01/11/2011 05:37 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tucson -- And the Next Rampage

Already there have been bricks thrown through windows, and pictures of nooses. Already the authorities have had to increase security for certain government officials whose votes, whose beliefs, have displeased the ranters and the thugs and the rest of them.

And when the bricks become bullets, as they almost surely will, and the death threats turn into conscious acts, just watch the ranters and the thugs pull back in horror, or some half-baked simulation of it.

"We never dreamed...!" they'll say.

"We had no idea...!" they'll insist.

That will be a lie.

* * *

Those words were written nearly 10 months ago, at the height of -- and in the heat of -- the debate over health-care reform. Things had taken an ugly turn, rhetorically and otherwise, and I found myself newly worried for the safety of our public officials. I wanted the words down on paper before the bullets started flying.

Long before Gabrielle Giffords became an assassin's target.

This isn't "I told you so." More like "I'm still trying to tell you so." The warning still stands, because the danger still lurks.

This isn't "I told you so," because there's absolutely no evidence that either the ugly rhetoric or the glass-shattering bricks, back in March or in the months that followed, had anything at all to do with what happened in Tucson last weekend.

Not that that wasn't one of the first thoughts on countless minds.

As news of the rampage spread on Saturday morning, many prayers ascended. Two of the most fervent were surely these, from the general vicinity of Washington, DC:

"Don't let him be one of ours! Let him be one of theirs!"

As far as we can tell at this writing, Jared Loughner was neither "one of ours" nor "one of theirs." He was in a universe all his own, with demons and grievances that fell nowhere on the normal axis of American political debate.

Which hasn't kept the left from trying to connect the dots, or the right from insisting that they're clean as the fresh-fallen snow and that the whole thing is a nefarious media conspiracy designed to discredit them.

So let's call the current round a draw. Let's stipulate that Jared Loughner wasn't spurred to murderous action by any issue of government policy, by any inflammatory argument on cable TV or talk radio, by any dehumanizing verbal assault on a political opponent in the halls of Congress.

But what about the next guy? What about the next rampage?

What about the next angry young man -- or two, or three, or a dozen -- emerging from the millions of people who are plugged in to the daily denunciations, who are being whipped to a froth over the government's latest supposed plot to put us all in shackles and hand the country over to our enemies? That guy has a gun, too, and a high-capacity clip. When will he decide that it's his turn -- his mission -- to set things right?

Take last weekend completely out of the picture. Make believe that Tucson never happened, that a shopping center is merely a shopping center, that the dead and the wounded are alive and whole once again. Do all that, and the atmosphere is every bit as toxic as it was a week ago. The threat of violence looms just as it did back in March.

And when it comes to pass, when the next rampage comes, as it almost surely will:

"We never dreamed...!" they'll say.

"We had no idea...!" they'll insist.

That will still be a lie.

The time to prevent it is now.

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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at