I posted much of this in a Pit threadabout Sarah Palin’s debated responsibility for Saturday’s shootings in Tucson. But with some prodding, have decided to start a new thread about the policies that may have been responsible for the tragedy. So here goes:
Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck et al are not responsible for Saturday’s actions because of cartoon crosshairs and over-the-top political rhetoric. They are responsible for this shooting, as is everyone else who prognosticates on Fox News or lobbies Congress or legislates this country in a direction where it’s easier to get a gun than it is to get treatment for mental health problems.
Should the rhetoric be toned down? Absolutely. Because it could still lead to a violent tragedy. But the rhetoric isn’t what set off Jared Loughner. His apparent mental illness did. Has he been diagnosed? No, and that’s the problem. It’s too hard to get access to mental health treatment in this country. While people were screaming about how public health care would set up death panels, it distracted us from the death panels with undiagnosed mental illness looming in the corner with glocks in their hands.
The argument that making guns more accessible to everyday Americans (and give them the right to carry those guns wherever they want), in order to stop crimes in progress, has also failed. Arizona has made it so that a gun-owner doesn’t need to even have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. And an individual with a documented history of recent mental instability was able to buy a gun, a 30-round clip and ammo. That shows a failure of right-wing gun laws on two parts: one, even when allowing people to own and carry guns relatively unfettered, no one stopped the crime And two, a man, who had absolutely no business owning the weaponry he did, had no apparent problem purchasing it.
The argument that we need to gut public health programs (specifically mental health programs) and continue to prevent mentally ill adults from being committed against their will has been exposed as a dangerous one. Dangerous to the individual and dangerous to the public.
Change involuntary commitment laws, fund public mental health programs, set up stricter gun control.
Finally, as somewhat of an aside, I think the right-wing would’ve been much better off had Jared Loughner been an angry Tea Partier acting out because of something Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck said. That would’ve meant the solution would be simple: Make appeals to stop the angry rhetoric, and stop giving Sarah Palin et al a pulpit to preach from.
But the fact that it was a mentally-ill man who received no treatment, and the fact that this happened in a state that makes it pretty easy to buy and carry a gun in public, means that we can’t just have a discussion about rhetoric. We need to actually have a tough policy discussion, and from Bricker’s earlier apparent discomfort with that in the Pit thread I linked to, it’s obvious that some of these policy discussions will mean changing things that conservatives won’t like.
Funny, huh? Probably right after this happened on Saturday, both sides were praying “Don’t let this be one of our guys.” But had it been just an angry conservative, it probably would’ve meant less long-term questioning of conservatives and their policies. And it would’ve actually allowed the GOP to swing back away from the fringe.