As to Mr. Loughner's politics, I don't care. In the immediate aftermath of his actions, much was made of his anti-government stance. For many this seemed to place him firmly on the radical right side of the political spectrum. Shortly thereafter, an old friend (acquaintance?) of Mr. Loughner's began tweeting that Mr. Loughner was "quite liberal". And neither side can distance itself from him fast enough. Let's keep our eye on the ball here, though. The shooter is now in custody; he ought to be given a trial and, if convicted, made to answer for his crime(s). The end.
But that's not the end, and we can't keep our eye on the ball. Instead, we're being told to "tone down the rhetoric". Clarence Drupnik, the sheriff of Pima county, where the shooting occurred, has been making news because of comments he made after the shooting, mainly this one:
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.I've seen it pointed out that there is nothing inherently political about this statement, and in a vacuum, I would agree. Unfortunately, we don't live in a vacuum, so let's call a spade, a spade. Mr. Drupnik is referring to those on the political right and those who oppose (big) government. (Note that those are two distinctly separate groups.) Based on his statement, Mr. Drupnik thinks that those groups are responsible for Mr. Loughner's actions. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, John Fund thinks that Mr. Drupnik, himself, bears some responsibility for Mr. Loughner's actions. You know who's really responsible for Mr. Loughner's actions? That's right; it's Mr. Loughner.
Unfortunately, though, we're all about to be reminded that our liberty is in the hands of the worst members of our society: those who commit these atrocities or those who pass laws in response to them, take your pick. In its all too predictable knee-jerk reactionary way, congress is already proposing a slew of new laws to "keep this from happening again". Congressman Robert Brady (D-PA) is proposing that the ban against threatening the president be extended to all federal officials (presumably congressmen, judges, etc.) Congressman Pete King (R-NY) is proposing that guns not be allowed within 1000 feet of "powerful federal officials". (Right, the guy who was willing to ignore the law against murder is suddenly going to respect this law. Good thinking, congressman. I'm reminded of the wisdom of Jerry Seinfeld, or at least his writers, here, "You can make all the laws you want, he's still gonna bother people.") What's good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander, and the gulf between what's acceptable for those in power and those who aren't grows ever wider. Isn't anyone disturbed by the fact that federal officials deserve "more" equal protection under the law than the rest of us mere "people"?
Toning down the rhetoric isn't about restoring civilized debate; it's about stifling dissent. It's about chipping away at rights (supposedly) protected by the 1st, 2nd, and 4th amendments. It's about making abundantly clear exactly who rules over whom. Don't misunderstand; I am unequivocally not supporting threats of or actual violence. However, there are already laws against such things. Passing new ones like those described here are about separating the "rulers" from the "people" so that the people can be better controlled.