hradzka: (plane)
[personal profile] hradzka
I am, as I've mentioned a few times, a righty, and while my business travel keeps me from going to the range anywhere near as often as I'd like to, I'm also a gun nut. I also study mass shootings, because I think it's important to be tactically aware of them. All of which means that I'm paying a lot of attention to the Arizona mass shooting committed by 22-year-old Jared Loughner. I should say "allegedly" as he's not dead and hasn't been found guilty yet, but he was apprehended at the scene with the gun in his hand, so fuck that.

I am hip-deep in work and do not have the time to hunt up the best tactical reports. This is unfortunate, because one thing you learn when you follow breaking news, and *especially* when you follow news about mass shootings, is that *lots and lots of reports are wrong.* News changes constantly, and I don't have full details on the shooting right now. Here's a quick summary. I don't know what direction Loughner came from (some accounts say he might have come out from inside the supermarket), but Congresswoman Giffords was reportedly his first target, and all evidence indicates he was deliberately after her, as opposed to her being the focus of a suitable crowd (HuffPo and Fox News are reporting that he'd prepared a document stating his intent beforehand, but I don't know yet if that's accurate). In any event, mass shooters typically have some emotional connection to the site of their crime, and Loughner had none to the site of his shooting that I know of.

Loughner used one handgun, a 9 mm Glock 19, by some reports with extended magazines (ie, magazines that don't fit flush with the bottom of the grip, but extend beyond it). After shooting the Congresswoman, he fired on the crowd until he ran out of ammunition. Reportedly, Loughner attempted to reload, but a woman wounded by the first round of fire managed to knock the magazine out of his hand. Stories differ about what happened after this; I've seen one report that Loughner tried to reload again and was tackled, and another that he attempted to escape and was tackled while fleeing. On Twitter, I saw that MSNBC had an earlier report that people in the crowd had traded fire with him, but I haven't heard anything about that since, so I'm guessing it's bullshit.

Early speculation, as is to be expected when a prominent political figure is shot, was that Loughner was politically or socially motivated. While there have certainly been mass shooters along those lines (some explicitly anti-feminist mass shooters come to mind), the information coming out has made it pretty clear that Jared Loughner is a grade-A certifiable loon. His YouTube videos (you can find transcripts at BoingBoing) are frighteningly incoherent, and the only political tropes he's adopted that are recognizable to people from planet Earth are 1) he's pro-gold and -silver coinage and 2) he likes burning the American flag (he has one video of a very strange and clumsy flag-burning favorited, and it's pretty obvious that the video was made and posted by Loughner himself under a sockpuppet).

Like mass shooter Seung-Hui Cho, of VA Tech infamy, Loughner freaked the hell out of people at his college. In Cho's case, he wrote really disturbing stuff that freaked the bejesus out of his classmates; Loughner was given to incoherent outbursts in class and even more incoherent outbursts on tests. The school demanded that Loughner receive a mental health examination before attempting to return to class. Instead, he bought a gun. Because he had never been adjudicated mentally incompetent, he was able to do so legally. I don't know Arizona law as it pertains to the severely mentally ill, so I don't know how the school could have done things differently there.

A few thoughts on the political angle. As I've mentioned in the past, I do pay a lot of attention to how I comport myself in public, because every gun nut sooner or later finds himself or herself an ambassador for gun nuts everywhere, and one of the biggest rules is "thou shalt not freak the mundanes." This often contradicts another big rule, which is "thou shalt cause the mundanes to become accustomed to guns and not be freaked by them." (It's the acceptance/visibilty tension, with which social advocates of various stripes are familiar.) This causes me to see a lot of things that freak lefties out in very different lights -- I don't freak out too much over the "target" map that's got so many folks on my flist going full rage, in part because the Dems have used bulls-eyes on maps of their own, but I am really pissed off when Ted Nugent invites a prominent politician to "suck on [his] machine gun."

So, yeah, I would like to see political rhetoric scaled back in general. But the folks who think that the problem would be solved if Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the Tea Party disappeared tomorrow are wrong. I remember protest marchers carrying signs urging murder and sedition; I remember a film being released and a novel being published, both of them dedicated to fantasizing about the assassination of a sitting president of the United States, and said President being assassinated, in comic books, in two separate publications by two separate major writers, who are still not only working but celebrated; I remember political feelings heating to the point of the chair of one of my local political parties being physically assaulted by a supporter of the opposing political party who walked in off the street and clocked him. And all of these happened when the President of the United States was George W. Bush, and nobody gave a shit. Heck, The Nation recently ran an article co-authored by a guy who'd explicitly called for the murder of a lobbyist opposed to the lefty health care agenda. While there was some substantial disagreement with the thrust of his article, nobody asked, "Hey, what the fuck is a guy who calls for people's murder doing getting published in Nation?!" Said guy has also received a BBC documentary based on one of his books -- coincidentally, about mass shootings, which he blames on right-wing politics.

