Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) reportedly plans to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.
Brady told CNN that he wants federal lawmakers and officials to have the same protections against threat currently provided to the president. His call came one day after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot, along with 19 other people, at a public event in Tucson.
“The president is a federal official,” Brady told CNN in a telephone interview. “You can’t do it to him; you should not be able to do it to a congressman, senator or federal judge.”
Among the six people killed was Federal Judge John Roll.
While it is unknown at this time whether the shooter was politically motivated, that has not prevented a vigorous debate about whether heated political rhetoric seen during the healthcare reform debate and during the 2010 campaign is inciting violence.
Sarah Palin has had to fend off a fresh round of criticism for a map posted on one of her websites of 20 congressional districts that voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election, but had Democratic members that voted in favor of healthcare reform.
Critics originally took Palin to task for the apparent use of the crosshairs of guns to identify the districts. The controversy re-ignited after the shooting, since Giffords’s district was included on the map.
Brady singled out the map as the type of rhetoric he opposed.
“You can’t put bull’s-eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official,” he said.
However, a Palin spokeswoman denied Sunday that the image was intended to depict gun sights. Palin offered condolences to the Giffords family and other victims of the shooting on her Facebook page Saturday.
“The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down,” Brady said.