In Wake of AZ Shooting, Let’s Focus on Mental Health and Gun Control

At this point in time, it's not very fruitful to speculate on the political ideology of Jared Lee Loughner, the young man who shot Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others in Tucson yesterday. Though Loughner espoused certain right-wing (anti-choice) and extreme libertarian (pro-commodity currency) positions, his online persona could best be described as paranoid and irrational. His favorite books included Hitler's Mein Kampf, but also lefty favorites like Orwell and Marx. 

As James Fallows wisely points out, the ideologies of assassins and attempted assassins rarely map neatly onto the most pressing political issues of the day.

I do think it's fair, though, to make two policy points in the wake of this tragedy:

As a country, we don't do enough to provide care to the mentally ill. Loughner was identified as emotionally unstable by his community college, but then what happened? As an unemployed college drop-out, was he insured? Did he have access to the care he needed? 

Ironically, the health reform law that Giffords supported, attracting so much animosity, contained several provisions expressly intended to help disconnected youth like Loughner. It allows young adults up to age 26 to be covered by their parents' insurance, and also expands support for mental health and addiction services.

As health reform is implemented, it's very important that mental health be defined by the Department of Health and Human Services as preventive care–meaning insurance companies will have to offer counseling and other psychological services within every insurance plan they sell.  

Progressives and the Democratic Party cannot give up on gun control. It's sad that we need to be reminded of this after tragedies like Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, but we seemingly do. So I was glad to see Mayor Mike Bloomberg make the following statement at a Brooklyn church this morning:

These shootings are just terrible examples, and a terrible reminder, of the gun violence that happens every single day in our country. We don't know all the facts of this case yet, but we do know that every single day, 34 Americans are murdered – every single day. Yesterday it was Judge John Roll and five other Americans – and many more, across the fifty states. Tomorrow there will be another 34. And so it will continue until we get serious about cracking down on illegal guns and protecting innocent people. I’ve built a coalition of more than 500 mayors from across the country – from both political parties – who are dedicated to fighting gun violence. It is an uphill struggle, but if all of us join it – if all of us speak out – I believe we really can make a difference and save lives.

Update: Salon reports the now-expired assault weapons ban would have made it illegal to buy the magazine Loughner used in the shooting. "Our gun laws are so weak that someone who couldn't get into the military, who was kicked out of school, and who used drugs walked into a gun store and was able to immediately buy a semiautomatic weapon," said Daniel Vice, senior attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Update 2: Arizona is one of the worst states in the country at providing care to the mentally ill, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

4 thoughts on “In Wake of AZ Shooting, Let’s Focus on Mental Health and Gun Control

  1. Eric Jaffa

    If “mental health (is) defined by the Department of Health and Human Services as preventive care,” does that mean someone could go to a psychologist once-a-week for years with the insurance company paying the whole bill?

  2. Blake Boswell

    As tragic an incident in AZ as this is, I wish to make something very clear, GUNS DO NOT KILL, PEOPLE DO!!. Have you ever seen a hammer build a house? Not without someone to hold it and swing it….same with a gun. Without someone to pick it up, aim it and pull the trigger, the gun is just an inanimate object.

    I would pose two questions: Did the shooter have a valid concealed weapons permit to carry the weapon he used and did he purchase the weapon legally?

    You will also hear numerous gun control advocates use the term ‘automatic weapon’. Typically, when the term automatic is used it relates to a fully automatic weapon such as a machine gun which can fire hundreds/thousands of rounds per minute whereas a ‘semi-automatic’ requires that the operator depress the trigger each time he wishes the weapon to discharge resulting in a much slower rate of fire. Most gun control advocates are aware of this distinction, but the term ‘automatic weapon’ has more of a tendency to capture attention and stir emotions.

    “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

  3. Blog Reader

    A few points:

    A)He’s not a youth. He was 22. Old enough to make his own decisions and know the consequences.

    B) You mention Fort Hood, VT, and Columbine in connection with “more gun control.” Have you forgotten that United States DOD installations, educational institutions in Virginia (and many other states), and ANY high school or grade school in the US are already “controlled”? Guns are, by letter of law, prohibited in ALL of those places. Do you think the shooters cared? Obviously not. The point here is that when law-abiding citizens and responsible gun owners are prohibited access to firearms, only deranged lunatics and hardened criminals will have/use them.

  4. Ken juen

    Gun control can not and will not stop this type of behavior. Just like Fort Hood, if there had been a person trained in the proper use of firearms in the crowd, perhaps the death toll would have been much lower.Instances where the presence and proper use of firearms are NEVER reported in the mass mdia. Only the misuse. The criminals or criminal insane will never give up their guns in the real world. But if they knwo there are other honest folks with guns at the scene they will usually go elsewhere. With the insane they have to be identified before the rampage starts. Plenty of opportunity here for this tragedy, lfet wingers.


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