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Arizona shooting: An isolated case with broad ramifications

Officials describe Jared Loughner as a lone actor who is mentally unbalanced. Despite the uniqueness of the case, the Arizona shooting raises big issues, from lax gun laws to demonization in political discourse.

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President Obama led the country today in a moment of silence to keep the Arizona shooting victims and their families “closely at heart.” It was a welcome healing salve after a national tragedy.

But the Jan. 8 shooting that targeted Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords raises several longstanding issues that require more than a moment of national contemplation.

For instance the media are abuzz with discussion about the vitriol of political discourse as a contributing factor in the shooting.

No direct connection links such talk with the young man allegedly seen wielding a handgun, bent on assassinating Representative Giffords, a moderate Democrat. Six people were killed and Giffords was wounded, along with 13 others. Officials believe Jared Loughner acted alone, and he appears to be mentally unbalanced.

And yet this unique case does not obviate such a discussion. Threats against members of Congress have risen dramatically in the last year or so, including vandalism at Giffords’s Tucson office.

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