Saturday, January 8, 2011

Thoughts On The Shooting In Tucson

For most of the day I have been following the media’s coverage of the tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. Today’s shooting left five people dead – including a federal judge and a nine-year-old child – and many others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, gravely wounded.

I’m old enough to remember other times this has happened in the past.

On April 13, 1976, a madman walked into a Baltimore City office searching for then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer. Unable to find him, the gunman instead shot and killed Councilman Dominic Leone and wounded two other people.

Two and a half years later, another madman climbed through an unguarded window in San Francisco City Hall. Disgruntled City Supervisor Dan White unloaded his revolver into Mayor George Moscone. He reloaded, walked down the hall, and did the same thing to Supervisor Harvey Milk.

I was a child when I heard about those prior two incidents on the radio. But they left me with the same sad and hollow feeling I experienced when I learned about today’s attack.

But, the news also hit a little closer to home, too.

Having worked for two Members of Congress, I occasionally participated in the same kinds of well-publicized constituent outreach events Congresswoman Giffords and her staff were conducting today. Given the randomness of today’s attack, the fact that it never happened when I found myself in similar circumstances gives me pause.

Whenever one of these tragedies occurs, people want to make quick sense of why it occurred. They also want to glean the motivations of the person who did the shooting, even before all the facts are known.

Little is yet known about the suspect in the Tucson shootings, 22-year-old Jared Loughner. But the media has reported some of his past writings and videos published on YouTube. Nonsensical and unintelligible in nature, they offer a window into the tortured mind of someone struggling with deep-seated mental health issues.

These rantings make one thing fairly clear: Loughner’s own dark, strange, and highly subjective fixations were the motivations behind his actions today.

Therefore, I hope people will not use this tragedy to score political points, as have some liberal bloggers.  

Absent any supporting evidence, it is not appropriate to blame Loughner’s actions on Sarah Palin, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, or any political bogeymen. That serves an agenda, but it does not serve the facts as we know them.

Gun control advocates will try to turn this into a debate on the right to bear arms – a right, incidentally, which Congresswoman Giffords, a gun owner herself, strongly supported in the past. Few would dispute that crazy, violent people should not be allowed to own guns. But it's inappropriate to blame the weapon and not the man.

So, until we know more about why this happened, let’s resist the temptation to inject partisan politics into this matter. Instead, let’s keep the victims and their families in our hearts. Let’s not be afraid to be angry that this happened. And, most of all, let’s pray that this never happens again.


  1. Well said Richard. The victims and their families are certainly in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Agreed -- good writeup.

    I think it is sad that people are so quick to tar the group with the brush of the individual when it suits their agenda and yet work tirelessly to divorce action from instigator when the actions could hurt their cause. It's irresponsible journalism at best and can lead to some downright dangerous policies and responses at worst.