Political assassination and the United States aren’t usually discussed in the same breath, but they are now. In the wake of the Arizona shooting rampage on Saturday at a public event that critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, killed a federal judge, and left more than a dozen others dead or wounded, morning in America today has a sad new meaning.

“There is little that we can do but pray for those who are struggling,” Rep. Giffords’ husband wrote in a statement released last night. In the coming days and weeks there will be ramifications beyond the personal tragedies of this horrendous crime as well. Exactly how this event will change the debate and the focus is unclear. Meantime, “everyone has pulled back to pause and reflect,” The Washington Post observes, adding:

The practical question raised by the tragic events in Tucson is how much risk politicians must accept as part of their job. Elected officials live with risk every day. Only a handful of lawmakers have security protection: the top leaders and occasionally a member who has received extraordinary threats. The rest carry on their duties fully exposed to whatever fury may await them, whether rhetorical insults hurled from a crowd at a town hall meeting or the violent act of a sick individual with access to a gun.

It’s likely that members of Congress, or candidates running for other offices, will reconsider how they hold public events.

The suspected gunman has been labeled as “mentally unstable,” but that hasn’t stopped a new debate about whether the political rhetoric in the nation is partly to blame. Meantime, House majority leader Eric Cantor (R) announced on Saturday that all legislation scheduled for debate this week, including a vote to repeal the health-care reform law, is postponed “so that we can take whatever actions may be necessary in light of today’s tragedy.”
It’s unclear how this crime will affect policy, but there will be repercussions. What looked plausible and possible last week is now open for debate. Details to follow.