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Democratic Congressman Says He Will Introduce Bill To Ban “Crosshairs” Maps

Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Bob Brady tells The New York Times that he intends to take legislative action in the wake of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords:

Representative Bob Brady of Pennsylvania told The Caucus he plans to introduce a bill that would ban symbols like that now-infamous campaign crosshair map.

“You can’t threaten the president with a bullseye or a crosshair,” Mr. Brady, a Democrat, said, and his measure would make it a crime to do so to a member of Congress or federal employee, as well.

Asked if he believed the map incited the gunman in Tucson, he replied, “I don’t know what’s in that nut’s head. I would rather be safe than sorry.”

He continued, “This is not a wakeup call. This is a major alarm going off. We need to be more civil with each other. We need to tone down this rhetoric.”

To say that this is ridiculous is to put it mildly. Brady admits he has no idea if Jared Loughner was motivated by, or had even ever seen, the “target” map that has been the subject of so much discussion over the past 36 hours or so, but he thinks it should be banned anyway.

Jack Shafer at Slate addressed this point earlier today in a must-read post where he defends the heated political rhetoric that many has spent the entire weekend denouncing:

For as long as I’ve been alive, crosshairs and bull’s-eyes have been an accepted part of the graphical lexicon when it comes to political debates. Such “inflammatory” words as targeting, attacking, destroying, blasting, crushing, burying, knee-capping, and others have similarly guided political thought and action. Not once have the use of these images or words tempted me or anybody else I know to kill. I’ve listened to, read—and even written!—vicious attacks on government without reaching for my gun. I’ve even gotten angry, for goodness’ sake, without coming close to assassinating a politician or a judge.

From what I can tell, I’m not an outlier. Only the tiniest handful of people—most of whom are already behind bars, in psychiatric institutions, or on psycho-meds—can be driven to kill by political whispers or shouts. Asking us to forever hold our tongues lest we awake their deeper demons infantilizes and neuters us and makes politicians no safer.

(…)

Any call to cool “inflammatory” speech is a call to police all speech, and I can’t think of anybody in government, politics, business, or the press that I would trust with that power. As Jonathan Rauch wrote brilliantly in Harper’s in 1995, “The vocabulary of hate is potentially as rich as your dictionary, and all you do by banning language used by cretins is to let them decide what the rest of us may say.” Rauch added, “Trap the racists and anti-Semites, and you lay a trap for me too. Hunt for them with eradication in your mind, and you have brought dissent itself within your sights.”

Our spirited political discourse, complete with name-calling, vilification—and, yes, violent imagery—is a good thing. Better that angry people unload their fury in public than let it fester and turn septic in private. The wicked direction the American debate often takes is not a sign of danger but of freedom. And I’ll punch out the lights of anybody who tries to take it away from me.

Fortunately, Congresswoman Giffords provides is with the response to Congressman Brady’s inane idea:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There’s only thing that’s worse than heated political rhetoric, and that’s when a government official decides that they want to come along and ban it. Brady’s proposal isn’t going to go anywhere, for now, but that doesn’t mean it or something like it won’t return in the future. So, yes, I will criticize Sarah Palin, or Sharron Angle, or Ed Schultz, or Alan Grayson when they say something stupid, but I’m not going to condemn them and I’m not going to join with those who would hold them responsible for the violent actions of another individual. And I sure as heck am not going to join in any effort to silence them. As the old line goes, I disagree with what the say, but I will defend to the death their right to say it, because I if I don’t, then how long will it be before something I’ve said is deemed “heated” ?

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. On the plus side the constitutional authority section of Brady’s bill will be great comedy fodder.

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  2. Franklin says:

    American Grandstand.

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  3. An Interested Party says:

    “Fortunately, Congresswoman Giffords provides is with the response to Congressman Brady’s inane idea…”

    While Brady’s idea is silly, Giffords herself spoke out against Palin’s little graphic…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/08/gabrielle-giffords-shot-c_n_806211.html

    “‘For example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action,’ Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC.”

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  4. ponce says:

    I think America can get along just fine without violent anti-government rhetoric and imagery.

    Ban it.

