Sarah Palin removes ‘target list’ as ‘vitriolic rhetoric’ blamed for Arizona shooting
Palin removes ‘target list’ from her website as mourners blame Tea Party’s ‘vitriolic rhetoric’ for Arizona shooting
Supporters on both sides of the political divide play the blame game
Supermarket massacre sparks fresh debate over gun control
Sarah Palin removed a ‘target list’ of Democratic politicians from her website after she was accused of using violent imagery to whip up the poisonous political atmosphere blamed by some for the Arizona massacre
The former Republican vice-presidential contender posted a ‘target map’ on her Facebook page last March, telling voters in the forthcoming mid-term elections: ‘It’s time to take a stand.’
The graphic used gunsight-style crosshair targets on the districts of 20 Democrat politicians she had singled out for defeat after they supported Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms.
Just hours after the shooting, many mourners were also blaming the Tea Party movement’s ‘vitriolic’ attacks on Democrats for the attack.
Incitement? Sarah Palin’s ‘target list’ of Democrats she wanted to see removed in the November mid-term elections – including Gabrielle Giffords. After the shooting, the list was removed from Mrs Palin’s website
Paul Wellman, a former miner, laid a sign at the site of Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting which read: ‘Blame Palin. Blame the Tea Party.’
And Hollywood left-winger Jane Fonda took to micro-blogging site Twitter to make it clear who she blamed for the attack.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democratic leader in the Senate, said of Mrs Palin’s combative rallying cry, ‘Don’t retreat; reload’.
‘These sorts of things, I think, invite the kind of toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response,’ Durbin said Sunday on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’.
Giffords’ Tucson office was vandalised when Mrs Palin first posted the map last year.
The Democratic congresswoman later criticised Mrs Palin’s choice of imagery in a television interview.
In what proved to be a grimly accurate prediction, Miss Giffords said: ‘When people do that, they’ve got to realise there are consequences to that action.’
Silence: Some Democrats have claimed that former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Tea Party supporters have created a ‘vitriolic’ political debate which might have inspired the attack on Ms Gifford, right
Mrs Palin, who has boasted of her experience as a hunter and likes to use gun-related metaphors, sent an accompanying message on Twitter in which she repeated a favourite maxim of her father: ‘Don’t Retreat, Instead RELOAD.’
Rebecca Mansour, a Palin advisor, sparked more controversy on Saturday when she claimed the crosshairs were ‘something a surveyor would use’.
‘It was simply crosshairs like you’d see on maps,’ she told a talk radio show. ‘It never occurred to us that anybody would consider it violent.’
But right wing bloggers point out that numerous Democrats have used ‘bulls eye’ imagery in past political campaigns.
Many other Democrats have also used incendiary and provocative language on the campaign trail – including President Obama who said: ‘If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.’
Conservative PR executive Greg Mueller sprang to Mrs Palin’s defence. He told the Politico website: ‘Governor Palin does not promote flag burning or extol the Communist Manifesto as Loughner did, so the fact that some folks are trying to link her and others to this tragedy is tragic and shameful in and of itself, not too mention worthy of the bad political spin Hall of Fame.’
Taking aim: Sarah Palin tests out the Engagement Skills Trainer at the training village on Camp Beuhring, Kuwait during the 2008 presidential campaign
But the gun-toting ‘Mama Grizzly’ has already become one of the flashpoints of a national debate on political rhetoric and gun control.
Yesterday Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who is investigating the shootings on Saturday, claimed Arizona’s loose gun laws made it ‘the Tombstone of the United States’.
Saturday’s slaughter has raised the stakes in the battle over gun control. Jared Loughner bought the semi-automatic Glock 9mm pistol he used in the attack on November 30 in Tucson. The gun was bought legally.
Many Republican politicians emphasised the growing belief that Loughner was mentally unstable and not someone inspired by the kind of far-right or tea party rhetoric that characterised the last election.
