Things Important People Have Said About the Tucson Shooting (UPDATED!)

In the wake of Saturday’s shooting in Tuscon, several important / ‘important’ people have made public their feelings on the tragedy and its impending political fallout. There are two major topics here: a) whether the Republican rhetoric led to Jared Loughner’s actions and b) gun control.

As you probably already know — on the topic of rhetoric, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik kicked things off with his statement just hours after the shooting, which was apparently pretty ballsy because everyone seemed kind of shocked that he’d said this:

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

John Stewart‘s response, via monologue on The Daily Show:

“So here we are again, stunned by a tragedy. We’ve been visited by this demon before. Our hearts go out to those injured or killed and their loved ones. How do you make sense of these types of senseless situations is really the question that seems to be on everybody’s mind. I don’t know that there’s a way to make sense of this sort of thing. As I watched the political pundit world, many are reflecting and grieving and trying to figure things out. But it’s definitely true that others are working feverishly to find the tidbit or two that will exonerate their side from blame or implicate the other. Watching that is as predictable, I think, as it is dispiriting. Did the toxic political environment cause this? A graphic image here, an ill-timed comment, violent rhetoric, those types of things. I have no fucking idea.

…I refuse to give in to that feeling of despair. There’s light in this situation. I urge everyone: Read up about those who were hurt and or killed in this shooting. You will be comforted by just how much anonymous goodness there really is in the world. You read about these people and you realize that people that you don’t even know, that you have never met, are leading lives of real dignity and goodness. And you hear about crazy, but it’s rarer than you think. I think you’ll find yourself even more impressed with Congresswoman Giffords and amazed about how much living the deceased packed into lives cut way too short. And if there is real solace in this, I think it’s that for all the hyperbole and the vitriol that’s become a part of our political process, when the reality of that rhetoric, when actions match the disturbing nature of words we haven’t lost our capacity to be horrified. Please let us hope we never do. Let us hope we never become numb to what real horror, what the real blood of patriots looks like when it’s spilled.”

Steven Colbert:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Pundits Lay Blame for Senseless Arizona Attack
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive


From a New York Review of Books column by author Larry McMurtry, who lives down the street from the shooting and recently met Congresswoman Giffords during a flight:

Meanwhile, the dead are dead, the wounded are wounded, and except for twenty families, some of them now broken, the violent stream of American life goes on absolutely unchanged. Arizona and indeed America continue to be packed with guns. I own several myself (none of them semi-automatic) and I have no intention of disposing of them, although I don’t feel I should conceal them and walk down urban streets.

And I don’t believe that language drawn from the hunt is likely to vanish from our political speech. Words such as “target” or “bulls eye” are deeply ingrained. We will be polite for a while but once the slugfest resumes—and politics is a slugfest—the old invective will slip back in.


Sarah Palin:

New York Magazine dissects Sarah Palin’s facebook Tucson Statement as “Seeped in Stubborness. In addition to proving, once again, why adults shouldn’t be allowed to use facebook, Sarah whips out gems like this one:

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols?

Bad Bill O’Reilly had thoughts on MSNBC and The New York Times‘ editorial opinion of Jared Loughner’s motivation as it pertains to this country’s current political climate:

“Decent people simply do not ascribe motivation to a psychopath like Loughner unless that motivation is proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” O’Reilly said. “I can’t tell you how angry this makes me. Far-left loons have attacked me in vile way for years. I have to have security around the clock. Has the “New York Times” ever said a word about that?”


Rachel Maddow:

“Whether political rhetoric motivated this kid or not, whether this kid was sane enough to process political rhetoric as sane people understand it or not, whether we will understand sooner or later or never the motivation behind this kid…here’s the question: do we have any tools to stop the next gun massacre?”

The New York Times, via editorial:

The ludicrously thin membrane that now passes for gun control in this country almost certainly made the Tucson tragedy worse. Members of Congress are legitimately concerned about their own safety now, but they should be no less worried about the effect of their inaction on the safety of all Americans.

