The idea of censorship was raised by some. Who gets to decide what's "acceptable" when it comes to political speech? some asked.
Having had to defend my books against would-be censors on several occasions, I'm particularly sensitive to this charge, so it gave me pause. But writers self-censor our work when we believe it's necessary. Shouldn't politicians and shock jocks be held to the same standard and be accountable for what they say?
Others argued that there is no connection between a figurative call to arms and the actions of a "lone crazy." I disagree. Whatever suspect Jared Loughner's deluded reasoning for allegedly spraying a crowd with bullets, the current atmosphere in this country encourages such "Second Amendment solutions" to personal problems that some blame on the government.
Young people are especially malleable. Few enough are willing to investigate "truth" beyond what they hear around the dinner table or on the airwaves. As they seek their way in a world where "respected" adults call for violent solutions, some begin to see violence as acceptable -- laudatory, even.
When a parent carries a gun to a political rally as an implied threat, a child will believe implied threats are OK. From there, overt threats become OK. From there, it becomes OK to follow through. Not for all, of course, but for a few. And what harm that few can accomplish!
Jared Loughner is only 22, and classmates say he's been on a dangerous path for a while. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were high school seniors when they went on a rampage at Columbine High School. In the years between 1990 and today, almost 200 other school shooting deaths have been reported, with many more victims injured. Beyond actually pulling the trigger, a 2009 survey showed that 100,000 children carried guns to school that year for self-defense.
I have no problem with responsible gun ownership. I own one myself (legally purchased, registered and used a couple of times a year to shoot paper targets in the desert).
Whatever happened to reasoned debate? To respect for those whose opinions differ from our own? To compassion for people who don't look the same or have sex the same or worship the same? To the very principles this country was founded on?
This is a call for a return to reasoned debate. A call to end the incendiary rhetoric and out-and-out propaganda. To put away our guns in favor of conversation. Communication. A call to drop the crosshairs.
Ellen Hopkins is an award-winning author of seven New York Times best-selling young adult novels-in-verse, including "Crank," "Tricks" and "Fallout." Read her blog on Red Room.