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Monday, 10 January 2011

Could You Have Stopped Saturday's Shooting?

As the information surfaced this weekend about the kid who shot up the Safeway near where I've lived in Tucson since early 2005, one thing occurred to me.

This didn't have to happen.

Every piece of info they found about this guy told me that someone should have connected the dots. His "friends" said over the last few years, he was crazy, nonsensical, and radical. He wrote his own manifesto. I don't know anybody who has showed me his own manifesto. If anyone ever does, I will probably go straight to police with it.

We also found out that his local community college threw him out, suggesting that he not return until he can bring documents proving he is sane. The army rejected him, and I'm thinking that it was NOT because he had high blood pressure.

I want to know if a gun store sold him a gun. I want to know why there isn't some sort of database that would tell a gun shop that this guy was rejected by the army for non-physical reasons, and he was thrown out of college for mental case reasons. This may be someone we don't want to have a gun. And if a "friend" bought him the gun, that friend should be held responsible.

If you know someone who is not OK, and especially someone who is not interested in getting help because he's sure he's right and just fine, start a paperwork trail. Report something to SOMEBODY. It's amazing how nearly every time we go through these tragedies, enough info is released that makes it clear that if someone's "friends" had reported what they knew and saw, this could have been avoided.

I couldn't have stopped Saturday's shooting, and I'm glad I wasn't there. I was having tea with a friend, and then pizza with a guy I met on a dating website. :) But somebody could have stopped Saturday's shooting. Where are this kid's parents? Did nobody notice the things he was posting on the internet?

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Good Morning Deb,

Federal law does mandate a back ground check when purchasing a firearm. Not sure exactly what data goes into their data base, but I do know it is more than just criminal history. Perhaps some military records should be considered. It is obvious the system failed and could be improved.

If anyone purchased the gun for him, they would be an accomplice and should they be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

AS for intervention, I fear to many in our society today simply fear getting involved. The lack of overall involvement is one of the reasons we can go for years and not know our next door neighbors.

Bob Coon

Sadly, because this guy was no longer a minor, there is little that could legally be done until he did something violent. It is incredibly difficult to get someone sectioned (ie admitted to a mental hospital against their will so they cannot check themselves out) until they do something violent to themselves or others. Even then, due to cost cutting and poor health insurance, people are usually discharged once their meds are sorted out, with little followup to determine if they are actually med-compliant. The agencies that take on cases are so overwhelmed and underfunded that even IF he had a caseworker (and it doesn't appear that he did), I doubt it would have made any difference. This is why our prisons are overcrowded with the mentally ill.

I totally agree that so many people in theory could have done something to stop this from happening. But that is in theory. Even if the school, friends, parents reported him to the police saying, "this person seems bonkers, I am worried he might be dangerous," I seriously doubt they would have done anything other than write up a report. I'd love for this horrible event to spark a real reform of mental healthcare in this country, but I am jaded enough to doubt it will make a difference.

I'd love to see the police laugh you out of the station when you show up with a manifesto. What crime is being broken? Does everyone with bizarre thoughts need to be locked up before they have even committed a crime?

And then, even if you can somehow prevent him from getting a gun (very few guns used in violent crime are acquired by the usual process), can you stop him from using a knife? The fact is that nothing can prevent someone from doing something crazy. The fact is that as weird as this guy was, he had the mental wherewithal to meticulously plan out his actions ahead of time. How do you prevent that?

Luckily, the mentally ill are not opening fire on crowd very often. Can you name the last time it happened? When you cross that with the literally millions of guns sold every year, doesn't it seem a little over-the-top to create all sorts of barriers, none of which will probably stop anything anyway? Do you honestly believe that if the guy in question had been denied a gun that he would have simply gone home and played checkers instead?

>It's amazing how nearly every time we go through these
>tragedies, enough info is released that makes it clear
>that if someone's "friends" had reported what they knew
>and saw, this could have been avoided.

On the contrary, it is amazing that nearly every time we go through these tragedies, enough info is released that make it clear that there are ample reports of what they knew and saw. It's just that you can't lock up someone just because he goes into a math class and starts saying the number 6 is really the number 18. Or, rather, you can't in America. In China, Russia, and a host of other countries, they certainly do lock up people who express any offbeat views. Except, in those cases, we call them "human rights abuses."

I'm not justifying what this whack-job did, but I for one am happy that we live in a country where people's thoughts are not policed.

"Does everyone with bizarre thoughts need to be locked up before they have even committed a crime?"

Depends what the bizarre thoughts are, and depends what you mean by locked up.

I think there are things people could have done to prevent this. This guy was clearly a danger to himself and others, before this ever happened. I think more could have been done.

"I'm not justifying what this whack-job did, but I for one am happy that we live in a country where people's thoughts are not policed."

With rants like yours, I can see why you feel that way.

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