Rush Limbaugh:

“What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country. He’s sitting there in jail. He knows what’s going on, he knows that…the Democrat party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame. He knows if he plays his cards right, he’s just a victim. He’s the latest in a never-ending parade of victims brought about by the unfairness of America…this guy clearly understands he’s getting all the attention and he understands he’s got a political party doing everything it can, plus a local sheriff doing everything that they can to make sure he’s not convicted of murder – but something lesser.”

Jesse Jackson:

“Extreme statements are, as many have stated, as protected under the First Amendment as any speech. And vitriolic rhetoric in American politics can be traced back to the earliest days of the republic. But that doesn’t mean there are no consequences.

With rights come responsibilities. In Alabama, King stated what everyone knew to be true: that the extreme rhetoric and actions of Wallace were like setting the woods on fire.

Let us defend every person’s right to speech, to fierce and independent expression. But let us not fail to challenge those who exercise those rights irresponsibly, particularly those with megaphones like public leaders or media stars. In the hotbed of politics, we expect them to set an example, not to light a match.”

John Boehner Cries:


Are you following us on Facebook?

Profile gravatar of Laneia

Laneia is the Executive Editor and founding member of Autostraddle, and she thinks you're fucking rad. She's 36, has two kids, two dogs, one Megan, some personal essays and a lot of emails in her inbox. More at

Laneia has written 730 articles for us.


  1. Love Rachel Maddow, obvs, but didn’t think I’d have so much agreement and connection to Rev. Jackson’s response. Stewart’s opening monologue was perfect.
    It really irks me, though, that the future of the discussion of this tragedy is going to be so controlled by special interests: The pundits, the engorged gun lobby…how dare they be so self-serving at a time like this? How dare they try and twist a tragedy so they get left off the hook? We as AMERICANS are on the hook for this because we’ve allowed ourselves to morph into a society where buying a round of ammo and a book by Glenn Beck (where he graces the cover in a Nazi-style uniform) at Wal-Mart costs less than putting a healthy meal on the table for a family of four. There is something very very wrong with that picture, and while it’s awful that something like this has shaken us out of such complacency, I really hope the blame game on this comes to a swift end so we can focus on collective positive change. That’s my overly-idealistic hope for the day.

  2. Could Jon Stewart or Rachel Maddow be more perfect?

    I live in Arizona and people sure do love there guns here. I work in retail and I’m still a little un-nerved every time I see a customer walk into the store with a gun on there belt. Like really people? Is it really necessary to carry a gun while you are shopping at Lowes on a Sunday? I still don’t understand it.

    I really hope that this recent tragedy brings change to Arizona gun laws. It’s far to easy to walk into a sporting goods store, fill out a form, put down some money and walk out 20 mins. later with a semi-automatic gun in this state.

    • Is it really necessary to carry a gun while you are shopping at Lowes on a Sunday?
      YES THIS.
      also the entire concept of the extended magazine is just fucking crazy. cops can carry, at most, 15 bullets in their guns and this asshole can have 30+? like, if a cop had an extended magazine on his gun, he would be in violation of a policy. THIS ASSHOLE CAN CARRY THIRTY. i mean what the fuck even.

      • This comment is in response to both Laneia and thekid.

        Consider looking at this video of Suzanna Gratia-Hupp, who is testifying before Congress. She and her parents were the victims of the horrific shooting, not unlike the one in AZ. She espouses a different point of view than yours:

        Since the technical aspect of the weapon this nutcase used has been brought up, I’ll define a few terms for informational purposes. There is a lot of variation between different guns, so not all of what I say applies to every gun.


        The caliber is the diameter of the bore of the gun’s barrel.

        A .22 caliber gun has a bore that is .22 inches wide (just under a quarter of an inch). The bore of a .45 is just under half an inch in diameter. I have read that this lunatic in AZ used a Glock 19. It’s a common home defense or carry gun. Glock is the brand of the gun, and 19 is the model number. I believe the caliber on it is 9mm.

        So a gun has a caliber, and by extension, a round of ammunition does too, because the round must fit through the bore of the gun correctly.

        A .22 is the smallest caliber of gun in common use, and it can kill. I think it would be difficult to argue that there is any ethical difference between it and a much larger caliber gun.

        semi-automatic gun:

        In a gun that isn’t automatic, a pull of the trigger performs a specific function. It fires a round. You must then manually remove the spent casing (the casing is what holds the gun powder and bullet), and move the next round into position by some kind of manual action.

