Jared Loughner brought a 9mm Glock pistol to U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Safeway supermarket in Tucson, Ariz. on Jan. 8.
The 22-year old Loughner shot Giffords in the head at point blank range. He then fired at those gathered.
When it was over, Loughner killed six people, including a federal judge and 9-year old girl and wounded 14 others before he was subdued and arrested.
Remarkably, doctors estimated Giffords’ chances of surviving as “101 percent.”
The news media covering the shooting constructed a portrait of a deranged killer, a “lone gunman” as Fox News put it. CNN and other networks connected the fact that Giffords is a Democrat and her office was vandalized last year following her vote on the healthcare bill. A map from Sarah Palin’s website, www.sarahpac.com, of the U.S. showing crosshairs over districts of those who voted for the health care bill – Giffords’ district among them - inferred some ominous threat of violence. The site scrubbed the image following the shooting, leading many talking heads to speculate Loughner was a right wing Tea Party kook incited by what the news networks labeled “hateful speech.”
The media explored the story from every angle, debating whether there should be a ban on high-capacity gun magazines. This prompted an increase in gun sales as people believed the massacre would curtail their Second Amendment rights to have as much ammo as they could possibly carry, not including the bandoliers or slings.
When information about Loughner’s background revealed he wasn’t a Glenn Beck devotee and member of the Aryan Skinhead Brotherhood of Stalwart Republican Vanguard, Fox News reported that politics had nothing to do with Loughner’s decision to go on a killing rampage.
Loughner’s ghoulish bald dome and creepy visage that made Robert De Niro’s character from Taxi Driver seem genteel was splashed across every TV screen and newspaper.
Politicians, pundits, psychologists, and criminologists weighed in on the incident, on the shooter, on Giffords and on those slain. Along the way, the usual oversaturation of images, interviews and angles explored our “culture of violence,” our “handgun culture,” our “political divisiveness.”
What happened in Tucson was a tragic event. Nobody should experience the gut-wrenching horror that occurred in that parking lot. Yet the aftermath is an amorphous swirl of conjecture and blame, of chest-thumping and crying, of vigils and trigger-happy urban warriors who feel gun ownership is under attack.
For all we’ve heard about “hate speech” and “toning down the divisive rhetoric,” this is all I have to say: Words don’t kill people. Deranged psychopaths do.
Loughner posted videos where he ranted of “illiteracy” and grand conspiracies involving government officials and new currencies. He had a tumultuous personal life and in school responded with violent outbursts during his contrary arguments.
“In conclusion, reading the Second United States Constitution, I can’t trust the current government because of the ramifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.” Loughner wrote in a video showcasing his philosophy.
“Every human who’s mentally capable is always able to be treasurer of their new currency,” Loughner wrote.
Most of Loughner’s final video employs logical consequences to justify his crazy analysis: “If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem. You call me a terrorist. Thus, the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem.”
This would make sense if you taught logic from the confines of a rubber room.
Loughner was batshit crazy, and harbored hatred toward Giffords. This much is known based on letters he wrote. His obsession and loathing culminated in a murderous rampage.
Yet some networks covering the story just don’t get it. This guy was nuttier than a PayDay candy bar. He was insane. That’s the real danger, the visible threat. It wasn’t ideology, party affiliation or violent language. It's the ones we let slip through the cracks.
Politicians, pundits and social engineers wring their hands over this tragedy and blame guns, video games, rock lyrics and a “culture of violence” for transforming decent American youth into horrid murderous monsters.
Yet Grand Theft Auto IV or Marilyn Manson’s music won’t alter what’s in the DNA or the shitty family background.
Loughner was only one of a series of madmen who lived brief petty lives ending in explosive finales. Incomplete and unfulfilled men who didn’t fit in, who existed on society’s fringe. For them, the greatest threat is us. We’re the cattle they want to pick off, the seemingly functional in a dysfunctional universe.
Simplifying every massacre to a singular root cause (guns, hateful language, a volatile political climate, unrequited love) is a meaningless afterthought. Sometimes the gunman is just not right in the head.
Now it is for the dead we weep, those whose lives were cut short by senseless violence.
For many across the country, the tragedy playing out in Tucson only can remind us how precious life is and how important we are to each other. An assassin’s bullet can extinguish hopes and dreams in seconds. Sadly, it takes an event like this to remind us of how fragile and good we all are when we forget our differences and unite. Every candle lit, prayer uttered and tear shed brings us closer together as a people.
For those like Jared Loughner who flounder in the darkness, alone and in the company of their own deranged thoughts, life is a silent scream for help amid a crashing din of delusion. It’s these misfits, the truly lost and forgotten, who are insane prophets of nihilism and death, we should rescue. We should help them before they act on their blood-soaked fantasies. We should recognize the telltale warning signs and steer them towards more comforting places of aid and security.
Muzzling the beast before it bites will prevent another Tucson, another Virginia Tech or another Columbine.
Devolving the issue into a shallow political argument over words, guns and partisanship won’t.