Law enforcement officers investigate the crime scene on January 8. Photo by Steve Karp.
I loathe Sarah Palin as much as anyone else, but I'm not blaming her for inciting Jared Loughner to go on his shooting spree in Tucson. I'm equally unimpressed with the argument that the nastiness of political debate in America inspired Loughner to pull the trigger.
I welcome the discussion of America's toxic political culture - the quality of debate there, especially around health care, has been distressingly low. Time for media reps to do a little soul-searching. But, sorry, FOX news didn't give Loughner the tools to carry out his tragic plan.
And I'm amazed at how quickly analysts jumped to the conclusion that there's a connection between Palin's aggressive politicking on the Tea Party website, which puts liberal elected representatives - including shooting victim Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords - in a graphic representing crosshairs. Hard-core journalists should know better. Until the contents of Loughner's computer are examined, we don't know whether Loughner ever looked at the site or if he's even a Tea Party supporter.
Don't get me wrong. I'm glad the Tea Party's seen fit to pull down the famous map targetting liberal politicians and I'm appalled by Palin's personal celebration of guns and their metaphors - as in her slogan "Don't retreat. Reload".
But Loughner is a product of gun culture and so is Palin. America's problem is not its politicians, it's all about guns and the Second Amendment. The right to own guns is deeply embedded in American life. There is no process in place to prevent unhinged characters like Loughner from packing and there won't be any until the National Rifle Association and its trigger-happy gang lose their influence and the constitution's Second Amendment is reconsidered.
Ironically, Giffords herself, though she received only a D+ rating from the NRA, voted for legislation that praised the NRA and its feeble Eddie Eagle Gun Safety program. And, as she commented fearlessley, when her constituency offices were threatened last year, "I own a glock pistol, and I'm a good shot."
Pointing to Palin does as much good in explaining this tragedy as dismissing Loughner as a crackpot. Opinions don't kill people, mental instability doesn't kill people. A poisonous political environment doesn't kill people. Guns do.
If Americans want to do some soul searching, they should take a good long look at their constitution.