|State Representative Babette Josephs
State Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Phila., is expressing her horror, shock and outrage at Saturday's attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, which wounded her and 19 others at a community legislative event in Tucson, Ariz., leaving six dead and Giffords in critical condition.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families, including Representative Giffords," Josephs said. "This is a terrible tragedy for them, for Arizona and for this country.
"But this incident reminds us that there can be consequences to speech that makes it seem OK to physically attack people for having a different viewpoint. I fear that many extremist talk radio and TV commentators do not make that distinction. People who are unstable are likely to take this rhetoric of violence as permission to act. And in states with weak gun control laws, that permission can be deadly. This is not a First Amendment issue, but one of self-censorship, self-restraint and the assumption of responsibility.
"A great friend of mine, the late Larry Frankel, championed the First Amendment, but even he said the First Amendment does not give us the right to act like idiots," she said. Josephs pointed to the oft-noted map distributed by former Alaska governor Sara Palin with cross hair marks on certain legislative districts, including Giffords'.
"One cannot shout 'fire' in a crowded room without cause because of what it may incite. Responsible individuals self-edit their comments in the same way."
Josephs also said she believes that Saturday's shooting puts more light on the issue of responsible firearm laws.
"There are many instances in which women are the intended victims of troubled young men. Who will be next? Pennsylvania is similar to Arizona in having weak gun laws. Now is the time to reconsider enacting responsible gun-safety laws," Josephs said. "It is up to the politicians to temper their extreme discourse and enact responsible gun-safety laws."