Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reflections on the Tuscon Shooting

On January 8, 2011, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tuscon, AZ, along with several other people.  While she survived after being shot in the head, and appears to be recovering fairly well, six other people unfortunately died, including a child.  Out of respect, the TSAP has (until now) avoided making any posts about the Tuscon massacre or any issues related to it since we first learned about it. 

We extend our deepest condolences to all the victims of this horrible and senseless act of violence, along with their families.  As we have stated before, the TSAP uneqivocally condemns all forms of violence, political or otherwise, except for immediate self-defense.  It destroys the fabric of society and often leads to more violence.  Regardless of one's political persuasion, that fact should be clear to all.

What can we learn from this tragedy?  Well, we know that the alleged shooter (whose name we refuse to mention) was apparently mentally ill.  This fact can be gleaned from his history of uncontrolled outbursts in class and bizarre YouTube videos.  We know that he was gung-ho about killing Giffords for quite some time, and that the shooting was premeditated rather than a crime of passion.  We know he was neither left-wing nor right-wing, but was an ardent anti-goverment conspiracy theorist, and possibly a bigot as well.  We know that he was an ex-drug user who apparently got worse mentally after quitting, and committed the massacre after being clean and sober for over two years.  We know that he got the gun legally and passed the background check, but probably could have gotten one fairly easily even if had he been denied, due to the widespread availability of illegal guns (especially in major cities like Tuscon).  We know that multiple-victim public shootings are relatively rare events, and interestingly are even rarer and typically less severe in jurisdictions that allow the carrying of concealed weapons (such as Arizona).  And that many such shootings, such as Virginia Tech (and all other school shootings in America since 1995) occur in so-called "gun-free zones".  We know that nearly half of these shooters have been formally diagnosed with a severe mental illness (such as schizophrenia), and we also know that our country's mental health care system is seriously broken and underfunded thanks to ignorance and decades of budget cuts.

Unfortunately, politics can get nasty rather quickly after something like this happens, and the rancor can easily cloud one's judgment.  We at the TSAP strongly discourage any sort of overreaction to this tragedy, including the passage of knee-jerk legislation that will most likely do more harm than good.  And we also support President Obama's call for increased civility in the wake of this tragedy.

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