Learning the lessons of the Tuscon shooting

On Jan. 8, 2011, most of us sat glued to our televisions watching the events unfold in the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona that took the life of six people including a nine-year-old girl while seriously injuring a dozen more at an open air meeting with a respected member of Congress, Gabrielle Giffords.

The 22-year-old murderer, who used a 9 mm Glock with a 33-round magazine, was subdued by fellow citizens.

The aftermath of this horrible and tragic assault has left me shocked and bewildered at some of the commentary by elected officials and the media.

Our country has always greatly benefited from the active debate among our citizens. Suggesting that the spirited debate of the Tea Party or any other political group led or played a part in the mental stability of the suspect and his acts is plain hog wash. Political debate alone could not drive a stable person to commit atrocities like this. Anyone who would plan such a devastating act suffers from one of a variety of mental illness and if anything, only looks at the political debate of the day as a mere justification for their criminal behavior.

This dark spot in history has led to suggestions by some to collect all firearms, or pass stronger laws restricting our second amendment the right to bear arms. Some legislators have even suggested restrictions to our first amendment right to freedom of speech, restricting what can be said to elected officials, and enacting laws requiring law enforcement officers to act as security to all events where a member of congress or the senate is present. In other words a security detail similar to secret service protection provided to the president.

Like many ideas, this would be great in an ideal world, but imagine the logistics of providing security to 435 congress members, and 100 senators between Washington and their districts and to and from the many events they attend in our communities; the cost would be billions.

It appears that there were many warning signs about the behavior of the murderer Jared L. Loughner. When confronted with someone who appears to be suffering from some type of mental illness, who writes or speaks of violent acts against our citizens or elected officials it is imperative to notify police or county sheriff. This may provide an opportunity to direct a person who may need mental health care to the appropriate resource.

Coordinators should notify law enforcement when events such as the one in Tuscon are in the planning stages so a complete threat analysis can take place and proper planning for security can occur, if necessary.

Let’s not rush to judgment and rewrite our US Constitution or inhibit our rights. Let’s just learn from this horrible incident and educate our citizens to report suspicious action immediately.

Perhaps Tucson could have been avoided if law enforcement had been provided information available on the shooter and the proper mental illness provider notified.