Shooting prompts legislation to protect lawmakers, officials
January 9th, 2011
03:46 PM ET
4 years ago

Shooting prompts legislation to protect lawmakers, officials

Washington (CNN) - Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pennsylvania, said he will introduce legislation making it a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official.

Brady's decision to offer the legislation comes less than 24 hours after a gunman attempted to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, in a shooting that claimed the lives of a federal judge, and a nine year-old girl, among others.

"The president is a federal official," Brady said in a telephone interview with CNN. "You can't do it to him; you should not be able to do it to a congressman, senator or federal judge.

"This is not a wake up call, this is major alarms going off," he said.

Brady is particularly incensed over a web posting by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during the 2010 election in which she targeted 20 House Democrats, including Giffords for political defeat. The posting showed a map of the United States with the 20 Democratic congressional districts identified by gun sights.

"You can't put bulls eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official," Brady said. "I understand this web site that had it on there is no longer in existence. Someone is feeling a little guilty."

But a Palin aide Saturday denied the web posting from the 2010 congressional campaign was designed to incite violence. Rebecca Mansour told conservative host Tammy Bruce that it was a political tool and noted it should have been removed after the November election.

Brady said he is hearing that the spouses of some of his congressional colleagues, specifically the newly elected members, are terrified and questioning whether they should remain in Congress. Upon hearing the news of the shooting Saturday, some spouses attending a freshman retreat in West Virginia, were "taking their children out of the daycare," Brady said he was told.

"The spouses are in an uproar," he said. "They are panicking."

Brady said it is now time to put an end to the hyper-charged language.

"The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down," Brady said, noting that "I've had my share of death threats" over his many years in politics.

Brady said he has not spoken to his House colleagues about the bill or a senator who might offer similar legislation. But Brady noted that he hoped to have it ready as soon as possible.

Brady stressed he is not "pointing at any particular party" noting that there is Democratic rhetoric and actions at times that he thinks is out of bounds. "You can disagree without being disagreeable," he said.

As for support for the bill, Brady said, "Why would you be against it?"


Filed under: Arizona • Congress • Gabrielle Giffords • Sarah Palin
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. PT

    Another knee-jerk legislator with tunnel vision. Passing legislation should not be a coping mechanisim. This is not a gun rights/control issue. It is a mental health issue for which we will never find a solution; it will never be acceptable to lock up mental defectives indefinitely or even supervise them 24/7, even if it were possible to identify each and every one.

    January 9, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. JACK AINSWORTH

    What happened is indeed tragic; however, I think the American public is tired of Politicians having their own special health care, not participating in Social Security, getting retirement pay after short periods of service, etc. I think that a politicians life is not worth one day more in jail than if a homeless man is assaulted. Again, my empathy to those anyone who is attacked by the raving loons of our society; but, setting Politicians even further apart from the average American they are to represent will not make the loons go away.

    January 9, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. Alert U

    I think such legislation is too subjective to be passed. People need to apply their own common sense and values and not allow themselves to be subjected to the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and is ilk. Consuming bad food as a metaphor; eventually poop happens is a diarrhea like what is unfolding now. In time, a better value system will emerge, because whether left or right; garbage in will be garbage out. We are in a fight yes. It is like a game of football. We can beat each other up to win but there are rules governing fouling.
    The shame is on the voters for rewarding such bad behavior.

    January 9, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. Jonas

    Would this law have prevented this tragedy? Would ANY law?

    January 9, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. GOP = Greed Over People

    Too bad 6 innocent folks had to die before a law was passed making it illegal to incite others to violence.

    A sad day in America.

    January 9, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  6. Andrew

    I would be against it because it is unconstitutional...to answer the Congressman's question.

    January 9, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  7. Daiv

    You can't yell fire in a crowded theatre just for fun. You should not be able to target rival politicians with gunsights and call it a "political tool". This should be called the Sarah Palin Bill when it passes.