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  5. george says:

    Are they going to ban bulls eyes on maps as well? How about hanging people in effigy? There’s a lot of symbols of violence out there.

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  6. Rock says:

    Speaking of violent imagery and rhetoric, follow this link to view Tea Party people in action.

    http://www.zombietime.com/zomblog/?p=621

    Page or scroll down to view the photos.

    Oh wait! Those may not be members of the Tea Party. More likely lefties at a pot party. Who knows? Maybe someone can identify them.

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  7. Michael says:

    There’s only thing that’s worse than heated political rhetoric, and that’s when a government official decides that they want to come along and ban it.

    As much as I criticized the use of the crosshairs and other violent symbolism, you are exactly right on this.

    Also, every time somebody says “better safe than sorry”, is usually means that there is no rational justification for an action, only a desperate need to feel better by doing something.

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  8. Pete says:

    Ponce, you should be ashamed of yourself. Your attitude speaks volumes about your state of mind. Your rants on this blog about Bush, Tea Party, Repubs, etc. take on a new light now. Especially your rants about infringement of civil rights under Bush.

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  9. Pug says:

    One person who did have a strong opinion about Sarah Palin’s target map was Gabrielle Giffords herself, long before she was gunned down Saturday.

    We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun site over our district. People do that they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that action.

    When Giffords spoke those words no one had been shot.

    Posts like Sarah Palin’s shouldn’t, and can’t, be banned by the government On the other hand, Sarah Palin and others prone to extreme rhetoric should display some of the common sense she seems to think she possesses.

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  10. mantis says:

    I think America can get along just fine without violent anti-government rhetoric and imagery.

    Ban it.

    No, we won’t be sacrificing out deepest principles just now. America cannot get along just fine without the First Amendment. Brady is being a fool.

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  11. HelloWorld says:

    I’ve been condemning Palin and the others for this sort of thing, but this bill is just plain stupid. How are we supposed to know who the idiots are if they keep making laws that prevent us from knowing they are idiots?????????

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  12. ponce says:

    “Ponce, you should be ashamed of yourself.”

    It’s easy to oppose government actions you disagree with without resorting to violent rhetoric and imagery, Pete.

    Maybe it’s time shame made a comeback in America.

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  13. HelloWorld says:

    I’d rather they spent their energy on finding out why so many people seemed to know this guy was eventually going to crack, but nobody seemed to do anything but remove him from a class. Those people are more responsible than even Palin, Beck, Bauchman, and the other loons.

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  14. Tano says:

    “Maybe it’s time shame made a comeback in America.”

    There is a difference between shaming and prosecuting..

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  15. Retired editor says:

    Free speech, people. Free speech. Are we going to ban little target logos? Then what about speech “targeting” something? “We’re targeting food poisoning,” for example. Then what’s next? Target underwear? Might incite violence?

    Don’t be stupid. PEOPLE are responsible for their OWN actions. Jared Loughner is a killer, a murderer, who didn’t need an excuse to kill someone–he just thought he’d be cool. He thought the police would shoot it out with him and he’d be “assassinated” (HIS word, btw, on the note he left in his safe in his apartment). He obviously wanted to go out in a blaze of glory, suicide by cop. But, now he’ll either get life in prison or lethal injection. Nothing very dramatic or blaze-of-glory-like about that.

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  16. Even as someone who thinks we need to tone down the rhetoric a bit, this is ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, that’s it’s likely to help the other side as Bob Brady will now become the go to straw man for people who don’t want to deal with the issue.

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  17. anjin-san says:

    > Posts like Sarah Palin’s shouldn’t, and can’t, be banned by the government On the other hand, Sarah Palin and others prone to extreme rhetoric should display some of the common sense she seems to think she possesses.

    That’s about right.

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  18. michael reynolds says:

    Well, this very neatly distracts us, doesn’t it?

    Some insignificant pol says something dumb, so let’s by all means NOT talk about guns, let’s NOT talk about the dire, apocalyptic, violent rhetoric of the fellow travelers who help to ensure those all-important tax cuts, let’s NOT talk about the fact that rational conservatives like Doug and James make common cause with wingnuts they personally despise, let’s absolutely get off on the topic of some dumb ass no one ever heard of who said something stupid.

