The horrific shootings in Arizona today have already sparked a brushfire of speculation and finger-pointing. As everyone knows by now, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot at point-blank range, but is currently still alive. Six others, including U.S. District Judge John Roll, a Giffords aide, and a 9 year-old girl, weren't so lucky, and died at the scene or shortly thereafter.
Bloggers, Twitterers, and other social networkers quickly drew battle lines. One side began tying the shooting of Giffords to Sarah Palin and a map she had distributed with cross-hair targets on 20 Democratic congressmen around the country, including Giffords. Palin has routinely used gun-centric language on her Facebook and Twitter acounts. Even earlier today, before news of the shootings broke, she tweeted to her followers that they shouldn't "Retreat, but Reload." (That tweet, as well many prior similar sentiments on Palin's Facebook page were scrubbed by this afternoon.)
At this point, we have no information that the alleged shooter was influenced by either Palin's rhetoric or that of any other politician. We do know that during his campaign effort to unseat Giffords in November, Republican challenger Jesse Kelly held fundraisers where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle. Kelly is a former Marine who served in Iraq and was pictured on his website in military gear holding his automatic weapon and promoting the event.
A spokeperson for Kelly said today: "Arizona is a state where people are firearms owners. This was just a deranged individual."
There's little doubt that the shooter was deranged. Sane people don't walk into a crowd and start randomly murdering people. Others are noting that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently pushed through $36 million in cuts to the state's mental healthcare budget. Again, no evidence exists of any cause and effect between the cuts and the alleged shooter.
But maybe, just maybe, this tragedy will cause some of those in the media and those politicians who cavalierly toss around gun-metaphors and talk of "Second Amendment solutions," to reconsider the impact of their rhetoric. Palin's scrubbing of her website and Twitter could be mere ass-covering, or it could just possibly indicate Mama Grizzly has learned a lesson.
I'm not holding my breath, though. My money's on ass-covering.