Anyway, the left is seizing on Loughner's crime as an opportunity to discredit the right (in some cases, while quietly bahleeting posts on their own sites declaring Congresswoman Giffords "dead to [the author]" for voting against Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader -- that was a diarist on the Daily Kos, a couple of days before the attempted assassination). The right, for its part, is pissed off at this. One reason is that, in the righty view, lefty nuts invariably get a pass in the media, while righty nuts are "emblematic of deep and wide-ranging problems on the right," or some such. But another reason is that Jared Loughner isn't even a righty nut, as far as I can tell; his chief political stance seems to have been in staunch opposition to government mind control devices, and the left's trying to tar the right with him anyway. Whether you agree with this or not -- most of my flist will think this view is full of shit -- you should note that this is the kind of thing that really pisses the righty grassroots off. So look for them to be on the metaphorical warpath, in contrast to their leadership, who may be inclined to be more conciliatory.

I'm interested to hear more about Loughner in the days ahead. If he had any political connections, they'll come out; but given his videos' verbosity and incoherence, combined with the descriptions from teachers and students of what the guy was like in college classes, I'd be really surprised if Loughner had anything going that required him to interact with people. His ability to communicate and interact seems to have been seriously impaired, to the point that he was basically on another planet. On a tactical level, very good work by the civilians who took him down, especially the woman who prevented a reload; I hope her name is publicized at some point, because she's one of several heroes of the thing.

ETA repost of a later comment on DW: The Big Damn Heroes are (alphabetically) Col. Bill Badger (US Army, retired), Patricia Maisch, Roger Salzgeber, and Joseph Zamudio. Three of the four gave a good account of events to George Stephanopoulous (video). Col. Badger, 74, heard the shots, and ducked; he was grazed in the back of the head but continued to function. When the shooting stopped, he saw the shooter in front of him. Though Badger didn't realize it at that point, the shooter was reloading. Another witness, name unknown at this point, used a folding chair to clobber the shooter from behind. Badger and Salzgeber then tackled the shooter and took him to the ground, where they and Maisch piled on him. They had the upper body; Maisch, 61, had the legs, until she traded off with Zamudio. She took the magazine from him while one of the men got control of the gun. Then she let the men take over sitting on him while she went into the store to get some paper towels for Col. Badger's head wound. (A guy named Steven Rayle, Gawker's first eyewitness, says he also helped hold the shooter down, but he wasn't mentioned by the sheriff.)

Date: 2011-01-09 11:04 pm (UTC)
beachlass: red flipflops by water (Default)
From: [personal profile] beachlass
Thanks for this.

Date: 2011-01-09 11:36 pm (UTC)
cheyinka: A sketch of a Metroid (Default)
From: [personal profile] cheyinka
Yeah, I'm seeing a lot of gibbering about the map, but honestly I think the shooter was looking for a representative of the government and went for the first one to be out in public; I'd be surprised if the map played any role at all, besides possibly being something he saw in his junk mail. (Was it even ever used in a bulk mailing?)

Date: 2011-01-09 11:37 pm (UTC)
bedlamsbard: star wars rebels: hera peering around a corner (Default)
From: [personal profile] bedlamsbard
Thank you for this.

Date: 2011-01-09 11:49 pm (UTC)
cofax7: climbing on an abbey wall  (Default)
From: [personal profile] cofax7
I'm not surprised that people are seizing the opportunity to make political hay out of this horror: it's always what happens, sadly. But I think it's pretty clear that even if Loughner is of the Tea Party persuasion, the reason he killed six people isn't because of that, but because he's deranged (ETA) and violent. I do think that the ease of access to guns in Arizona made it easier for him to kill people than it would have been otherwise, but that doesn't mean he would have been harmless with tighter gun laws (witness the multiple exploding packages sent to government offices this week). There's always a way, for the sufficiently-motivated (and creative).

