Shooting prompts legislation to protect lawmakers, officials
January 9th, 2011
03:46 PM ET
12 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. Paul

    Well, they are now saying that this guy acted alone (the 2nd suspect has been found and cleared). It is apparent if you watch this man's videos that he was crazy. If you couple that with his drug use, its very easy to see how this bad series of events could have occurred.

    This guy was going to kill his congresswoman and it didn't matter that she was democrat or republican. His indiscriminant killing of bystanders showed that he was lashing out wildly rather than this being a targeted assassination. There's also talk that they found a suicide note on his person when they caught him. Iwatched all his videos and he makes no mention of democrats or replublicans or Tea Party, nor does he mention "The left" or "The Right". He has a chaotic political philosophy that could only exist inside the mind of a very depressed crazy person.

    Any of you who wish to paint this incident as the fault of any political party or somehow blame Rush/Beck/Hannity are merely wishing desperately for facts that don't exist.

    It's just like when John Hinkley shot Reagen and said he did it to impress Jodie Foster. Loughner is just another crazy man with a gun who unfortunately slipped through the system.

    January 9, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  2. Dale

    It should have been in place a long time ago... We always have to wait for a tragedy to get things done, so very sad.

    January 9, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. Disgusted

    It would be more useful and benefit all Americans if Congress would enact effective gun control legislation.

    January 9, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I hope and pray Giffords' family sues Sarah Palin for everything she's worth because they do have enough proof to do so. And furthermore, suing will send a message to all politicians to "tone down" their political rhetoric. Never in my entire life have I've seen a so-called politician like Palin sprew such divisive and hateful remarks which were clearly her intent and it worked.

    January 9, 2011 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. 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 who will be the judge of what is or isn't offensive? What is considered to be threatening? If I say that "I'm going to beat you soundly in the election", does that mean I'm going physically beat you up?

    More stupid reactionary legislation and it will never pass anyway. This legislation is suppression of free speech. Under these loose definitions, I could silence any opposition argument I wanted by labeling it as dangerous hate-speech.

    This country would never have existed if these laws existed when the founders of this country broke away from England. This law will only make things worse.

    January 9, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  6. Dave R.

    Those who were shocked by "You Lie" or ".....Reload" will support it. Not sure about about those who support that kind of language.

    January 9, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. JWN

    Excellent plan..........put the blame where it belongs.........Palin and her ilk!

    January 9, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. Kevin Carney

    Will this legislation include candidates who make such comments against their opponents? Will it include cable TV commentators?

    January 9, 2011 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  9. foodiemama

    I am a liberal and definitely feel the rhetoric has gotten WAY out of hand, but I wonder about this being unconstitutional. I guess as long as he specifies that said language or symbols are intended to incite physical or extreme mental harm to the elected official, but that is already illegal, so I guess this just upgrades it from a felony to a federal crime. But I'm sure some people will question this as restricting people's freedom of speech.

    Personally, I think the best way to address this kind of danger is to try anyone who attacks or harasses an elected official with the intent to incite fear in the official and/or the public, and expects to use that fear to sway the discourse towards their own personal ideaology – to try them as terrorists and enemies of the state. That is, after all, what they are and we should start treating them that way. We need to start showing many Americans in this country that terrorism does not always come wrapped up in a turbin – that it exists in many forms and whenever a person uses fear and violence to express their ideaology it is terrorism pure and simple.

    January 9, 2011 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  10. Joshua

    "You can't put bulls eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official,"

    Yes you can. And you shouldn't go around threatening free speech every time there is an emergency. It is unfortunate, but in order to protect the rights of decent people we have to give the same rights to imbeciles like Sarah Palin as well.

    January 9, 2011 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  11. Cory

    Who would be against it? Anyone who saw Hitler come to power. Its is unbelievable what happened the other day. But having some law that can be used politically to arrest people would not have prevented this nut job from killing people!

    January 9, 2011 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  12. Rick McDaniel

    That is a totally unacceptable attack on personal freedom of speech.

    January 9, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  13. todd

    This is simply common sense. Palin started the "lock and load" rhetoric and continued with gun sights over members of congress. Presidential material or prison time?

    January 9, 2011 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. Sherri W.W.#1~ILLinois

    About Time!! AND THEY BETTER PASS IT WITH NO DELAY AND NO MONKEY BUSINESS.i have said all along~it IS against the law already,to do,against the President and VP,what HAS been done to them.and it must always be against the law ,and,really is,but needs to be stronger now,to do that to ANY official.There are a LOT of folks who SHOULD BE IN JAIL RIGHT NOW,for the images and words used against the President,and.others,including Ms.Gifford, these past 2 years~a whole lot of folks.

    January 9, 2011 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. Steve

    He's right about one thing in particular: this level of absurd political hatred that we have for those on the other side is absurd. America was the strongest both economically and militarily when the left and the right came to the middle. Instead of that, we have people like Glenn Beck on one side and Keith Olbermann on the other, spewing their vitriol, and people just eat it up.