    This game is getting very tired and very transparent.

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  19. ponce says:

    “Those people are more responsible than even Palin, Beck, Bauchman, and the other loons.”

    I blame the patriots who sold this looney a pistol and clips that hold 30+ bullets.

    I blame the N.R.A.

    How can magazines that hold 30 bullets be legal?

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  20. Question: If Bob Brady’s law passes, can Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar be prosecuted for threatening herself the next time she holds a press conference at a Target store?

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  21. epistorese says:

    Bad things happen because of misfortune or because bad people do them. Because bad people ARE bad, they look to the (sometimes) misguided or thoughtless actions of otherwise good people tp explain and excuse their badness. Laws will not improve political rhetoric; it will only improve when politicians decide to tone it down. If good people make good and wise decisions, those decisions will deflect the responsibility for bad actions to the bad people who take them by leaving them without excuses.

    Instead of laws banning crosshairs maps, it’s time for Sarah Palin to apply the Christian principles that she tell high school graduating classes and Barbara Walters that she holds to her political life as well as her private life (where I hope, but doubt, that she does apply them). Sarah, you talk the Christian game–now live it, too.

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  22. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***I think America can get along just fine without violent anti-government rhetoric and imagery.

    Ban it.*** Ya lets do that, lets burn all the films, books, video games, and music that has anything of the sort in them!!! We can erase the whole 60′s!!!!!

    How about maybe we stop exploiting this sad tragedy for our pi$$y little progressive goals and made up fears?

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  23. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Sarah, you talk the Christian game–now live it, too.*** OK time to stop reading idiots….sigh…..

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  24. Herb says:

    Whatever this shooting is about, it ain’t about free speech.

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  25. John Burgess says:

    I spent a lot of my working life in the printing business. The symbols on Palin’s map look like printing alignment symbols (See lower right corner of graphic.). The crosshairs extend outside the circle.

    Hunting crosshairs, (reticle, more precisely) remain within the circle.

    I guess for those who don’t know better, they’re interchangeable and ‘crosshair’ means whatever they want it to mean, whether in a microscope, camera view finder, gun, or transit.

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  26. ponce says:

    “We can erase the whole 60′s!!!!!”

    Reductio ad absurdum, Gap?

    What a surprise.

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  27. TG Chicago says:

    “Any call to cool “inflammatory” speech is a call to police all speech,”

    Shafer is preposterously wrong here. Sure, a law to ban targets on maps would be ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean we have to just shut up and take it. We can criticize things without wanting to legally ban them. Basically, in defending freedom of speech, he’s saying that people should *not* be free to criticize others’ speech. That’s plain dumb.

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  28. TG Chicago says:

    To put it another way, any call to cool “inflammatory” speech is a use of freedom of speech. Even if it actually *was* a call to police all speech (which it’s clearly not), Americans are free to make that call.

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  29. anjin-san says:

    > I guess for those who don’t know better, they’re interchangeable and ‘crosshair’ means whatever they want it to mean

    Palin herself referred to them as “bullseyes”. I think the question that they were gun imagery has been answered. I have no doubt whatsoever that Palin, like the rest of us, was horrified by this tragedy. Do I think she has been irresponsible in some of her words? Yes. Do I think that she actually hoped for violence, or thought that it might come about? No.

    The shooter is a very sick guy who created a delusional belief system that incorporated all kinds of stuff. Palin may well not have had anything to do with it. There is some evidence that the more heated rheoritic from the right is part of the the mix. More will be revealed.

    Hopefully, all parties will realize that things like the map are a bad idea, and will do better going forward.

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  30. Gustopher says:

    What a bonehead. Couldn’t Rep. Brady have waited a week, so we could all get to mock him without being distracted by all the real issues of the shooting?

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  31. rodney dill says:

    Maybe Sarah could use daisies instead of bulleyes… until they get banned.

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  32. Rock says:

    More images and short movies of Libtard love and political rhetoric.

    http://michellemalkin.com/2011/01/10/the-progressive-climate-of-hate-an-illustrated-primer-2000-2010/

    Page down

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  33. just me says:

    This is stupid-it is political grandstanding.

