The Arizona Thing Isn’t Going Away

It appears the war of words between Left and Right over the Arizona shooting isn’t even cooling off yet, much less going away.

Friday, a Democrat operative named J. Eric Fuller who was shot in the knee during Jared Lee Loughner’s rampage inflamed the nearly week-old festival of charge and countercharge by remarking to a left-wing website called Democracy Now that…

“It looks like Palin, Beck, Sharron Angle and the rest got their first target,” Eric Fuller, a former campaigner for Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, told Democracy Now. “Their wish for Second Amendment activism has been fulfilled.”

Fuller’s outburst hit the transom on a Friday afternoon, so the reaction to it wasn’t initially what one might expect of something so inflammatory.

But it seems he wasn’t done. Today, ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour hosted the taping of an event in Tucson meant to move the healing process along, but instead Fuller managed to get himself arrested by making a death threat against Tucson Tea Party head Trent Humphries.

The theme of the event was “An American Conversation Continued” —  the idea being to continue the conversation that a madman’s brutal rampage had interrupted.  So it was inevitable that the conversation would eventually turn to politics.   It did, toward the end, with Amanpour leading a discussion on a very touchy but obvious topic:  gun control.

That’s where the atmosphere turned tense.   When Tucson Tea Party founder Trent Humphries rose to suggest that any conversation about gun control should be put off until after the funerals for all the victims, witnesses say Fuller became agitated.  Two told KGUN9 News that finally, Fuller took a picture of Humphries, and said, “You’re dead.”

When State Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson) rose to explain and clarify current and proposed gun legislation in the state, several people groaned or booed her.  One of those booing, according to several witnesses, was Fuller.   Witnesses sitting near Fuller told KGUN9 News that Fuller was making them feel very uncomfortable.

The event wrapped up a short time later.  Deputies then escorted Fuller from the room.  As he was being led off, Fuller shouted loudly to the room at large.  Several witnesses said that what they thought they heard him shout was, “You’re all whores!”

Fuller, age 63, is a political operative who specializes in gathering petitions for ballot initiatives.   Before the program began, he passed out business cards to people sitting around him that read:
“Signatures
“Expediting Initiatives since 2006
“J. Eric Fuller
“Political Circulator.”

A Pima County Sheriff’s spokesman told KGUN9 News that the department has charged Fuller with one count of threats and intimidation, and said they plan to charge him with at least one count of disorderly conduct.  Humphries told KGUN9 News that he does plan to press those charges. 

The irony could not be more pointed, or painful.  One of the issues discussed in the town hall meeting was the question of why no police or mental health professionals had ever intervened with Jared Lee Loughner, despite his increasingly bizarre behavior that had included disruptive outbursts.

After a week of bitter recriminations largely stemming from Democrat operatives seeking to recreate an “Oklahoma City” narrative and blaming the “heated rhetoric” of the Right for Loughner’s shooting spree, despite a lack of evidence Loughner’s deranged actions came from anything but his own personal failure and mental illness, it was hoped the controversy surrounding Tucson would die down.

But it seems there is too much vitriol and blame pent up for that to happen. Even the President, who attempted to cool his side down by stating in a speech at an event in Tucson earlier in the week that Loughner’s rampage was not the fault of the Right, didn’t seem to have the ability to tamp down the passions.

It must be understood that Humphries, the Tucson Tea Party founder, has been receiving death threats this week. Sarah Palin, who was without evidence blamed for the shooting by a sizable number of left-wing pundits immediately after the news of it hit, has been receiving a large number of death threats.

Loughner’s rampage was not motivated with the political tone of Palin or the Tea Party or even current events. What he did has been condemned, rightly, across the political spectrum.

But the attempt to make him out to be the second coming of Timothy McVeigh and to score points off that narrative is not just irritating; it’s dangerous. All it takes is one unhinged, aggrieved left-wing madman to take the castigation of the Right to heart and act on the language of an Ed Schultz or Paul Krugman and Gabrielle Giffords won’t be the first public figure victimized as a result of these events.

Efforts to convince the Right to tone down its rhetoric are obnoxious in their sanctimony. But it might not be a wholly unproductive idea to attempt to lower the temperature. The Left should make a good-faith effort to lead on the issue by reining in its operatives and denouncing individuals like Krugman and Fuller.

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