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House honors Giffords; touches on guns, rhetoric, responsibility


During the first speeches in Congress since the mass shooting in Arizona, gun control, the role of rhetoric, and individual responsibility were brought up.

Members, introducing a resolution honoring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), largely stuck to honoring the victims. But there were some notable moments of speeches that strayed from that.

California Democrat and veteran Member, Jane Harman, after praising Giffords and recognizing the victims, was the first to bring up gun control.

"Finally, we should revisit sensible federal laws to control access to guns and ammunition," Harman said. "At a minimum I believe we must promptly restore the expired federal ban on extended magazine clips. I personally would urge us also to re-enact the 1994 ban on assault weapons which I was proud to support and bar sales of Saturday night specials."

Indiana Republican Mike Pence, who is considering a presidential run, talked about the political blame game. He and others referred to the suspected shooter as a "single, deranged gunman"

"We must refrain from personal attacks... resist in moments of heartache temptation to assign blame to those we disagree with," Pence said, adding, "No opinion expressed by left or right was to blame for Saturday's attack.... We must resist efforts to suggest otherwise."

That was echoed by Louie Gohmert, a bombastic Texas Republican. "This is no time for assigning blame to anyone but the gunman," he said.

But House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) urged members of Congress to reflect on the role of rhetoric.

"We do not know the specific motive which led the perpetrator of this crime to act," Hoyer said. "Nor can we draw conclusions as to specific causes. But it is a time for us to reflect on the heightened anger being projected in our public debate and the daily denigration of those with whom we disagree. And it is appropriate that the wrenching, shocking, senseless violence of that day compel us all to reflect on our own responsibility to temper our words and respect those with whom we disagree, lest the failure to do so give incitement to the angriest and most unstable among us."

Arizona Republican Ben Quayle, who attracted much attention as a candidate last summer calling Mr. Obama "the worst president in history," gave his first floor speech as a Member of Congress.

"That, Mr. Speaker, peaceful discourse and participation, is a precious part of our society and one of the things that makes our country great," Quayle said, but then added a line that some will see as a subtle defense of the right to hot rhetoric: "We must not allow an act of violence to inhibit the free exchange of thoughts and concerns -- free exchange of thoughts and concerns. The six that lost their lives died because they loved America. They wanted to be involved in the process."

Remember, Quayle's primary saw a lot of hot rhetoric. In addition to his declaration about the president, one of his opponents was Pamela Gorman, who ran a provocative Web ad in which she fires an automatic weapon multiple times.