Overheated political rhetoric probably didn't incite Saturday's massacre in Tucson, Ariz. Nonetheless, this horrifying incident should serve as an opportunity for all Americans to reflect on how frenzied and hate-filled much of the political discourse has become, and to consider ways to tone it down.
Jared Loughner, 22, was charged Sunday with trying to assassinate U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six others, including a 9-year-old girl, a federal district judge and an aide to the congresswoman. Loughner is being held without bail, and could face life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Mass shooting rampages like this have become all too common in America. All that changes are the names of the shooters and the victims.
Not surprisingly, however, the biographies of the gunmen, as the details dribble out, often bear striking similarities. They are loners, obsessives, troublemakers, recognized by acquaintances as having the potential for violence well before they actually commit their crimes. In most cases, they suffer from some form of mental illness.
Loughner fits the profile to a T. Those who knew him have testified that he was viewed as an odd and sometimes frightening person, disrupting classes at a junior college from which he eventually was suspended. He was rejected by the military after confessing to drug use.
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