    Instead of pointing fingers at people and political parties, we need to assign blame to faulty policies. We need to stop listening to politicians who don't give us the facts. People falsely believed that Bush was planning for a war with Iran, and they also falsely believed that Obama's healthcare plan included death panels. Both of these turned out to be false, but because their political opponents repeated it over and over again without ever providing proof, people believed them.

    Democrat, Republican, or Independent, we're all Americans. It's time we started treating each other as such.

    January 9, 2011 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  16. CAW in MD

    It's disingenuous of Palin and all the Tea Baggers to say that they bear no responsibility whatsoever in this matter. I agree wholeheartedly that this individual acted as an individual. However, Palin and crew have set the tenor of political conversation with the references to reloading and Angle's second amendment remedies. Don't forget all those signs of watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants at the town hall meetings last year held by armed protesters. These actions have made it okay for those that are unstable to consider it "normal" to have an armed response to those with whom they disagree. Words have consequences. If you don't want the consequences (or are desperately denying responsibility), then perhaps measuring your words would be better.

    January 9, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  17. Joe

    So it's not okay to incite violence toward a federal official, but it's okay for Congressmen to run around saying that Julian Assange should be killed.

    They're using this for another hit against freedom of speech.

    January 9, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  18. PC

    "language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a Member of Congress or federal official"
    Wow, so who ever is in the justice department can decide that against the party out of power! Wow,, like all dems say never let an emergency go to waste. We have a right to protest and call our reps anything we want. Its America! Like Cory said, no law would have kept this crazy person from doing what he did. We all need to be praying for our country!

    January 9, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  19. GI Joe

    I've had to distance myself from a family member because of the "flakey" rhetoric and actions the last two years. She and her husband bought 2 more guns (semi-automatic) - they now have a total of 29 guns. These two people are in their 70's. They worship S Palin and t-baggers, and scare the bejesus out of their neighbors. It's gone too far. WAAAAAYYY TOO FAR.

    January 9, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  20. BeanerECMO

    They are in an uproar!! They are paniking!! It's the same all over again. The regressives go for the emotion and not logic. They are coming for the protection that you believe you have under the 2nd amendment. If any of the bozos had thought they were threatened by the various billboards, flyers, mailings etc. that depicted crosshairs – were they crosshairs/target symbole over a person, a distrct, unconstitutional building etc. – they would have done something well before this. I guess Target will really have to watch their ad campaigns. If the congresswoman was really the focus of this deranged idiot (or should I say alleged be cause he hasn't been judged by a jury of his peers. BTW, who would his peers be – congressional members?) ; why were there so many others killed and wounded? Anyway, no politician is ever worth the effort to bring harm to them or anyone associated with or around them. They are inconsequential until they start abridging your freedoms; then, vote them out. They really fear the ballot box more than physical violence.

    January 9, 2011 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  21. Jayden,FL

    I disagree with the said legislation in some parts.. but what I agree with others on is this country need some sort of coherent gun control laws!!!

    January 9, 2011 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  22. jen

    I knew it was only a matter of time before our 1st ammendment rights would be under attack. The shooting was horrifying, as it always is when tragedy strikes. I lived through the shootings at Fort Hood just over a year ago, I vividly remember Columbine and Virginia Tech; I would never make light of these events. However, "language or symbols percieved as threatening or inciting violence" is so completely subjective that it would be very easy to use this new legislation to scare Americans into silence, not allowing them to speak out against their government if they disagree. Not to mention the fact that many people work out their frustration and anger through words, artwork, political satire and cartoons, etc. which sometimes are extremely exaggerated in order to make a point and they are protected by the 1st ammendment. I should be able to yell, scream, stomp my feet and swear at my government when they are not doing the right thing without fear of reprisal. I would never, ever employ violence in this manner, but I do get mad and disagree at times; words are a non-lethal outlet for anger and frustration. And the right to disagree with the government is a cornerstone of American freedom. I think the very last thing we should do is allow the government to use this tragedy to take away our rights. It's disgusting and uncalled for. "He who would trade liberty for temporary security deserves neither liberty or security and will lose both".

    January 9, 2011 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  23. gammay

    The sad thing is that this legislation is needed at all.

    January 9, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. RBT

    A law against speech. There's a great idea!
    But why can't we have a law against murder too? Because with an anti-murder law, all the killing would stop.

    January 9, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  25. Indy

    It would be much better if Politicians and celebrities like Palin would just think before talking and creating web pages that are over the edge. Crosshairs only means one thing and a person with morals would not use such a page. This is not Palins fault but you cannot unring the bell, of that Crosshairs page, it was downright nasty and even though she never intended for anyone to be shot there is still a level of responsibility. There are unwritten codes of conduct in sports and there should be a code of ethics when it comes to people or politicians that bear false witness and spread lies and fear. The code could simply be called "Think before you act". There are people that make millions from their hate filled speeches and write books of lies and get rich and tour the country without regard for anything but money and it is time they bear responsibility of their actions

    January 9, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
1 2 3