Shooting raises difficult questions

Published 11:54am Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the hours after a tragic shooting in Arizona that killed six people and left a U.S. representative fighting for her life, accusations about the alleged political motivation of the gunman were flying.

Although much is still not known about why a young man opened fire at the “Congress in Your Corner” event on Saturday morning, a picture of the accused gunman has emerged, and it seems he may have had a tenuous relationship with reality, at best.

The question many are asking is why the political rhetoric has escalated to such levels of vitriol — and whether this shooting can bring us back to more reasonable discussion.

It’s a valid question, although it might have little to do with the shooting.

If the tragic incident brings moderation to our political discourse, all the better.

But perhaps a more important question we should be asking is why a young man with so many outward signs of mental illness — including outbursts in class so frightening and severe he was banned from his community college — was left untreated? His actions won’t likely be considered criminally insane since he was allegedly plotting the act, but perhaps something could have been prevented if he had been treated.

As we begin to learn more about him and about his reasoning — however twisted — perhaps we can begin to examine the recognition of mental illness and the availability of treatment as much as we examine our political rhetoric.

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