The victims and their families of the January 2011 shooting attack near Tucson had an opportunity to confront the gunman, 24-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, in federal court on Thursday.
The scene, as one might expect, was fraught with emotion. Among those who spoke at the sentence hearing was the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly.
“You tried to create a world as dark and evil as your own. Remember this: You failed,” Kelly said, staring down Loughner, who sat there dead-eyed and emotionless.
“Her life has been forever changed. Plans she had for our family and her career have been immeasurably altered,” Kelly continued. “Every day is a continuous struggle to do those things she once was so good at.”
During the testimony, Loughner’s mother, who was in attendance, sobbed.
“Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head but you haven’t put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place,” Kelly said.
As part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty, Loughner will spend the rest of his life in jail without the possibility of parole. In total, he pleaded guilty to the 19 charges against him, which resulted in seven consecutive life sentences and an additional 140 years in prison.
Altogether, Loughner killed six people and wounded 13 others at a political gathering in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, near Tucson, on Jan. 8, 2011.
In addition to confronting Loughner, Kelly also criticized Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the state legislature for its “feckless” leadership and unwillingness to pass meaningful gun control reform.
“In this state we have elected officials so feckless in their leadership that they would say, as in the case of Governor Jan Brewer, ‘I don’t think it has anything to do with the size of the magazine or the caliber of the gun,’” Kelly said, according to reports.
“She went on and said, ‘Even if the shooter’s weapon had held fewer bullets, he’d have another gun, maybe. He could have three guns in his pocket’ – she said this just one week after a high capacity magazine allowed you to kill six and wound 19 others, before being wrestled to the ground while attempting to reload. Or a state legislature that thought it appropriate to busy itself naming an official Arizona state gun just weeks after this tragedy occurred, instead of doing the work it was elected to do.”
“We have a political class that is afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws and how they are being enforced,” Kelly added. “We have representatives who look at gun violence, not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore. As a nation we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address this issue. After Columbine; after Virginia Tech; after Tucson and after Aurora we have done nothing.”
A spokesman for the Republican Governor declined to address Kelly’s complaints, but released a statement.
“The Governor has long anticipated today,” Spokesman Matthew Benson said in a statement. “Like all Arizonans, she has looked forward to this time when justice would finally be served for our friends and neighbors killed or injured on that terrible January day in Tucson nearly two years ago. Governor Brewer knew some of the victims. She considers Gabby Giffords a friend, and has prayed for her recovery and that of the others wounded in the shooting. On this solemn occasion, Governor Brewer isn’t interested in engaging in politics.”
While one’s heart certainly goes out to Kelly and Giffords and the other victims and their families, there is an important point to make with respect to perpetrators of those aforementioned mass shootings (Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora). And that is that they were all, one-for-one, crazy!
Quick Rundown (all cursory grabs from Wikipedia, but they illustrate the point):
On the fifth anniversary of Columbine, the FBI’s lead Columbine investigator and several psychiatrists went public with their conclusions in a news article. There they argued Harris was a clinical psychopath and Klebold was depressive. They believed the plan was masterminded by Harris, who they thought had a messianic-level superiority complex and hoped to illustrate his massive superiority to the world.
In eighth grade, [Seung-Hui] Cho was diagnosed with severe depression as well as selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that inhibited him from speaking… In 2005, Cho had been declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice and ordered to seek outpatient treatment.
On Tuesday, August 7, 2012, Judge Burns found Loughner competent to stand trial. Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 counts at the hearing, which spared him the death penalty. The hearing began with Loughner listening calmly to testimony from Dr. Christina Pietz, Loughner’s forensic psychologist, who testified that he had displayed depressive symptoms in 2006 and was formally diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2011.
CBS News later reported that [James] Holmes met with at least three mental health professionals at the University of Colorado prior to the massacre…. Some of Holmes’ acquaintances suspected prior to the shooting that Holmes suffered from mental illness and could be dangerous. Two weeks before the shooting, he sent a text message asking a graduate student if they had heard of the disorder dysphoric mania, and warning the student to stay away from him “because I am bad news.”
The cold hard realty is if we want to stop gun violence – particularly these mass shootings – we need to learn how to stop crazy. And, unfortunately, there’s no gun law out there that will stop crazy people from committing violent acts (plus, federal law already prohibits the mentally ill from owning or possessing firearms). Therefore, it’s time we start looking in another direction.
(Photo Credit: Politico)