Gun Control Issue? Dangerous Political Climate? Or Mental Health Failure?
The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 17 other people at a “Congressman on Your Corner” event in a Safeway parking lot in Tucson on Saturday morning has shocked and horrified our nation. In addition to shooting Rep. Giffords in the head at point-blank range, a Federal judge, a 9-year-old girl, and 3 other people were killed.
The shooter was caught immediately, and has been identified as Jared Loughner, a 22-year old white man. Search of his name brings up YouTube “videos”: white text on a black screen in which he rants (often semi-coherently) about mind control, refers to himself in the third person as being a Marine being given a “mini-Bible”, and makes claims that the government is trying to manipulate the people by taking away grammar.
Among his favorite books on his MySpace page? Alice in Wonderland, The Communist Manifesto, Animal Farm, and Mein Kampf.
Those in the media are looking for the “cause” of this violent act. In the first hours as this unfolded, they brought up gun control, but it’s a pretty weak argument in this case–Mr. Loughner was reportedly wounded by a legally armed bystander before being tackled by security guards. This is Arizona, and everyone has guns here, especially the Mexican Mafia and the biker gangs. There are snakes, cats, and other dangers in our cities and backyards. Guns are recognized as a form of protection here, and those who use them violently are condemned for misusing a valuable tool. I know that it’s hard for those in the East, especially in nice sound stages, to wrap their minds around the idea of there being places that wild right here in our own country (overpopulation and all), but I’ve lived here for 4 years now, and the woman who made her ex-husband get rid of a handgun when the baby was born? Yeah, she’s got a rifle in the closet.
So they turned to his supposed “political views” and the “violent, dangerous rhetoric” that is all the fault of the “right” and the “Tea Parties”. (Of course, as these accusations are being lobbed by leftists.) This was not helped by a Sheriff referring to Arizona as “a Mecca of political bigotry”, but I think he’s wrong in that summation, and I think it was wrong of a law enforcement officer to give his personal opinion on a matter like this. Jared Loughner talked about the *illiteracy* of people in his district, not about their race or their political affiliation. If he had referred to “Democrat-voting, welfare-abusing illegals” in his district, I could see this being a Republican-politics motivated act. If he had talked about “Socialist amnesty-supporting warpigs”, I could see blame being placed with the Tea Party.
But none of Mr. Loughner’s rants have shown any similarity to the “talking points” that the Republicans or Tea Parties cling to. And furthermore, this is a man who claims that Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto are among his favorite books! Why would he be driven by Republicans/Tea Partiers to shoot a Democratic representative when he aligns himself with Socialism?
If his rants had talked about government control of bunny rabbits through infrastructure and his favorite book was Watership Down, would we be calling him an “animal rights activist” whose actions were motivated by the “vitriolic rhetoric of PETA”??
So, take all that…add to it the words of former classmates at a community college who have talked about the “nonsensical rants” that got him banned from their pre-algebra class. Add the fact that although they can’t tell us why, a 22-year-old man who appears to be otherwise healthy was turned down for military service. Add his own words about colorful birds on his shoulder. Add his talking about “conscience dreaming” and feeling like life was a “walking daydream” (very similar to the words of the Columbine shooters). Add all that together, and what picture forms of this man, Jared Loughner?
To me, this is not a man driven by politics. This is a man who doesn’t have a firm enough grasp on reality to have an opinion on politics, and the tangent that his “political” rants take on supports this–they are not aligned with any recognizable political party. This is a man who doesn’t even have a firm enough grasp on reality to participate in a college pre-algebra class. The fact that “politics” enter this at all seems to be more a sad coincidence than a plotted act with an intellectual point driving it.
So, if Mr. Loughner was mentally ill–enough that he was turned down for military service, and banned from classes at a community college–why didn’t anyone in authority DO SOMETHING TO HELP HIM? The shooting in Tucson on Saturday wasn’t a sign that we need more gun control laws. It’s not politically motivated commentary. It was the last scream in a long line of cries for help from a man who was very, very sick in the head.