    January 9, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. Woodrow

    Sure, the rhetoric has been off the charts the last several years from both sides of the aisle. Threatening anybody is unpleasant and in a few forms, illegal. To make general suppositions about the intent of someone's speech and then suppress it based on your definition of their intent is to bar freedom of speech. Crosshairs and bullseyes have been marking targets of a non-shooting sort for years and years. This is simply reactionary politics. He asks "Why would you be against it?" Well, because I've read my copy of the Constitution and this would be in direct opposition to it.

    January 9, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. Oliver

    Though well intentioned, it is band-aid legislation. The US has become a country, culture(s) and people(s) that glorify violence in sports (take cage fighting for example, football, etc.) and now even in " cross-hairs' "political rhetoric, that sell it as an entertainment commodity, that has substituted it for dialogue and tolerance, and that has mistakenly come to believe it is justified as a means to whatever end one wants even sanctioned by the US constitutional amendment of the right to bear arms though by "a well regulated Militia." And yet religion is booming! There is something wrong with this picture, isn't there?

    January 9, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  10. once upon a horse

    of course this guy was a loon and so far appears not to have had some the fired-up sometimes hateful political rhetoric been the reason for the shootings. But still it should not have taken something like this for Congress to act on what has been going on since the 2008 election. We are lucky during some of those Healthcare forums and Tea Party rallies that something like this hadn't happened yet. It seems though many turned a deaf ear to it because they were afraid to upset their base and might not get elected or re-elected. Now all we have is the right and left pointing fingers at each other. I'm sure the talk shows this week are not going to do the mea culpa thing and continue to pass the buck

    January 9, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  11. Tom S.

    "Paul
    There is not one shred of direct evidence that this kid shot anyone based on political rhetoric he heard. Not one shred!! ZERO!"

    So what you are saying, Paul, is that this lunatic just happened to walk into that store and started shooting? That he hadn't heard that Rep. Giffords was going to be there? That he didn't specifically target HER and shot her in the head as an innocent bystander? REALLY?!? This IS the result of the hate merchants that permeate our radio and TV airwaves, both left and right. Words of intolerance and hate spewed by people day after day on our airwaves WILL (and did) catch someone imbalanced enough to act upon those words. Words have consequences. Yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater will get someone to act. So will "Don't retreat; RELOAD!" These merchants of hate, on both side, need to be stopped. We should be a civilized society, and be able to discuss and, yes, compromise on our differences in a civilized manner. I applaud Rep. Boehner, and Rep. Cantor for their reactions to this, and, yes, I am "reaching across the aisle" on this one. Let's hope that it does not stop with initial reactions and translates into a new realization and civil discourse, as we are ALL Americans, and we ALL want what is best for our country. I also hope to see Rep. Giffords take her rightful place in the House, and I pray that day comes soon and she recovers.

    January 9, 2011 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. Paul Ernest Show

    That legislation should include political campaign speeches that are inciting, and everyone, for their political beliefs, views and affiliation. Innocent men and women have been murdered by these extremists over their beliefs and association with a political party or cause.

    January 9, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  13. T3chsupport

    It's already very illegal to threaten the president, so it's really not a big stretch (or an added insult to the first amendment) to extend that to other members of political office. Even if you don't say that you, yourself, are going to personally assault the president, if you are using language to incite others to do it, it is still a federal offense.

    There is simply no excuse for using violence, perceived or real, against anyone. Much less in political discourse.

    January 9, 2011 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  14. Marty, FL

    Thoughts and prayers go out to Congresswoman Giffords, all families, and friends affected by this tragedy. The situation highlights the need for everyone to take pause and responsibility for our actions.

    America does not need misguided promotion of violence no matter how unintentional, any more irresponsible crosshairs on maps, nor demagogues on TV, radio, and the Internet pushing wild conspiracy theories over gold or other nonsense that can have adverse effects, instead of promoting positive efforts.

    Our choice of words truly matter to one another. Please think about it going forward.

    January 9, 2011 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  15. Bill

    A good rule would be to not pass legislation when you're hysterical. Congress will find it hard to believe but you can't legislate away all problems.

