New: Legislators express concern after Arizona shooting

By Audrey Moon

JEFFERSON CITY — Although halfway across the country, Missouri lawmakers say the Arizona shooting still hits close to home, sparking conversation over their security and the power of words to incite action.

The shooting, which occurred Saturday at a “Congress On Your Corner” event at a Tucson, Ariz. supermarket, resulted in six deaths and 14 more injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who remains in critical condition.

Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis County, expressed concern over incendiary images and words used by the media and said the negative rhetoric impacts the way people behave.

“I don’t know what spurred this man to do such a thing, but we are going to have to be very careful about the messages and the images we put out in the press,” Wright-Jones said. “It could take anyone on the fringes and force them into a situation like this that puts us all in danger.”

Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield, said the shooting in Arizona is a “sad commentary” on the impact of language and how words are used.

“It isn’t about freedom of speech; it is about the words we choose that either incite or calm or make a point,” Lampe said.

Specifically, Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said legislators and the media must watch the tones and levels of personal attacks they make.

“We are all going to have to do a better job at that,” Kehoe said.

Lampe said a safe political arena calls for open, honest discussion with civil discourse and civil means.

“Words matter. What we say to each other matters,” she said.

Wright-Jones called the shooting a “tragedy of major proportion” and said she expects the shooting to cause a copycat effect.

“I’m sure someone else has embraced that as the answer to his or her own set of issues,” said Wright-Jones. “You just don’t know who is in the crowd and we have to be careful about the things we say.”

Lampe said for the legislators, however, the risk is part of the job. For her, she said it is a risk worth taking to preserve democracy.

“You are either going to make yourself accessible or not,” said Lampe. “The whole idea of America is that it is about citizen legislature and is about citizens contacting citizens.”

Kehoe said legislators must continue to make plans to ensure security at public events.

“You are always trying to figure out how you are going to go out and meet with people, but you also make sure you are protecting your safety, the safety of your family and the other constituents around you,” Kehoe said.

The topic of stricter gun laws has once again emerged among politicians after the Arizona shooting. Disagreement still exists on the right to conceal and carry a weapon, which is legal in Missouri.

Wright-Jones, who serves the “crime capital of the country,” opposes the concealed carry laws, which allow a person to carry a handgun or other weapon in public settings in a concealed manner.

Kehoe, an advocate of Second Amendment rights, said he does not expect the shooting to affect conceal and carry laws in Missouri. However, he said heightened security will be a priority in upcoming weeks.

“It is a conversation that I think needs to be had and that we’ve got to keep at the forefront and continue to talk about,” Kehoe said.

Rep. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, said the Second Amendment isn’t the issue, personal responsibility is.

“I think people cause crimes, whether it be a weapon, or a vehicle, or a glass bottle or a knife,” he said.