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Guns, Palin And The ‘Blood Libel’

Guns, Palin And The ‘Blood Libel’

On CNN, as I write this, the discussion between the anchor and New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg is about whether the Arizona shooter might have shot less people "if he had used a different type of gun." There is pecious little discussion that I have seen about what might have transpired if, somehow, the culprit had no gun at all.

It’s a truly sad day when, instead of any consideraton of stricter gun control or a rudimentary screening process that would prevent dangerously unstable people from arming themselves, the best we can come up with is a bill to ban large ammunition clips in order to make the psychos we assume will inevitably be armed less lethal. Arizona lets just about anybody carry a gun anywhere, sans permit. As the sheriff of Pima County, where the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other people, six of them fatally, noted Arizona is "the Tombstone of America."

Those who suggest more guns are the answer to these violent oubursts to better defend the innocent are fooling themselves. Only in westerns can pistol-packing good guys draw fast enough to stop bad guys who have the element of surprise. The average civilian trying to return fire in such a melee is far more likely to hit a bystander than the culprit.

Whenever there’s a high body count like Virgina Tech or Columbine or any of the deadly mall, grade-school or university shootings in between people tend to get miffed a few days about how gun violence is awful, just awful. But the din inevitably fades, with no more Brady Bills or their equivalents gaining momentum. It’s far easier to be indignant about "the discourse" and the level of hostility in the political arena. Firebrand Pat Buchanan, who spars with liberak Eleanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group every Sunday even asked everyone to"tone down the rhetoric and to get away from the military or the armed metaphors.”

To paint the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, as a radical who fell victim to heated rhetoric is as absurd as suggesting that Sarah Palin, who is proving to be a marginal player in American politics, motivated him. There are indications that Loughner fixated on Giffords as far back as 2007, when no one outside Alaska knew Palin’s name, and his incoherent online rants and the timing of the shooting two months after the election — when Palin’s web site had displayed a map with crosshairs on some districts– hardly suggest cause and effect.

So I can understand the outrage the ex-governor felt listening for the last few days as pundits dragged her into the fray. "Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn,” Palin said in a video statement. “That is reprehensible.”

The switchoard lit up at Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center and and they put out statements condemning her terminology.

“We wish that Palin had not invoked the phrase ‘blood-libel’ in reference to the actions of journalists and pundits in placing blame for the shooting in Tucson on others,” said ADL’s Abe Foxman. “While the term ‘blood-libel’ has become part of the English parlance to refer to someone being falsely accused, we wish that Palin had used another phrase, instead of one fraught with pain in Jewish history.”

I have to admit that when I first heard Palin’s remarks the term didn’t jump out at me. Now that’s an issue, I’d say she could have used a softer term — just libel perhaps — but it would have watered down her outrage. Foxman is right: it has become part of the parlance, and so largely divorced from its origin. If someone said the ADL was on a crusade against anti-Semitism would that be offensive? Does the organization object every time someone talks about the prospect of a nuclear holocaust?

There’s no harm in concern about how people choose their words; except when it takes the place of a more urgent discussion about how people are using their guns.

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