Bay Area lawmakers express concern after shooting

January 10, 2011 7:44:00 PM PST
In the aftermath of the tragedy, contentious political discourse is being widely discouraged by parties and a controversial vote to repeal health care reform has been postponed. ABC7 takes a look at how the shooting in Tucson is impacting national politics.

Lawmakers in other parts of the country are promising legislation to restrict guns and speech and to increase security after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, was targeted and shot. In the Bay Area, representatives are responding.

At his home, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, scans the headlines and worries that the polarized political speech may fuel acts of violence.

"Tragically, again the words come from Gabby Giffords, that these kinds of things have consequences," says Miller.

Miller is talking about how Giffords was targeted by conservative Sarah Palin over Giffords' vote on healthcare. Giffords has talked about it during the election.

"The way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun-sight over our district. When people do that, you've got to realize there's consequences to that action," said Giffords on March 25, 2010.

But conservatives certainly don't have a lock on cross hairs imagery. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, used an ad where he shoots a gun. And two political maps from Democrats show they are targeting Republicans with bullseye symbols.

One Democratic member of Congress has now promised legislation to make it a federal crime to use threatening language or imagery against a member of Congress.

"I think the initial reaction was about political rhetoric and of course ironically, the discussion about overheated rhetoric has led to an overheated debate about the rhetoric," says ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain, Ph.D.

Cain says legislation to restrict political speech isn't likely to pass either in Congress or the courts. More likely will be legislation to restrict guns and or high capacity ammo clips like the ones the shooter used on Saturday.

"Nobody, nobody should have more firepower than the law enforcement. Nobody needs an AK47 to go shoot an elk," says Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

"It's hard to argue that they have any place in civil society. They have no purpose in hunting," says Miller.

Ironically, Giffords is a strong supporter of gun rights. Members of Congress are being briefed on personal security. And in the wake of Saturday's attack, Representative Dennis Cardoza is moving his Stockton office to a more security location. But Miller, Speier, and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, told ABC7 they will not be requesting increased security.

"It's not going to change the way I interact with my constituents," says Speier.

There is no evidence to show Saturday's gunman was motivated by venomous talk. But other threats have been. Just last year, then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was repeatedly threatened by a man whose mother told ABC7 her son was enraged by talk radio commentary on healthcare reform. Last month Gregory Giusti was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for those threats.