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The Arizona Shooting: Guns, Stigma, Politics, and Meanness

It happened again yesterday in Tucson, Arizona. A gunman began firing upon an innocent group of people. Six are dead and 14 wounded. What are we to make of it all?

Just a note before we get started. I know this isn’t exactly a “feel good” article. But sometimes there are  issues we need to bring forward and discuss in an effort to steer society toward a feel good state.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was conducting a “Congress On The Corner” meeting with her constituents outside of a grocery store. Approximately 10 minutes into the event, a gunman approached and opened fire with a 9mm Glock. Giffords was shot in the head at close range, and somehow survived.

At this writing she remains in critical condition. Though under heavy sedation, when awakened she’s communicating by responding to simple commands. Of course, her prognosis is unknown.

Among the dead were Chief Federal Judge John Roll and a nine-year-old girl.

Jared Lee Loughner

The alleged shooter is 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner. According to reports, he’s a troubled young man who appears to have an emotional and mental health history. Loughner has had numerous brushes with the law, and it’s now being reported he may have ties to a hate group.

So what are we to make of yesterday’s tragedy and the fallout? I have several thoughts, actually.

Guns

Guns are out-of-control in this country – their possession and use. Now, I’m not a constitutional expert, nor am I a guns rights or anti-gun advocate. But I think it’s important to have a look at the exact language of Amendment II to the United States Constitution…

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment is sacred to the gun crowd and the political right. But if you ask me, it lends itself to buckets of (mis)interpretation. The way I read it, the right to keep and bear arms was guaranteed within the context of the need for a well regulated Militia. Don’t we have five branches of the armed forces?

When it was ratified in 1791, the Second Amendment made good sense. Does it now? I’m not so sure.

Emotional & Mental Health Stigma

As if those of us enduring emotional and mental health disorders need another slap in the face. Well, get ready to turn the other cheek, it’s coming. I can hear the water-cooler conversation now. “Another nut-job going postal!”

I’m not at all suggesting Loughner escape accountability for his behavior. However, if he indeed endures an emotional or mental health situation, aren’t such disorders legitimate? If so, doesn’t that call for at least a smidge of empathy and understanding?

God forbid, let’s say a man was driving a car and went into a diabetic coma. Totally out of control, the car smashes into a crowd of people – six die and 14 are injured. Is the man now the most horrible human who ever lived?  No! So what’s the difference between the two scenarios?

And for all we know, Loughner sought psychiatric care and was somehow turned away. But let’s even assume he thumbed his nose at treatment. Is it possible that stigma had something to do with it? I know I’ve been there. You?

Meanness

Check-out the words of Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik…

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this county is getting to be outrageous. Unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Certainly, at this point, no one knows what motivated Loughner to kill. Was it politically based? Could be.

Interestingly, it’s known that he communicated with Rep. Giffords’ office in the past. In fact, a letter from Giffords was found in Loughner’s safe at home. It was dated August 30, 2007 and thanked him for attending a “Congress on Your Corner” event. Such irony.

But there’s more. In the safe was an envelope with handwriting saying, “I planned ahead,” “My assassination,” and “Giffords.” Also on the envelope was what’s believed to be Loughner’s signature.

It’s important to note that Giffords won her third term this past November in a hotly contested race against a Tea Party-sponsored candidate. And, go figure, her office was vandalized following the March 2010 vote on health care reform. In addition, a gun fell out of a constituent’s pocket during one of her town hall meetings.

Who knows what impact political hate-mongering had upon Loughner. Still, the meanness and disrespect – from both sides of the aisle – has to stop. And this goes beyond the political figures themselves, to the media.

Some time ago I was listening to ultra-conservative Mark Levin’s radio program. I was shocked at his cruelty and incendiary presentation. And the infamous Glenn Beck? Don’t get me started.

Then there’s the matter of the cross-hairs used on Sarah Palin’s political target list – one on Gifford’s district.

Granted, these folks aren’t giving direct orders to kill, but it’s the message in between the lines that hits home. And I must say, I truly believe they’re fully aware of what they’re doing – their agenda being political and financial.

Last thing. I found it so odd that a CNN.com headline today read, “Lawmakers Rethinking Security.” So typical of the selfish so-in-so’s. Why couldn’t there have been one that read, “Lawmakers To Work Together On Manners and Respect.”

It’s been a horrible 24-hours for all Americans. And my thoughts and meditations go out to the victims, their family members, and friends. The only way to make the situation at all tolerable is to know we’ve learned some lessons. And follow through with action and change.

What are your feelings and thoughts? We can really help each other understand and learn by sharing.

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