“Jared Loughner acted alone and is solely responsible for his actions.” There are a great number of attempted murders that might be dismissed with such an assessment but Loughner’s attempted assassination of AZ Representative Gabrielle Giffords is not such a case. I suspect from the reaction of folks with whom I’ve been arguing that a good number of conservatives would like to see Loughner locked away and his case swept from memory.
Why do I say this? There are three distinct issues raised by the Loughner shooting spree and a corresponding conservative reaction:
1. Our social discourse — Despite the fact that Loughner has said nothing since his arrest, conservatives would have you believe this was not a political shooting. From what we can tell Loughner’s head was full of a mishmash of political influences from the Communist Manifesto to Mein Kampf to some strange right-wing notion of subliminal mind control through the use of grammar. Because his political ideas were incoherent does not mean they were not political. His primary interaction with Giffords a few years ago involved him making a nonsensical socio-political statement to her which she basically ignored. It is one of the things that the authorities think fueled his rage and his obsession. Since it is strongly believed that he is schizophrenic, there is a distinct possibility that our toxic political environment churned the crazy soup brewing in his head. Some conservatives would have you believe that using this event to reconsider how we conduct ourselves is tantamount to “blaming” the reckless speakers. Call it blame if you like but we are responsible for the social environment we create.
2. Gun control — Suggest to some conservatives that there is no reason for Walmart to sell the fire power used by Loughner (a semi-automatic pistol with a 30 round magazine) and you get hit over the head with the 2nd Amendment. “Fine, limit him to a 10 round clip and then he’ll just buy two guns and bring both to the party.” It is like talking to a child where you try to lay down reasonable ground rules and they tell you all the ways they can get around them. Does that mean that we simply abandon the ground rules? Who needs to go hunting with a semi-automatic pistol firing 30 bullets without reloading? Who needs to defend themselves with that much fire power? Most folks get mugged by one to three assailants. Seldom does a group of 30 punks come up to you to rob you or threaten you (unless you’re in Afghanistan). So why is self-defense a legitimate excuse for this much fire power? Part of the problem is we are arguing with wingnuts who believe they might one day have to fight off the government. Calls for legitimate self-defense against criminals are baloney. It’s this nutty right-wing paranoia run amok.
3. Mental health system reform — The one thing just about everyone agrees upon is that Loughner is mentally ill. Yet little over a week after this assassination attempt, Congress will vote on repealing the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 which contains provisions for improvement in mental health care payment and administration.
The phrase “teachable moment” tends to gag me. I find it awfully saccharine. That said, the fact that a sizable number of people in this country wish to take NOTHING from this tragedy to make it less likely to be repeated is disgusting. On the contrary, some folks have the nerve to be offended if you suggest that trash talk can influence sick minds, or that easy availability of assault weapons invites misuse of them or that we need to do more than just pay lip service to better mental health care initiatives. They say to discuss the factors that might influence a tragedy is to exploit that tragedy for political gain. This is pure crap, plain and simple.
So, if Loughner is solely responsible for the actions that took place in front of the Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, then I guess all we need to do is lock him up and the problem goes away. That is, until the next Loughner comes along and puts a bullet in a politician’s head.