New York Times reporter Peter Baker explored the metaphorical challenges of the gun debate: "In Debate Over Curbing Gun Violence, Even Language Can Be Loaded." It was a politically balanced, if perhaps oversensitive, analysis, until an unfair reference tying Sarah Palin, the former GOP vice presidential candidate, to the shooting by schizophrenic Jared Loughner of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It's a false tie the Times has exploited before. An excerpt:
The Brady Campaign found itself in the awkward position of using a firm called Point Blank when it needed help last month. Point Blank, named for the Bruce Springsteen song, had an archery bull’s-eye on its Web site. But it has since dissolved and one of its principals, Debra DeShong Reed, has founded a new firm, called Five by Five Public Affairs, that is now working for the Brady Campaign.
The Brady Campaign’s own name attests to the sensitivity of language in the gun debate. Gun control advocates these days generally do not use the term gun control; instead, they talk about curbing gun violence, recognizing that “control” stirs opposition among legal gun owners who fear their rights being trampled.
The use of gun symbolism has at times provoked controversy. After Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head by a gunman in 2011, many criticized Sarah Palin, the former vice-presidential nominee, for using cross hairs on her Web site to identify Democrats like Ms. Giffords who she said should be defeated for re-election.
Gun control advocates like Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden tend to draw less criticism when they use the language of guns. “We know that there is no silver bullet,” Mr. Biden said last week about stemming gun violence. But he said he planned to present an array of ideas to Mr. Obama that he hoped would make a difference. “I’m shooting for Tuesday,” he said.
Certainly Obama and Biden get far less criticism from the media. In contrast, after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot by paranoid schizophrenic Jared Lee Loughner in January 2011, the Times ignorantly jumped on the imagery in a campaign "target map" put out by Palin the year before, though there was no evidence that Loughner had even seen the map, much less been inspired to bloodshed by it.
A January 9, 2011 front-page story by Carl Hulse and Kate Zernike, "Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics," dwelled on the map while ignoring the obvious grasped by Baker on Wednesday: That such rhetoric is commonplace on both sides, as is such imagery (as the above graphic issued by the Democratic Leadership Council in 2004 shows). Here's an excerpt:
Ms. Giffords was also among a group of Democratic House candidates featured on the Web site of Sarah Palin's political action committee with cross hairs over their districts, a fact that disturbed Ms. Giffords at the time.
"We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list," Ms. Giffords said last March. "But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that."
The image is no longer on the Web site, and Ms. Palin posted a statement saying "my sincere condolences are offered to the family of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today's tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice." (Late Saturday, the map was still on Ms. Palin's Facebook page.)
At least the Times's more recent article admits that such garden-variety rhetoric is bipartisan and ubiquitous in Washington.