We must clean up the ‘toxic political climate’

The attempted assassination ofArizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was a horrific act, but one that may give our political leaders the courage to improve the civility of their discourse and strengthen gun control and mental health laws.

The issue is not whether we can draw a direct line from extreme right-wing rhetoric to the shooting. The issue is whether the toxic political climate that dominates so much of the present public discourse demoralizes our citizens and demeans the political process. The kind of semi-automatic weapon the suspect used was governed by laws that restricted its sale until Congress let the law expire in 2004. Perhaps Congress will now muster the courage to again restrict such sales, particularly to people who have a history of mental problems or, like the suspect, are rejected by Army recruiters.

Robert Salman