        In a semi-automatic gun, a pull of the trigger fires the round, ejects the spent casing, and then puts the next round into position to be fired. To fire the next round, you must pull the trigger again.

        In a fully automatic gun, a pull of the trigger will fire the round, eject the spent casing, position the next round, fire it, eject its casing, position the third round, etc. This would continue until you either let go of the trigger or ran out of ammo.

        All of these kinds of guns can kill, and again, I think It would be difficult to argue for any ethical difference between them.

        If people want to debate about these things, advocate for legislation pertaining to them to be passed, etc., they should know what the terms mean.

        • Thanks for that video, diver. Of course her story is tragic, but her point begins to collapse towards the end of the presentation of her anecdotal evidence. Assault-style and automatic guns are not “self-defense” guns, I just cannot accept that. She talks about a guy defending his property during the LA riots by standing on his roof with an assault rifle picking off looters and rioters? Sorry but no. I can’t accept that. Human life is non-replaceable.

          Going back to her personal story of her parents’ deaths, she wouldn’t have been in such a situation (sans gun, deceased parents, etc.) if that ‘madman’ hadn’t had access to the weapon he used to commit the heinous acts. She says nothing of the manner in which he procured that weapon, which is, to me, the crux of the issue. Gun control is not an infringement of personal liberties; I do not believe that ordinary citizens/civilians should be in possession of automatic guns/rifles for self-defense. Hell, even if you’re a hunter your guns shouldn’t be in your house, imo.

          Gun proliferation, if you want to call it that, is not, to me, a valid option for a rational society. The “when everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody’s gonna be a victim” mentality is bullshit. I mean, look what happened in Tucson. There were two bystanders who also had guns, and one of them mistakenly turned on the other. Mistakes happen, and when people have guns, mistakes are often deadly. As the article I’m about to link you to points out, confusion happens even among trained soldiers… so I’m casually leaving a Safeway grocery in Arizona and I’m just supposed to trust that the (minimum of) two armed non-evil-gunman-people in the vicinity are going to have (1) extremely judicious split-second knowledge of when to shoot and when not to shoot (2) who the other armed people are (good or bad guys) (3) great aim ? Not my cup of tea.
          Have a look:

          • Let me try to understand you better here by asking a few questions.

            1. In your opinion, is there any instance in which it is acceptable for a person to have a gun (for instance, a soldier, a secret service member, etc)? What is that instance, and what about that instance makes it acceptable?

            2. In your opinion, do people have a right to physically defend themselves? If you think they do, what is the limit of this right?

          • I think those questions are misleading. I totally support the right of people to own guns for hunting or for self-defense, even though personally I choose not to own one. But the gun Loughner was brandishing was a semi-automatic. Those are not designed for hunting deer or for defending oneself against an attacker. They’re designed for killing a shitload of people. There is no reason why a civilian would need to own a gun like that.

            It’s also possible to uphold the right of your average, well-meaning, sane citizen to own a gun for hunting/self-defense and accept that there are some people who should never own any kind of gun, such as people with a history of violent, unstable behavior. Someone who was expelled from community college for said behavior certainly qualifies under that category.

          • You are ignorant about guns, and that’s what’s causing the problem with your opinion.

            You don’t know what a semi-automatic gun is. I made another comment somewhere on this site explaining what a semi-auto is. You can use google to learn.

            Semi-autos absolutely are designed for hunting. Probably 50% of the hunting done in this country is done with semi-autos. The are also designed for personal defense. I’d say semi-autos constitute 50% of personal defense weapons as well. The weapon this nut used, the Glock 19, is probably one of the 10 most common personal defense guns in the US. There’s no way to verify these numbers. I’m estimating based on experience and observation. Hunting and defense against an attacker *are* the two primary purposes semi-autos are designed for, so according to your opinion, civilians absolutely would have a reason to own a gun like that. Semi-auto technology is over a hundred years old. It isn’t what TV says. Again, learn.