    January 9, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  16. Nevada Bob

    Why don't we just put the Constitution in the trash? One person wants to throw out the first amendment (freedom of speech) and another wants to throw out the Second Amendment (Right to Bear Arms).

    What happened is terrible; but, these knee jerk extremist reactions are scary. Wouldn’t it be better to get the facts first?

    January 9, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. DrAldus

    Mark David Chapman was influenced by "The Catcher in the Rye." John Hinckley was influenced by the movie "Taxi Driver." Charles Manson was influenced by the Beatles song, "Helter Skelter."

    Where does it end?

    Just today I read on CNN, "Rosanne Barr Blasts Palin" and "Roseanne Barr...took shots at former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during an interview." Should these be considered "violent images?"

    January 9, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  18. janet

    Who decides whats inciting violence? The standard is too vage. Bad idea, knee jerk reaction. Funny how the congress is reacting so swiftly when they feel threatened. They are the ones who when an attack or diaster strikes the public tout the "dont panic "mantra. Time to take thier own advice. BTW what about all the kids who are shot everyday in this country? Dont see 24 hour coverage about them. Are they worth less? The fact is in the real world some lives are valued and some not so much. Sad commentary on this society. How many kids were shot just today in this country? What about that violence? What about all the kids in this country that live in fear daily? WHAT ABOUT THEM!!!!! The silence is deafening for them. But we will hear about the fear in government for day and and days and days.

    January 9, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. robbie h

    In reading the rantings of this deranged man who apparently thought he was intellectually superior than anyone else, I find it highly unlikely he was inspired by anything Ms. Palin said. This bill is just another boorish attempt by another inept politician hoping to make a name for himself.

    January 9, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  20. Adam

    Where was the outrage regarding dangerous rhetoric when the left in America openly wished for the death of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney....culminating with a film showing George Bush being killed. I have never seen that type of vitriol come from conservatives. I have never seen a conservative wish for someone to die. I have seen it from the left countless times. Please pray for all who lost their lives in this tragedy, as well as for the soul of this crazy young man.

    January 9, 2011 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  21. Nadeem

    Sounds like a wise peice of legislation given what just happened.

    January 9, 2011 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  22. Paul Ernest Show

    This is moment of awakening. It's easy to be angry and takes lots of strength, not to be. We must summon that inner strength and pray for our nation. Pray for the likes of Sarah Palin and other extremists, that they might emancipate themselves from the shackles of ignorance and intolerance. Pray for those who embrace violence as an a means to achieve a goal. We all saw this coming and some of us cheered. When Joe Miller of Alaska and Sharon Angle were campaigning with a well-armed militia marching behind them. We cannot afford to militarize our body politics. The danger is colossal.

    January 9, 2011 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Amazing. No evidence whatsoever that the shooter was in any way influenced by "hate speech", and Brady want a law that makes it "a federal crime for a person to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official." Note the "could be perceived as". Incredible. I guess the 1st Amendment gets tossed with the 4th. From what I know about Gabby, she seems a very decent, thoughtful intelligent and fair-minded Representative. Don't disgrace her with this garbage.

    January 9, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. Provider

    Amazing. 6 people die and our legislatures 1st turn to free speech. The 1st bill should be ramped up security and tighter tracking and profiling measures for individuals on target lists; pure and simple. Just for an exercise, lets say this bill was law during the Bush years? What would have happened then to those with their full rights to protest, verbally spout and display their pure hatred for that President? I personally witnessed signs showing Bush being hanged. Does that warrant going to jail for a political hate-crime? Congress had better concentrate on their security first, calming their rhetoric and setting the example for resepectful discourse and debate second, and then move on to business.

    January 9, 2011 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  25. Steve RD

    Congress doing for their security what they did for their health insurance – pass a law so they are better protected than anyone who is paying for their benefit. How about a law protecting not just themselves but the many citizens who are routinely threatened by crazies? – police, doctors who do abortion, bill collectors. Leave it to Congress to move quickly to protect themselves and forget all about their constituents.

    January 9, 2011 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
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