I second your call for more civil political discourse, anyway. There seems to be no room for nuance, these days, or for things which are complicated.
Edited Date: 2011-01-10 03:32 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-01-10 12:11 am (UTC)
jecook: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jecook
If I recall correctly, community collages in Arizona are considered private entities. The best thing I can think of is that the Loughner would have had to do something on campus to get the attention of the campus police*. If that had occurred and it had gone all the way to court, then there would possibly have been a flag that would show on a NICS check when he bought the firearm.

I'm more then certain that both sides are going to use this tragedy for their own purposes, which is really sad and depressing.

* Pima Community Collage's police is a bona fide law enforcement authority.

Date: 2011-01-10 12:26 am (UTC)
vvalkyri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] vvalkyri
I don't really think Palin, or even Kelly wanted anybody hurt. I do think that the violent rhetoric is at best unhelpful and at worst a way to give crazy people a target.

(Palin's map is nothing compared with Kelly's fundraisers of 'help us get Giffords out of office - come out and shoot with me')

Date: 2011-01-10 02:00 am (UTC)
soundingsea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] soundingsea
his chief political stance seems to have been in staunch opposition to government mind control devices

My lefty viewpoint on this guy is damn, he needed mental healthcare he clearly wasn't getting.

On a tactical level, very good work by the civilians who took him down, especially the woman who prevented a reload

Apparently she'd been shot and still managed this. Now *that* is why I call heroism.

Date: 2011-01-10 02:19 am (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
You may have read my lefty opinion already but the essential point that it boils down to is that if you create an environment in which political change becomes entwined with the idea of violently taking down the politicians, then it isn't exactly surprising when someone attempts to take down a politician violently. And it isn't Sarah Palin alone or Glen Beck alone or Sharon Angle alone or any others of the recent past alone, it's that all of them together with their rhetoric have created a national environment where violent threats against politicians is acceptable.

My understanding is that back in the 60s the fault was more balanced, but the reality is that you don't see John Edwards or John Kerry out there telling Democrats to lock and load. The current environment is far more of a Far right responsibility and it isn't going to get any better if the ones who made those statements scream about how it isn't their fault and don't change their behaviors.

Date: 2011-01-10 04:49 am (UTC)
topaz: (Default)
From: [personal profile] topaz
You may have read my lefty opinion already but the essential point that it boils down to is that if you create an environment in which political change becomes entwined with the idea of violently taking down the politicians, then it isn't exactly surprising when someone attempts to take down a politician violently.

I agree entirely. A classmate of mine commented on Facebook:

After years of mucking around on documentaries (many of them dealing with mental health issues), I've increasingly come to feel that people who are mentally handicapped and/or unstable absorb language on a much more literal level than the rest of us, and I really do think that provocative rhetoric can have unintended but very real consequences when it falls on susceptible ears.

I think it's profoundly important to understand this. Loughner didn't try to assassinate Giffords because Sarah Palin told him to, but the kind of rhetoric and imagery that Palin employed here can only inflame an already troubled soul.

Giffords' last political opponent, Jesse Kelly, is even worse -- one of his campaign events last June was advertised with the message "Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly". And while I don't think that Kelly is part of a right-wing conspiracy or whatever, I really want someone from the press to call him up and ask, "What in the name of God's green earth were you thinking, boy?"

Date: 2011-01-10 06:33 am (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
I would say that people who have a mental illness that tends more toward violent emotional swings or paranoia, tend to be more responsive to suggestions toward violence or paranoia. (mental illness as a whole isn't really very generalizable because there are a number of different manifestions. /counseling lecture :P )

I do agree that Palin isn't personally responsible for the shooting, but the rhetoric is part of the problem. I had heard that Kelly's campaign wasn't exactly diplomatic, but, um, that seems like an awfully poor choice.

Date: 2011-01-10 09:01 am (UTC)
rydra_wong: Text: BAD BRAIN DAY. Picture: Azula, having one. (a:tla -- bad brain day)
From: [personal profile] rydra_wong
(mental illness as a whole isn't really very generalizable because there are a number of different manifestions. /counseling lecture :P )

Seconding. Speaking as someone with severe mental illness, I'm quite capable of understanding language non-literally, thankyouverymuch. *g*

I'd actually be inclined to agree with the idea that someone with paranoid schizophrenia (not a doctor, cannot armchair diagnose, etc. etc., but to be honest, when someone's rambling about government mind control devices, 9 times out of 10 that's going to be it) may be way more susceptible than the average bear to an atmosphere which encourages the idea that the government are evil socialist Hitlerites who are out to get you and can only be stopped by shooting them.

But most of us certifiable loons do not fall into that category.

