Jared Lee Loughner, the 22-year-old who is being held for yesterday’s shooting in Arizona, “had become increasingly erratic in recent months, so much so that others around him began to worry,” the New York Times reports this morning. “He had posted on his Myspace page at some point a photograph of a United States history textbook, on top of which he had placed a handgun. He prepared a series of Internet videos filled with rambling statements on topics including the gold standard, mind control and SWAT teams. And he had started to act oddly during his classes at Pima Community College, causing unease among other students.”
I don’t think it’s going too far out on a limb to suspect that this very disturbed-sounding young man took in some of his most distorted, paranoid ideas from the paranoid fringes of the political scene–why wouldn’t he? Just because he’s crazy doesn’t mean he doesn’t respond to topical stimuli. Sarah Palin’s website took down her infamous crosshairs map yesterday and the ex-Governor posted her “sincere condolences” and prayers for peace and justice; Michelle Bachmann’s “tears are flowing”, and John McCain has called for “the strongest punishment of the law.”
Right wing talkers will point out that Loughner listed the Communist Manifesto among his favorite books–in fact, Pam Geller is already on the case: “Leftist Machine Spins like a Top on Steroids Despite Arizona Shooter’s Leftwing Radicalism”; left wingers will duly note that hard currency and Mein Kampf (another of Loughner’s favorite books) are generally associated with the far right (though a surprising numbers of posters insist that Hitler was no less of a leftist than Marx–a tribute, I suppose, to the far reach of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism and Glenn Beck). Mainstream commentators will split the difference and deplore the over-heated rhetoric of both sides, as if Howard Dean’s and Dennis Kucinic’s partisans have been calling for Second Amendment remedies at rallies of their own.
But few will probably talk about guns themselves, or the fact that Loughner’s semi-automatic handgun, which enabled him to kill six people in a matter of seconds, including a federal judge, a minister, and a nine-year-old child, was legally purchased, which to me is the biggest scandal of all.
As I wrote about James Jay Lee, the Discovery Channel nut, last fall (what is it about the name “Lee” and guns?), “I think it’s pretty pointless to keep score in this way.”
Rightists who make a point of flaunting their weapons and talking about rising up against the government should have thicker skins when people accuse them of sounding like terrorists; leftists should keep their focus on the lunatics who occupy the ostensible mainstream, as they kill a lot more people than any number of “obscure David Duke type” outliers.
Considering how many psychotics there are, and how easy it is for them to exercise their Second Amendment rights, we’re going to have to deal with a lot more Lees, von Brunn’s, and Kaczynskis.