Faith leaders are calling for prayer and “soul searching” in the wake of the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others in Tucson, Ariz.
Evangelical leader Franklin Graham offered words of condolence and encouragement Monday to those shaken by the bizarre incident which killed six people and left more than a dozen people wounded.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families in their time of need and suffering,” shared Graham in statement.
He denounced the attack as “horrible” and prayed for God to comfort those personally affected by the occurrence.
“My prayer is that God will put His loving arms around the families and victims in their time of loss and great suffering, and that they would sense His presence and comfort in their lives,” he said.
The incident occurred inside of an Arizona Safeway where Giffords was holding a constituent meeting. Shortly after the meeting began the gunman, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, began shooting. Loughner shot 20 people, fatally wounding Federal District Judge John Roll, a nine-year-old honor student, and four others.
He also shot Giffords in the head. Neurosurgeons treating her said that bullet went through the left lobe of her brain and though she has stabilized, she remains in critical condition. Doctors have the three-term Democrat in a medically-induced coma.
Arizona Bishop Minerva G. Carcano called for healing prayers for the 14 injured, their families and community members of all the victims.
“We raise our prayers for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others who were affected by the senseless shooting that occurred today in Tucson, Ariz.,” shared Carcano. “We mourn the deaths of those whose lives were cut short in this moment of insanity, among them Federal Judge John M. Roll.”
Roll was a President George H.W. Bush appointee and friend of Giffords.
Franklin described Loughner as a “deranged man” but said it was “hasty” to conclude that his attack was motivated by politics.
“If something horrific happens to a person, it does not mean those who hold differing views are responsible for the actions of a disturbed individual,” he cautioned.
News reports digging into Loughner’s background and his social media accounts reveal him as a high school drop-out, military reject and loner who was concerned about literacy and mind-control.
His YouTube videos urged viewers to create their own languages and stressed that control over language equaled mind control. None of the videos mentioned any political leanings or affiliation.
Still, some have pointed the finger at conservative pundits and rally participants for fostering hate speech in the political spectrum. Others have accused Tea Party leader Sarah Palin who featured a target map which used gun sights to mark Democratic districts.
Giffords herself once appeared on MSNBC chiding the list. “When people do that, they’ve got to realize that there are consequences to that action.” She also shared on the news program that her office had been recently vandalized.
Franklin warned, “This is not a time for political opportunism.”
Instead, he urged Americans to turn a critical eye to the grime messages being perpetrated in the media.
“What frightens me is that our country has accepted murder, violence and rape as entertainment that we see portrayed every day on TV, movies and video games,” Franklin remarked.
He continued, “I agree with Sheriff Clarence Dupnik when he alluded to the fact that this country needs some serious soul searching. If we as a nation are not careful, we could see the destruction of the foundation upon which this nation was built.”