Date: 2011-01-10 05:36 pm (UTC)
nicki: (Default)
From: [personal profile] nicki
Everyone who contributed to the atmosphere of violence needs to stand up and take responsibility. Obama should not have said what he said. And while the wingnuts won't (really, looking for the Daily Kos crazies to be responsible is rather like looking for the Free Republic people to be responsible.) People in mainstream positions of power or with mainstream voices need to. Even Keith Olberman (Keith Olberman! Man of unabashed personal pomposity!) has taken personaly responsibility for a statement that he made.

Sarah and Glenn and Sharon etc, need to take their responsibility. They spend a lot of time talking about personal responsibility and all this "no, no, the thing I said has nothing to do with this, of course," is the coward's way out. They need to walk the walk.

Date: 2011-01-10 04:20 am (UTC)
finch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] finch
On a tactical level, very good work by the civilians who took him down, especially the woman who prevented a reload; I hope her name is publicized at some point, because she's one of several heroes of the thing.

Here you go.

Date: 2011-01-10 09:27 am (UTC)
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)
From: [personal profile] rydra_wong
Respect to this guy also:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47307.html

"It was probably not the best idea to run toward the gunshots, but people needed help.”

Date: 2011-01-10 06:57 am (UTC)
bliumchik: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bliumchik
Valid point about left-wing violent rhetoric during the Bush years. I suppose you can always expect that kind of thing from whoever is the underdog at the time, although considering that gun rights are currently a right-wing issue, I would suspect that a right-wing commentator or politician throwing around violent rhetoric is statistically more likely to have followers who actually own guns than a left-wing one. However I have no idea what the exact numbers are and therefore how significant that actually is, and of course, people are certainly displaying the stock-standard "it's not a big deal when it's my guy" bias. Which isn't super surprising - the whole "violent video games cause school shootings" meme had a lot of right-wing support from people currently claiming the tea-party's rhetoric is harmless, as I recall. It's something that people do no matter what they're supporting with it.

However, "certifiable loon" is probably a misleading conclusion to stop at - we still have no idea what made this guy any different from the usual tin-foil helmet crowd, which is generally freaky but non-violent.

Date: 2011-01-10 07:27 pm (UTC)
rydra_wong: Text: BAD BRAIN DAY. Picture: Azula, having one. (a:tla -- bad brain day)
From: [personal profile] rydra_wong
However, "certifiable loon" is probably a misleading conclusion to stop at - we still have no idea what made this guy any different from the usual tin-foil helmet crowd, which is generally freaky but non-violent.

OTOH, if this report is true, it might be the familiar "person with mental illness trying to self-medicate through substance abuse" story -- which, as your link points out, does correlate with violence (just as "person without mental illness with substance abuse" does).

Date: 2011-01-11 12:30 am (UTC)
bliumchik: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bliumchik
That would be more plausible. I'm not sure if that's the link you meant to paste, since it doesn't mention anything about substance abuse, but I'll take your word for it that there is such a report :P

In mostly unrelated news, I just read the comments on that article and now I hate everyone.

Date: 2011-01-11 08:07 am (UTC)
rydra_wong: Text: BAD BRAIN DAY. Picture: Azula, having one. (a:tla -- bad brain day)
From: [personal profile] rydra_wong
Aaargh. I think I got the right link, but Yahoo have edited the article to replace it with the most recent news on the topic; I've seen this happen with links before.

A more recent report:

http://openchannel.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/01/10/5807743-loughner-admitted-drug-use-didnt-fail-drug-test-army-says

In mostly unrelated news, I just read the comments on that article and now I hate everyone.

Never read the comments! I'm thinking of getting this:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/161674/

Date: 2011-01-11 12:32 pm (UTC)
bliumchik: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bliumchik
Hmm, they're contradicting themselves as to whether type of drug was not specified or whether it was marijuana (potheads: not generally associated with the impetus required to get up off the couch and open fire on a bunch of people) but that probably averages out to marijuana plus unidentified other drugs, idk.

oh my god that addon looks so useful.

Date: 2011-01-10 08:19 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] shadowspinner
Honestly, I haven't followed American politics enough lately to be familiar with much about the Tea Party - though my guess is that the highly publicised and somewhat nutty faction of them is probably something of a minority compared to the more ordinary Tea Party members. However I think that for either right- or left-wing people to claim that violence is something that either only the other side does (or that only crazy people do) is probably operating some pretty awesome self-delusions. Still, this particular case does appear to me more about what was wrong with this guy rather than a side. It will be interesting to see more information about this case as it's revealed.

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