In the aftermath of the shootings in Arizona on Saturday, several of MPR’s social networking efforts and our Public Insight Network staff have been collecting your reaction. Here are some of the more compelling comments we’ve received:
I think this brings up major concerns regarding the political divide in our country. Politicians and the pundit-style shows have established a mindset that we have a two-sided system where one side is pure good and the other side is pure evil. As a country we need to acknowledge that there are shades of gray and that everyone wants to do what they think is best for the country, even if I disagree with it. What impact will this event have on the public’s access to politicians? Currently politicians spend most of their time with lobbyists who have paid for the privilege. Commoners have lost their access and now will lose even more.
I am a linguistic anthropologist with a specialization in discourse analysis and public rhetoric. Extremist political rhetoric has always been with us. However, it has accelerated in recent years due to the rapidity and ubiquity of public and social media. The chance that individuals will get caught in this web of extremism is greater today than in the past. The power of symbolism in public rhetoric as a motivating force is crucial. People an only imagine what they can imagine. Public commentators have the power to change the mindset of the public by giving people the opportunity to reframe their thinking–often in negative directions.
Until someone is a credible threat to themselves or others, I think we can’t help someone until they are ready to be helped. What worries me is how much credibility we give people’s writings online. There are thousands of people who will say the most outrageous things online but would never take steps to hurt anyone. I don’t want this to become a witch hunt about extreme views.
I was a postal supervisor at the time that people were shooting up postal facilities. Believe me, we did a lot of thinking about people like Loughner. The postal service promulgated and enforced a no firearms policy. It is simply known that if you are stupid enough to take a firearm into a postal facility, you are already in trouble. This means that if you are going hunting after work, and you take your rifle to work in the trunk of your car, you can be fired. People have been fired. Note that the postal service does not have shootings any more. The firearms ban is only a small part of a comprehensive anti-violence program. Society needs an anti-violence program; you might want to look at the elements of the postal program to see what that program might be.
The ultimate responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the shooter. That being said, the move to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill has led to less access to treatment. Additionally this has also led to the refusal of treatment by the severely mentally ill, who, nearly by definition lack the capacity to render competent judgment upon their respective mental state and to their need for treatment.
As an immigrant from Europe, the American fascination with guns both puzzles and dismays me. I do not understand why it is considered OK for someone to buy a dangerous weapon and not have to take any kind of training, and can just walk out of the store with it. The fantasy is that you will be able to protect yourself. Well. How come then, than when people saw what was going on around Gifford, that someone with a gun did not take action!
In every case of a gun crime, the specific gun used and its characteristics need to be prominently described by the media, as happened here. Slowly, I think, the public will come to know there is a difference between guns for killing people and guns for hunting, and maybe that’s an important difference.
Despite my anti-handgun and anti-violence views, we need to step back from the analysis of this particular situation. Yes, the rhetoric and the cross hairs may have influenced the shooter, but there is a good chance they didn’t. The man who shot Reagan thought he was protecting make believe actress girl friend, not making a political statement The initial speculation of Arab terrorists in the OK City bombing were completely wrong. A very popular minister was stabbed to death in Sweden a few years ago by a mentally ill man without political motives. Trying to place blame based on pure speculation helps no one. People will hold onto speculation they agree with long after it has been proven completely and undeniably false, and it only serves to harden the already overly contentious divisions in this country.
I own over 10 firearms and I bad mouth all who think it is cool to own a pistol let alone an AK or the like. I hunt and am shocked by the guys I see at the range with banana clips and their military weapons. I feel that we do have a right to have guns and I see no hope in regulating this practice. All it will do is pull any and probably all gun owners to the wrong side of question. It is a little like abortion. It is a no-win argument.
We’ve had attempted assassinations by people with unstable personalities for as long as the country has existed. Trying to use this tragedy as a political weapon to go after (or blame) those with opposing viewpoints is intellectually dishonest and the most base and cynical kind of partisanship–ironically, the very thing those doing so are trying to blame.
How about it’s not political so much as it is symbol of our national mental health crisis? If this young man was “mentally unstable” as the media continues to speculate, how did he get to the point of hurting other people? When you contact a mental health practitioner, the first answering machine statement is “if you believe you might hurt yourself or other people, please call 911.” This young man needed mental health crisis control and I would submit that there is not enough staff in the mental heath world to care for all patients who need help.
Marti Priest Nelson
The recent and tragic shooting, while it does remind politicians, the media, and the general public of the hazards of the noxious political rhetoric between the polar opposites of our country and a need for a call to political and social civility, it really needs to be looked at from a mental health perspective. Millions of us, daily, take in the political discourse without taking up a gun. Loughner needed greater mental health screening. When we see mental illness as a form of terrorism on homeland soil, we may be on the right track. Education, screening, outreach, prevention, and intervention are just some of the measures we need.
Maybe the silent majority, who I believe still have common sense and understand the golden rule, can’t be silent anymore. Shine a light on the inappropriate, talk to friends, family, and strangers use your voice and speak the truth in love before crazy fear totally rules all our lives!
Rae Ann Mathias
This question presupposes that something needs to be done. It’s been a long, long time since there has been a successful assault on a public official, meaning that the security we have in place is working. If we as a nation continue to put into place unnecessary security functions because of singular acts, we are going to burden and tax ourselves for no purpose. There is no perfect defense against the fringe, the best we can hope for is secure enough to avoid these tragedies most of the time, and we are there already.