TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - A university in Tucson is seeking to turn the shooting rampage that severely wounded U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords last month into a teachable moment with a new institute promoting civility in politics.
The University of Arizona on Monday inaugurated the National Institute for Civil Discourse, which is a nonpartisan center for debate, research, education and policy.
The center seeks to “advance the national conversation currently taking place about civility in political debate,” the university said in a news release.
Gunman Jared Loughner, 22, is accused of opening fire on a crowd outside a Tucson supermarket on Jan 8, killing six people and wounding 13 including Giffords, who was shot through the head and is recovering in a Texas hospital.
The rampage renewed a national debate over gun control in the United States and soul searching over whether the vitriolic tone of U.S. politics had encouraged violence against elected officials.
Although the motives for the attack remain unclear, the new institute’s director, Brint Milward, said “it provided a window of opportunity that we could use.”
“I think Arizona will prove to be a wonderful test bed for civil discourse,” said Milward, who is the director of the university’s School of Government and Public Policy and will head up the institute.
Former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are to serve as honorary chairs of the think-tank, which is to be funded largely by private donations.
Reporting by Brad Poole; writing by Tim Gaynor; editing by David Bailey