Inflammatory rhetoric did not prompt Arizona shooting, congressman says
While some leaders and pundits are casting blame toward the politicians who use images of weapons and shootouts in their efforts to garner support from voters, West Virginia's Third District Congressman Nick Rahall says that's not what caused the January 8 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and several others a Tucson grocery store parking lot.
Six people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, were killed in the shooting rampage.
Rahall said last week that the shooting did not "connect the dots" between an autumn political advertisement that placed Giffords' district in crosshairs and the shooting.
His own district was in those crosshairs, as well.
"I thought it was rather strange. I did not connect the dots," Rahall said. "I don't to this day. I don't think this was in this particular shooter's mind."
And while the advertisement might claim some success in defeating Democratic incumbents running for Congress, both Giffords and Rahall were reelected.
The congressman does think the political conversation in the United States has been over the top. Rahall called for respect and civility in public discourse.
"The rhetoric has been heated. [The shooting] is a wake up call that we need to practice civility and respect one another's opinions," he said. "Avoid the extremes."
Rahall said he was more worried about copycat shootings in the future.
"That's what we have to watch out for," he said. "It's incumbent on all of us to be more aware of our surroundings, to report suspicious [activities]."
However, increased security for members of Congress is not the answer, Rahall said.
"At the end of the day, we're not going to stop 100 percent of those who are intent on doing harm to people. If they're intent on causing harm, they're going to," he continued.
Of more concern to him, he said, is that constituents feel safe when they meet with their representatives.
Toward that end, he said, local law enforcement should be notified when members of Congress will be in public in their districts.
The Appalachian Waters Byway event was manned by both West Virginia State Police and the Pocahontas County Sheriff's Department.
The event was held without incident.