Once again, a nation grieves over a senseless slaughter in the aftermath of Saturday’s deadly shooting spree in Tucson. With Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continuing to fight for her life, the country joins her family and friends in prayer for a recovery.
Today, as President Obama addresses the nation during a memorial service in Tucson, we hope he speaks about more medical progress for Giffords.
While citizens struggle to understand the carnage -- with six dead, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and 14 injured -- our leaders are weighing in about toning down the poisonous political rhetoric that has been polarizing the country. And rightly so. But even as some people seize on a human tragedy to score political points, blame can hardly be cast on tough talk in this case.
By the emerging accounts, the suspected shooter, a 22-year-old college dropout and Army reject, has a troubled history that points to mental illness and not political motivation. Jared Lee Loughner even appears ghoulish in his FBI mugshot, with a bald head, blank stare and twisted smile.
We as a nation are ill equipped to handle mental illness effectively, even when warning signs are clearly evident. Officials at Pima Community College suspended Loughner with a reinstatement mandate that he have a mental health evaluation. In a YouTube posting, Loughner allegedly produced, he espouses mind control and “conscience dreaming.”
But Arizona laws do not allow for involuntary psychiatric commitment easily, and this episode raises the issue of whether laws should be broadened. Still, will that ensure public protection from acts of violence from mentally ill people? That would require a major expansion of mental health services, according to experts -- an unlikely scenario with governments slashing budgets and mental health care, especially in Arizona.
Americans, we fear, will remain vulnerable to deranged acts of violence.
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