Most people commenting on the Arizona shooting are speculating about motive, the role of public discourse on the shooter, and the shooter’s mental health. I confess my bias from the start – from what I have read, the shooter Jared Loughner sounds like he is paranoid schizophrenic. Of course, I am not engaging in a formal diagnosis since I have no direct data. However, the signs are certainly suggestive.
What is bound to happen for some time to come is the blaming of the event on ideology. The left seems to be pulling out Sarah Palin’s use of bullseyes on Giffords district and the right is doing the same – apparently some disgruntled far left people also know how to use bullseyes. For some reason, The Daily Kos removed a post which had some very disturbing things to say about Rep. Giffords.
In any case, my personal view is that efforts to locate this horrible act in ideology is a mistake. As with other shootings, I think mental illness is underestimated by policy makers. Apparently there were warning signs which were “handled” but were not addressed in any meaningful way. The curent laws do not allow for a long term response to signs of instability, but rather on short term detention for people who might seem to be a danger to themselves or others.
The right and left will blame each side for the tragedy, but I hope at some point we will come together and look at the need for a more comprehensive policy relating to the treatment of severe mental illness and the long term treatment needs of those afflicted.