‘It’s probably giving him too much credit to ascribe a coherent political philosophy to him. We just have to acknowledge that there are mentally unstable people in this country. Who knows what motivates them to do what they do? Then they commit terrible crimes like this,’ said Arizona Republican senator John Kyl, the majority whip.
Peace plea: Vera Rapcsak, foreground, and others hold up signs outside Gabrielle Giffords’ office in Tucson on Saturday afternoon
A billboard in Tucson invites residents to a gun show. Arizona has some of the United States’ most relaxed rules on gun ownership in the US
Senate Republican Conference chairman Lamar Alexander echoed that view, but added: ‘I think obviously we are much better off in our country if we peacefully assemble, treat each other with respect and condemn people who go over the line, particularly people who do it violently as this individual did.’
Representative Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican, rejected arguments that US gun laws were at fault, saying it was not the gun that was to blame in the Tucson attacks but the shooter.
Control of gun sales in the US has been a divisive and heated issue for decades. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution is held by supporters of a gun rights as a citizen’s right to own a firearm.
Retired police officer and Tombstone resident Bob Harbster said Sheriff Dupnick needed to ‘wise up’.
‘As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not carrying a gun, you are a potential victim, from crazies like this little fool up there yesterday,’ Mr Harbster said on Sunday.
He spoke as he walked down the historical dirt and timber main street of Tombstone – just a block from the famous OK Corral of cowboy history.
‘If somebody there was armed, they could have taken care of him,’ said Mr Harbster.
Gun worries: Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik speaks at the Pima County Sheriff’s Office in response to Saturday’s shooting of U.S Representative Gabrielle Giffords
Poster girl for the gun debate: Sarah Palin buys a gun at a shop in Wasilla, Alaska, in a scene from her reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska
Tombstone is a former silver boom town whose historic Old West buildings and outlaw flavor have made it a tourist attraction about 70 miles southeast of Tucson.
Jim Newbauer, owner of a gun shop called Lefty’s Corner Store in Tombstone, stood behind a counter in his store, packed with vintage pistols and old frontier rifles and chided Sheriff Dupnik for his remarks about Tombstone.
But he was ambivalent about the need for gun control.
‘Even if there was a ban on guns everywhere … if people wanted to use them, they’d still get their hands on them,’ he said
But even he admitted that Arizona arguably had gone too far, allowing concealed weapons without a license.
‘Anyone can stuff a gun in their pocket and walk around with it,’ he said.
‘They should have required some training to learn the law, and when to use it and when not to use it.’
The debate over guns adds a layer of complexity to a larger one over inflammatory political rhetoric and its role in inciting violence in Arizona and in America.
The shootings led many in the state to call for an agreement to disagree.
‘The right word is ‘civility’ in our communities. We’ve been there before and we need to get back,’ said Bob Walkup, the mayor of Tucson. ‘This is a national tragedy.’
Attending Casas church on Sunday morning in an affluent Tucson suburb near where the shooting occurred, carpet saleswoman Vickie Oberg, 63, who disagreed with Giffords’ positions, believed compassion would calm the storm.
‘Politically we are totally opposite of her, but in our hearts we are so sorry about it,’ she said, speaking for herself and her husband.
Standing at a makeshift shrine to Giffords at the hospital where the representative is being treated, epidemiologist Jane Mohler, 57, saw the tragedy as a chance for the state to bury its differences.
But she doesn’t expect Arizona – or America – to change.
‘This could bring us together, or it could further rip us apart, and my fear is that it is going to further rip us apart,’ she said.
People were afraid and mean-spirited, she said. ‘We are an armed-to-the-teeth state, and nation.’
Back in the hardscrabble high desert city that bills itself as ‘the town too tough to die’, student Eric Tyler, 37, said he thought Giffords’ shooting was ‘unnecessary" – as was gun control.
‘There’s still millions of people out there who have guns and don’t go killing people. It’s the idiots that kill people,’ he said.
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