Citing the controversial "crosshairs" image formerly posted on Sarah Palin’s PAC website, Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) is planning to introduce legislation that will make it a federal crime to use symbols or rhetoric that appears to threaten members of Congress.
“I want to protect our congresspeople in a way that they can’t put a crosshair on us and they can’t put a bull's-eye on us,” Brady told Fox News. “Whoever does it should know it’s going to be illegal to do it.”
Brady, who is the ranking member of the Committee on House Administration and a member of the Capitol Security subcommittee, indicated he believes the image posted on the website was a factor in the alleged shooter’s motivation.
“Gabrielle Giffords is in a coma, in a coma, because there was a bull's-eye put on her,” said Brady.
Brady stepped back from his statement a moment later, telling Fox News that he didn’t “know what was in his [the alleged shooter’s] demented mind.”
On Saturday, Rebecca Mansour, who serves as a spokesperson for Palin, defended the graphic on a conservative talk show, arguing it could not be linked to the shooting. The targets on the map, she said, were “surveying symbols."
The legislation, which Brady said he plans to introduce later this week, would extend to members of Congress the protection against threats that federal law already provides to presidents, president-elects, vice presidents and vice president-elects.
Title 18, Section 871 of the US Code reads:
“Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits for conveyance in the mail or for a delivery from any post office or by any letter carrier any letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States, the President- elect, the Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States, or the Vice President-elect, or knowingly and willfully otherwise make any such threat against the President, President-elect, Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President, or Vice President-elect, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”
A spokesman for the Secret Service, who spoke Monday morning with The Hill, declined to say whether a piece of campaign literature depicting the White House or the president behind a crosshair might constitute a threat under the law.
The answer to that question is a “protected intelligence matter,” he said.