            Those questions aren’t misleading. My impression is that they are the crux of my disagreement with terracottatoes on this subject. I’m assuming she thinks people have a right to physically defend themselves, but until I learn what kind of limitation she puts on that, I can’t know the source of the disagreement.

            You’re right, there’s nutjobs out there. They’re a good reason to own a gun and learn how to use it responsibly.

      • I both own a gun and agree that extended magazines and armed Lowes shopping are ridiculous. My job (park ranger) requires me to have knowledge of, and deal with, lots of different weapons. And let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like stumbling upon a group of drunk hunters with high caliber, high velocity rifles. I must say, however, that the vast majority of gun owners/users I encounter are responsible and safe. It seems like a case of one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch. Unfortunately, spoiling in this instance equates to unimaginable tragedy.

    • “Is it really necessary to carry a gun while you are shopping at Lowes on a Sunday? I still don’t understand it.”

      It is if you’re, say, at a random Safeway parking lot somewhere in Tucson on a Saturday, and a madman is on the loose, murdering people in broad daylight.

      You’re right, you don’t understand it. Those people open carrying that “unnerve” you? Talk to them. Learn.

  3. What the hell is Rush Limbaugh even talking about?

    I am very much tired of the blame game. I feel like the political scene in this country is one gigantic classroom full of kindergarten kids. How about everyone stop talking about who’s to blame and start talking about ways to fix it? Rachel Maddow is right. This keeps happening. Over and over and over again, and every single time, everyone goes “Well, fuck. This is terrible. How did this happen?” It’s not that I want everyone to brush this off as just another shooting, but I don’t understand why everyone is so surprised. We need to find a way for people to exercise their Second Amendment rights without putting lives in danger. The so-called leaders of this country need to take a look at what is coming out of their effing mouths. No, they did not put that gun in Jared Loughner’s hand, drive him to Safeway, and lift his arm to pull the trigger. Loughner made that decision on his own no matter what state of mind he may have been in at the time. However, nobody needs to hear political heads or the media or anyone else with a platform encouraging or condoning this type of behavior through needlessly inflammatory rhetoric. It’s ridiculous. Do they know how ridiculous it is?

  4. Before I begin, let me put my cards out on the table…
    I am a physician.
    I have treated psychiatric patients in the past, having worked at a Psychiatric Emergency Department in a major Philadelphia hospital for almost 4 years.

    One of the things that concerns me regarding this entire discourse, is the role / blame attributed to pre-shooting political hostility in the media. It appears to me that many people who at baseline, are concerned about the inceasingly malignant tenor of political dialogue in general, are seizing this opportunity to point a finger and blame media talking heads as a contributing factor in this shooting incident. Contributory, perhaps-causal, no.

    I agree 100% that our national conversation on most things political has descended to a level I find personally repugnant and nationally shameful. I also think we should be saying please and thank you a lot more than we do, and am encouraging a return to the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” approach to daily interactions.

    But in this particular incident, I think the national conversation is missing a larger-and more accurate-piece of the picture. This man was psychiatrically ill. In reviewing his written material and subsequent information released by various entities attributed to him, it’s clear to me he was delusional and paranoid, clearly suffering from ideas of persecution at the very least. This man was so clearly in need of competent psychiatric care.

    But here’s the deal with psychiatric illness… When people go crazy, they go crazy in pretty much the same way. Victims of psychiatric illness like this man typically always become hostile, paranoid, fearful and agitated. They become fixated and obssesed with the more extreme ideas in our society, with little ability to actually discern the underlying rational (or irrational) underpinnings.

    In short, this man’s psychiatric disease provides him with abundant internal substrate for irrational thought. The presence of extremism in our society merely provides fuel for the inflammation of this irrationality. Whether Palin’s group had cross-hairs on a website or not is almost (almost !) irrelevant because these psychiatrically sick people will seek out these extreme ideas as their illness drives them.

    So in discussing the role of political dialogue in our society, we seem to be having a Cause and Effect conversation which I find fundamentally incorrect and inapplicable here.

    An incident like this frightens us to our national core–and to make ourselves feel better, to attempt to explain it and understand it, we engage in the kind of conversation unfolding on the national stage now–but really, it’s a paper tiger, and the wrong one at that…

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.