The US shooting

Reuters reports:

A gunman shot a congresswoman in the head, seriously wounding her, and killed six other people in a shooting rampage at a public meeting in Tucson Saturday.

The shooting took place outside a supermarket where Gabrielle Giffords, a 40-year-old Democrat, was meeting with constituents. Among the dead were a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. A Tucson fire official said six were killed and 13 wounded in the attack.

It is too early to know the motivations of the shooter – he may be insane like Raegan’s shooter was, or he may have had political motivations.

Regardless it is tragic six people are dead, including a nine year old girl, and Giffords is in critical condition.  To some degree political violence is worse than other violence – it is basically a form of terrorism. The impact is not just on those targetted, but can have a chilling effect on what people will say and do.

The suspected gunman, identified by a federal law enforcement official as Jared Loughner, 22, opened fire at point-blank range with a pistol with an extended magazine. Loughner was tackled after the shooting and was in custody.

Giffords, a supporter of Obama’s healthcare overhaul, had warned previously the rhetoric had prompted violent threats against her and vandalism at her office.

“The rhetoric is really heated. Not just the calls but the e-mails, the slurs,” Giffords told MSNBC at the time.

She referred back to a map of electoral targets put out by former Alaska Republican Governor Sarah Palin, each one marked by the crosshairs of a rifle sight.

“Sarah Palin has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district and when people do that, they’ve gotta realize there are consequences to that action,” Giffords said.

While I don’t think crosshairs are an appropriate way to indicate the political targeting of someone, neither do I think that crosshairs on a website cause someone to decide to start shooting people. Also Michelle Malkin points out that both the Democratic Leadership Council and Daily Kos have had websites with bullseyes or cross-hair targets on them. It is sad that some people’s first reaction to a tragic shooting is can we blame it on Sarah Palin.

The fact the shooter shot six people, including a young girl, strongly suggests he was simply bad or mad. If he had just shot at the congresswoman, then one would suspect a stronger political motivation.

Malkin has extracts from stories which pretty conclusively put him in the nut category:

A former classmate of Loughner at Pima Community College said he was “obviously very disturbed.”

“He disrupted class frequently with nonsensical outbursts,” said Lynda Sorenson, who took a math class with Loughner last summer at Pima Community College’s Northwest campus.

Sorenson doesn’t recall if he ever made any threats or uttered political statements but he was very disruptive, she said. He was asked to leave the pre-algebra class several times and eventually was barred from class, said Sorenson, a Tucson resident…

…The online accounts also contain bizarre discussions of a new currency and literacy, as well as threatening and despairing messages.

“WOW! I’m glad i didn’t kill myself. I’ll see you on National T.v.! This is foreshadow …. why doesn’t anyone talk to me?..” he posted on MySpace Dec. 14.

On Dec. 13, he wrote: “I don’t feel good: I’m ready to kill a police officer! I can say it.”

The killer is in custody, so given time we may learn more about why he did this – but frankly it just looks like a tragic combination of a nutter with a gun.

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