    It is pretty clear at this point that the murderer was mentally ill. You can ban all the maps in the world, but it isn’t going to stop this kind of thing.

    If the congressman wants to do something to stop this kind of stuff, perhaps figuring out a way to provide assistance to the mentally ill would be a better start.

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  34. I think that nothing can be done to prevent such awful accidents like the one which happened. And I definitely do not think that any of these maps influenced the decision to kill the congresswoman. The guy just went crazy and American history may provide a number of the examples like this one Kennedy, Lennon and the like.

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  35. john personna says:

    I’d say the author of the bill shows a shallow grasp of the situation.

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  36. anjin-san says:

    > perhaps figuring out a way to provide assistance to the mentally ill would be a better start.

    Now you are talking about something that actually makes sense. This would also address the homeless problem, as about half the homeless are mentally ill.

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  37. Michael says:

    Now you are talking about something that actually makes sense. This would also address the homeless problem, as about half the homeless are mentally ill.

    While we’re at it, let’s do something to end poverty and world hunger.

    All noble goals, but you can throw millions after millions at them without seeing any significant change in the situation.

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  38. Jose says:

    I am a Republican. But I will submit this to you. The Congresswoman’s statement about Sarah Palin’s map was basically saying this: You may have a right to do something, but it doesn’t mean you should. And as a public image, you actually shouldn’t. Just like building a mosque yards away from Groud Zero, burning the Quran and protesting at military funerals, our freedoms come with an inherent responsibility. It is a dangerous thing to limit freedom of speech. But it is also dangerous to not tell people that there are consequences to the abuse of free speech. The BEST way to silence those on both sides who spew hatred and division? Don’t vote for them. Don’t put their faces on television. Let them and their extreme views disappear into nothingness. Just like our dollars should shape what corporations do, our votes should shape the climate in America. And right now, despite the cries for something in between far left and far right, we keep gravitating towards the Palins and Pelosis of the political world. Despite her Democratic label, Congresswoman Giffords is about as moderate as Democrats get, and someone (a liberal) tried to off her. And while Palin’s map was distasteful, I still don’t see how a left-wing nut would follow Palin’s “commands”, as so many liberals have shouted. I think their attempts to link Palin to this are just as damaging as her map.

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  39. Scott P says:

    I see it as poor tact, and nothing else. I know what context Palin meant it as. But I can’t ignore the fact that a lot of people (Republicans) defending Palin and the first amendment on this would change their tune in a heartbeat if the roles were switched. They would sound just like the Democrats do now if a Democrat made a similar map about Republican districts. Republicans are already quote mining, “See, Krugman said mean stuff too!”.

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  40. Jose says:

    I for one am not defending Palin, only the First Amendment. And yes, Krugman did say some stuff, but it’s no different than what Palin said. There ARE two maps that I know of with bullseyes. One on states that Bush won by a narrow margin for the 2004 Democratic campaign by the Democratic Leadership Committee and one more recent one by the Democratic National Campaing Committee with bullseyes on enemies of President Obama’s agenda.And I’m not crying about it. Just letting people know, yes, the Dems do it too. And they are not murderers either.

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  41. thomas mcnichol says:

    the bill is another knee jerk reaction by a cowardly congressman.

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  42. An Interested Party says:

    @Rock: “Libtard?” Really? Such enlightened discourse….of course, such is to be expected from someone who links to Michelle Malkin…you do realize that both sides engage in this, right? Here, let me help you out…

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2011/1/9/934563/-Guns,-God-and-Incitement

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  43. edstuart says:

    What a laugh for someone to suggest this type of law. Sortuv of Rahm’s statement of not letting any bad situation go to waste. First, freedom of speech and then the guns would be next. We’ll be in a nice pickle then, won’t we

    Bummer’s rhetoric in the past has been very questionalble. Has anyone threatened his freedom of speech? Why not? It’s been just as inflammatory:

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  44. Michael says:

    Well at this rate, we’ll all be wearing beige and grey and calling each-other numbers instead of names in no time….thank you libtards.

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  45. Axel Edgren says:

    Saying that hate-speech should not be protected by the first amendment is an perfectly acceptable usage of the first amendment, Michael :D.

