Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Letters to the Editor - Mental Illness, Guns and Toxic Speech - NYTimes.com


I disagree with the narrow way that David Brooks presents the Arizona shootings in “The Politicized Mind” (column, Jan. 11).

The suspect, Jared L. Loughner, seems to be a disturbed individual, but all societies have mentally unstable citizens, and yet the United States has a high rate of these killing sprees; Columbine, Fort Hood and Virginia Tech come to mind. These mass killings do not happen with such frequency in any other developed country. There must be unique contributing factors beyond the mere presence of mentally ill members in American society.

I can think of at least three:

¶The easy, unfettered access to guns.
¶The difficulty of obtaining health care for the mentally ill.
¶The toxic and inflammatory political rhetoric in this country.

It is incredible to me that it is easier to buy a semiautomatic pistol than to operate a car in the United States. There is great irony that Representative Gabrielle Giffords’s support for the law to provide health care for more Americans like Mr. Loughner inspired vitriolic opposition. All societies have their share of Loughners, but only the United States has the unique environment and lack of support systems that cause them to act out at a higher rate and with such devastating consequences.

Chris Librie

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To the Editor:

I take exception to David Brooks’s efforts to separate the climate of political hate from the shooting rampage in Tucson. If Jared L. Loughner had staged his rampage at his workplace, or in his neighborhood or in some other place devoid of political implications, Mr. Brooks would be right — another senseless mass killing by a man in need of treatment in a country in need of better gun control.

But Mr. Loughner was not, as Mr. Brooks contends, “locked in a world far removed from politics as we normally understand it.” Mr. Loughner, even if mentally disturbed, chose his venue — a political gathering — and chose his victim, a Democratic congresswoman.

Furthermore, he made these choices in an atmosphere fired by hate speech, much of it explicitly directed at Democrats. Mr. Brooks is correct that we don’t know whether the Tea Party or Sarah Palin’s targeting of Gabrielle Giffords using cross hairs played any explicit role in influencing Mr. Loughner’s choice of victim, but his heinous act, however irrational, was inescapably political.
Mary-Lou Weisman

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To the Editor:

Re “At Victim’s School, Shock, Sorrow and Nightmares” (news article, Jan. 11):
If any good can come out of the senseless shootings in Tucson, perhaps it can be to put a human face on the breadth of the tragedy.

Maybe the loss of Christina Green, a 9-year-old girl brought to a Safeway to witness democracy in action, can provide the impetus for legislators cowed by the National Rifle Association to finally remove semiautomatic weapons from our store shelves and cupboards.

If such legislation needs a human face, we can call it Christina’s Law.

Mark Rosen

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