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Pioneer Editorial: This is not democracy as we know

The nation was rocked Saturday morning by the senseless tragedy that nearly saw a member of the U.S. House assassinated and did see the death of six people and more than a dozen people injured. It leaves us wondering why a young man could be filled with so much anger toward the "establishment" that he would fire a Glock pistol at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and then randomly into a crowd of people at a Tucson, Ariz., shopping mall.

From the ramblings of alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner it would appear that his actions may have been politically motivated; and yet there is no doubt that the status of his mental health may be at question.

We wonder how this could have happened and what can we do to prevent it from happening again. It's easy to say that our elected officials should remain behind bullet-proof glass, never meeting the public that elected them. Or perhaps we should enact stricter gun control laws, such as banning handguns as England does.

Neither suggestions are warranted nor practicable. But we feel the urge to do something.

Our times are difficult; the deep partisan divide we see in Washington, D.C., is repeated across the nation as we see it in terms of blue states and red states. We scream at each other, dig in our heels and call the other side names. The rise of talk radio is partly to blame, as the issues of the day are twisted into half-truths and name-calling. We don't offer suggestions, just knock the other guy down for his ideas.

In some cases, the discourse goes beyond being acceptable, and only invigorates those with inclinations to violence to make their point. Such vitriol has no place in our discussion of the issues, and needs to be severely toned down.

We may never know if such political vitriol was Mr. Loughner's trigger, but it should be easy to see where such a connection could be made, if not with Mr. Loughner then with others.

We offer sympathy for those who were murdered, all of them needlessly from the 9-year-old girl to the federal judge, and pray for the recovery of the others, including Rep. Giffords.

This is not what democracy in a free society is, and we pray that we as a society are not devolving into something we grow to fear and despise.