    You seem to think the US has happened across some philosophically perfect or at least very very good constitution. It hasn’t. It has just worked quite well for some centuries, which is decent for a document.

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  46. mantis says:

    Well at this rate, we’ll all be wearing beige and grey and calling each-other numbers instead of names in no time

    Then I guess you better lock and load, right? Most violent lunatics who go on shooting sprees are operating under the influence of similar paranoid delusions.

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  47. Had Enuff says:

    Sure seems like the left has really gone overboard calling for bans on survey targets. Those are not even croshairs, crosshairs have a thick line to the outside and fine hairlike lines to center your target. Hence the name crossHAIR.But of course this is all an excuse to pull at the feely good intention side of liberals. Shame on the left for the blame game and the outragous knee jerk reaction to ban this and ban that and to put laws on free speech. To me all this was is the first shot of a civil war over ideology. get a grip fools.

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  48. Had Enuff says:

    Sure seems like the left has really gone overboard calling for bans on survey targets. Those are not even crosshairs, crosshairs have a thick line to the outside and fine hairlike lines to center your target. Hence the name crossHAIR.But of course this is all an excuse to pull at the feely good intention side of liberals. Shame on the left for the blame game and the outragous knee jerk reaction to ban this and ban that and to put laws on free speech. To me all this was is the first shot of a civil war over ideology. get a grip fools.

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  49. An Interested Party says:

    “Sure seems like the left has really gone overboard calling for bans on survey targets. Those are not even crosshairs, crosshairs have a thick line to the outside and fine hairlike lines to center your target.”

    I guess someone should have informed Sarah Palin of that…

    http://twitter.com/SarahPalinUSA/status/29677744457

    “Remember months ago ‘bullseye’ icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin’ incumbent seats? We won 18 out of 20 (90% success rate;T’aint bad)”

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  50. [...] She was a Democratic representative and her assailant was her ardent supporter. Still, the local Sheriff, clearly a layabout who feels guilty about his dereliction of duty in the matter sought to lay the blame on political opponents of the Democratic party. Wow. I am going to have to think about how to classify the mind that would stoop so low. Not to be outdone, everyone from Jane Fonda, to Chris Matthews, to even an idiot Congressman, Bob Brady, are trying to use this Democrat on Democrat crime as a reason to attac… [...]

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  51. Had Enuff says:

    Hey interested party don’t forget to blame Bush as well. Between Bush and Palin it is hard to tell which one has captivated the simple liberal mind the most.

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  52. An Interested Party says:

    Nice strawman, but I’m not blaming anyone…merely pointing out that this latest story out of the Palin camp goes against her own words from the past…

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  53. [...] mimic the so-called “target” ad that has become the focus of attention since Saturday should be outlawed.  Another suggested that using a phrase like “job killing” was inflammatory. Now, the [...]

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  54. PJ says:

    Another stupid bill is coming:

    “Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York, is planning to introduce legislation that would make it illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a government official, according to a person familiar with the congressman’s intentions.”

    Republicans for some gun control!
    I thought it was every citizen’s God given right to bring a gun when meeting their representative or the President?
    Also, how will a heroic gun wielding citizen be able to save their representative if this becomes law?

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  55. [...] yes, please, let’s adopt legislation outlawing the use of bullseyes on maps. And while we’re at it, let’s tone down the inflammatory rhetoric, shall we? [...]

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  56. matt says:

    Well it’s cute that your blind gun hatred doesn’t allow you to see the simple problems with such a law. Who would be defined as a government official? Census takers technically could be covered which means gun owners would be committing a felony any time a census taker stops by or a senator drives past their house. How am I supposed to know who is a “government official”? Will I be required to get out of my car on the street and run 1000 feet off the side of the road when seeing one? Seriously there’s all kind of stupid in this concept that you could spend hours coming up with dumb scenarios that this would cause..

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  57. [...] [...]

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  58. someothername says:

    GREAT !!!!!
    So Democrats will stop printing maps with targets on them and using war-like terminology? Like at:
    http://www.verumserum.com/media/2010/03/DLC-Targeting-map.gif

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