In the wake of the Saturday shooting in Tucson, Ariz., Rep. Peter King (D-N.Y) announced he will introduce legislation to make it illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a government official -- but if recent political events are any indication, there's been little interest in separating guns and U.S. politics.
Just last year, Giffords's Republican opponent Jesse Kelly encouraged voters to join him in rallying to oust Giffords from office by shooting a fully-loaded assault rifle: "Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly," the invitation read. Tea Party darling Joe Miller, a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, recently defended his gun-toting Senate campaign supporters who marched in a local Alaska parade carrying substantial weaponry alongside their Joe Miller signs. And appearing at a three-day machine gun social in Kentucky last year, Sen. Rand Paul (then a candidate for the seat) said, "The president says that you're out here in the middle of the country clinging to your guns and ammunition. What I tell the President is, 'We're clinging to our guns, our religions and our ammunition," according to The Daily Caller's report.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told The Huffington Post politicians need to be more careful about maintaining a separation between guns and state, and even between incendiary rhetoric and state.
"Words have consequences and when people use that kind of rhetoric, there are people out there that take it to heart," Helmke told HuffPost, when asked whether violent political messaging was part of the problem. "Since Obama has been elected, we've had [Wayne] LaPierre from the National Rifle Association say, 'The guys with the guns make the rules;' and Sharron Angle in Nevada say, if the elections don't go the right way, people might need to exercise their 'Second Amendment remedies;' and you had Sarah Palin put Giffords on a hit list that shows a bullet hole [gun sight] going through Giffords's district -- I'm sure these people don't intend for anybody like this to be shot, but the people that hear their messages sometimes take this stuff to heart."
The rhetoric Helmke refers to exists on both sides of the political aisle. Last June former-Rep. Paul Kanjorski, (D-Pa.) said of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, "Instead of running for governor of Florida, they ought to have him and shoot him. Put him against the wall and shoot him. He stole billions of dollars from the United States government..."
While there's been much kerfuffle around politicos and pundits blaming the toxic political climate in Arizona on things like Palin's rifle crosshairs map of House districts held by vulnerable Democrats, Helmke emphasizes that the bigger problem is easy access to deadly weapons.
"Rhetoric is a concern," said Helmke. "But again, it would just be rhetoric except for the fact that we make it so easy for dangerous and irresponsible people to get guns. If somebody believes this stuff they can do something about it real quickly."
Nearly 100,000 people are shot in the U.S. every year, according to the Brady Campaign website.
And although King has promised legislation to literally help distance guns from politics -- or at least from politicians -- and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) has announced legislation that would limit the sale of high-capacity clips, The Hill reports that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been dismissive of the proposed gun control reforms. Meanwhile Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) has responded to Saturday's shooting by drafting a bill that would allow members of Congress to carry concealed weapons in Washington, D.C.
Gohmert's bill comes just a month after state Republican leaders in New Hampshire moved to lift a ban on guns and other dangerous weapons in the New Hampshire Statehouse complex. State lawmakers in Missouri have pushed for similar legislation.
The Huffington Post has compiled a slideshow highlighting ten recent examples of guns in U.S. politics -- which do you find the most disconcerting?