Editorial: A madman strikes again
We may never know what incited the Arizona rampage that left six people dead, including a federal judge, and 19 wounded, with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remaining in critical condition Monday evening.
But at least until the suspect himself or the evidence suggests otherwise, we should avoid the temptation to connect this senseless act to any particular ideology, political leaning, talk-show rant or blogosphere harangue. From the bizarre behavior and disjointed pronouncements that preceded Saturdayís shooting, it appears that suspect Jared Lee Loughner was not motivated by politics so much as by the free-floating anger and hostility that permeated his troubled mind. Unlike Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeighy or Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, who murdered to deliver particular messages about government and abortion, Loughner has as yet revealed no similar pattern of disgruntlement. Although investigators have evidence that Loughner specifically targeted Gifford, a moderate Democratic congresswoman, those who died included a 9-year-old girl and three septuagenarians, random victims who happened to be in the line of fire when the shooter snapped.
Loughner appears to be a sadly familiar figure ó a psycho with a gun, a mentally unstable man whose rampage, in hindsight, perhaps should not come as such a surprise after all. Like Arthur Bremer, who shot former Alabama governor and presidential candidate George Wallace, or John Hinckley, who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, or Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, Loughner fits a familiar pattern of instability and alienation. As more information about his background trickles in, we see an isolated, at times raving figure who previously had drawn the attention of authorities, including college administrators who deemed him unfit to attend class unless cleared by a psychiatrist. One of the tragedies among the many here is that Loughner didnít get the therapeutic help that might have eased his own suffering and spared so many others from their grief.
In the stunned aftermath of the shootings, some have attempted to link the attack to a toxic political atmosphere (see column at right). At this point, Loughner appears to have been guided by the lurid voices inside his own mind rather than by any agitation from outside influences. While our politics would benefit from less divisiveness and more soul-searching, Saturdayís horror wasnít the inevitable consequence of incivil discourse. It was the result of a deranged individual with access to a gun.