaign against Representative Giffords, he held an event encouraging voters to come and shoot an Automatic M-16 to “Get on target and remove Gabrielle Giffords from office.”
The use of fiery rhetoric and guns in political discourse, coupled with Arizona’s new gun laws, which allow citizens, including deranged ones, to carry concealed weapons without a permit, creates an even more volatile situation where people are all but encouraged to enforce personal justice at the point of a gun.
Oklahoma needs to learn a lesson from today’s shooting. Like Arizona, our state’s Republican leadership has been actively engaged in fanning the flames of resentment and anger towards undocumented peoples. As in Arizona, our leaders have used this issue as a scapegoat for our problems-all the while seeking political advantage. Even now, as the state’s harsh anti-immigration laws seems to be winding down from its 15 minutes of fame, representatives, like Republican Randy Terrill, seek to gain additional political advantage by writing even more anti-immigration legislation. Additionally, our political leadership has brought national shame upon our state by passing anti-Sharia legislation–which singled the Muslim minorities of the state to hatred and ill will.
Even now, as in Arizona, leaders of our state legislation have stated their intention to change the state’s conceal and carry law for handguns. Fiery rhetoric, hate speech and easy access to weapons-we saw what that did today. If we’re not careful, incidents like the shooting of Representative Giffords will become increasingly common.