Mr. Loughner's delusions fixated on Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, one of 12 seriously injured in the shooting. Some have speculated on the possible relationship of our acrimonious political climate to the incident. It is, however, unlikely that there is any such relationship, since similar tragedies occur in politically harmonious times as well.
The motivation for such killings is usually based on psychotic thinking, not political thinking. Dennis Sweeney killed Allard Lowenstein because he believed that Lowenstein had implanted a transmitter in his teeth that was sending messages to him. Russell Weston stormed the Capitol because he believed the government had hidden a machine there that could reverse time.
The solution to this situation is obvious—make sure individuals with serious mental illnesses are receiving treatment. The mistake was not in emptying the nation's hospitals but rather in ignoring the treatment needs of the patients being released. Many such patients will take medication voluntarily if it is made available to them. Others are unaware they are sick and should be required by law to receive assisted outpatient treatment, including medication and counseling, as is the case in New York under Kendra's Law. If they do not comply with the court-ordered treatment plan, they can and should be involuntarily admitted to a hospital. Arizona has such a provision in its laws, but it is almost never used.
Ultimately, it is important to hold state officials responsible for not providing sufficient resources to treat those who suffer from serious mental illnesses. For almost two centuries, it has been an accepted function of state government to protect disabled persons and to protect the public from individuals who are potentially dangerous. State governments have been very effective in emptying the hospitals in an effort to save money but remarkably ineffective in providing treatment for seriously mentally ill individuals living in the community.
My own view is that Dr. Torrey is correct.
Yet, one must admit there has been too much ugly rhetoric from the Republicans. I heard it with my own ears. To wit, remarks about watering the tree of liberty with blood, taken from Jefferson, by a member of the audience at a book talk by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) at the National Press Club, a while back.
Of course, it should be toned down, but it was not related to this recent killing spree--which resulted in the death of federal judge John Roll (a Republican), the most serious crime committed that day--a murder which carries the death penalty upon conviction.
And it is no excuse for the even uglier rhetoric coming out of the mouths of Democrats, nor their dishonesty.
In fact, Judge Roll has become a non-person to the media, because he doesn't fit their political agenda items: Republican-bashing, Tea Party Bashing, Gun Control Advocacy, and Censorship. To use this tragedy for those purposes is beyond dishonest, and disgraceful--it is, as Sarah Palin charges, a "blood libel."
IMHO, Loughner's published statements about literacy and grammar as a motive for the armed attack (no matter how psychotic he may have been) are evidence that he's probably more of an intellectual disciple of Paulo Freire, than Rush Limbaugh...
If only John Boehner would quote Joseph Welch's question to Democrats and the media, next time they dare to make disgusting twisted charges against Republicans in this regard:
"Have you no decency?"