The shooting spree at Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords's constituent gathering has spawned a new round of discussion about the level of vitriol in American political dialogue. It's an important discussion to have, but in this case, it's a red herring -- a way to, once again, avoid doing anything to limit access to semi-automatic weapons or improve mental health care.
NYT columnist Gail Collins writes about some of this in "A Right to Bear Glocks?":
"Today, the amazing thing about the reaction to the Giffords shooting is that virtually all the discussion about how to prevent a recurrence has been focusing on improving the tone of our political discourse. That would certainly be great. But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it. ... Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is 'not suited for hunting or personal protection,' said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. 'What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.' "
Even if we clean up our political discourse, we won't remove all threat of violence. But we can minimize the damage.