be the work of ”a single nut.” But he said the nation must assess the fallout of ”an atmosphere where the political discourse is about hate, anger and bitterness .”

The NAACP issued a statement decrying the shootings.

“This senseless attack is a threat to democracy, and we must stand together to support Congresswoman Giffords, and all the victims of this tragedy,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous.  “Congresswoman Giffords never shied away from conversations with her constituents, as evidenced by her Congress on Your Corner community events. It is tragic that such willingness to talk about the issues of the day led to this deplorable attack.  As we pray for a speedy recovery, we must heed Congresswoman Giffords’ call to ‘stand back when things get too fired up.’ Otherwise, we run the risk that the heated political climate will manifest itself in violence as it did on Saturday.”

NAACP Chairwoman Roslyn M. Brock expressed her personal sorrow.

“Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is a personal friend,” stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock.  “Gabby, her husband Astronaut Mark Kelly and I served together as Leadership Fellows for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations from 2003-2005.  They met on our first trip to China in 2003 and married in 2007. Gabby is an extraordinary leader and committed public servant.  I ask every American to please keep Congresswoman Giffords, her family and the families of the other shooting victims in your prayers.”

Last July, at the NAACP Annual Convention, the delegates passed a resolution urging civility within the public discourse.  Within that resolution, the NAACP called upon ‘all people to cease and desist in the use of violence as a means of political expression, as it has no place in a democratic society.’

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs said in a statement: ”While we do not know the motives for today’s attack, we do know that it cannot be viewed apart from the climate of violence and the degradation of civil society that are anathema to democracy.”

The suspected shooter, Jared Loughner, complained about the government in online diatribes that also spoke in scattered ways of currency, terrorism and ”mind control.” But what might have driven him to violence has not been established.

”We don’t yet know what provoked this unspeakable act,” President Barack Obama said from the White House. ”We are going to get to the bottom of this.”

Charles Babington has covered politics from Washington since 1987. ADW staff provided additional reporting.

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