Weekend open thread: Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt

The attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords is more important than the links I had planned to post in this weekend’s open thread. At least six people were killed and a dozen more wounded by a 22-year-old gunman who is now in custody. He fired many shots at close range while Giffords was holding a “Congress on your corner” event at a Tucson grocery store. Giffords made it through surgery and responded to some of the doctors’ commands. The dead include a nine-year-old girl, Congressional staffer Gabe Zimmerman, and U.S. District Court Judge John Roll. Law enforcement are searching for a second suspect who was not a shooter.

[Pima County Sheriff Clarence] Dupnik declined to provide more information on the second individual who he would only describe as “white” and “in his 50s.” Authorities have photographs of the person of interest and are “actively pursuing him,” the sheriff said.

The congresswoman was the clear focus of the gunman’s assault, Dupnik said.

“He ran through the crowd and when he got to [Giffords] he just started shooting,” the sheriff said.

“The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately Arizona I think is the capital. We are the Mecca for prejudice for prejudice and bigotry,” he said.

Dupnik said authorities are also investigating a suspicious package at one of Giffords’ field offices in Tucson.

Many more links on today’s attack are here. House Republican leaders are postponing all legislation scheduled for the coming week.

I’m sure the Bleeding Heartland community joins me in sending out healing thoughts or prayers for the bereaved and injured.

This is an open thread.

UPDATE: After the jump I’ve posted the names of all those killed in Saturday’s attack.

SECOND UPDATE: Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey’s take on the suspect, Jared Lee Loughner, is worth reading. Some excerpts are after the jump.


The Pima County Sheriff’s Office has released the identities of the six people killed in this morning’s tragic shooting.

-John Roll, 63, a federal district court judge.

-Gabriel Zimmerman, 30, Giffords’ director of community outreach

-Dorwin Stoddard, 76, a pastor at Mountain Ave. Church of Christ.

-Christina Greene, 9, a student at Mesa Verde Elementary

-Dorthy Murray, 76

-Phyllis Scheck, 79

Loughner a “textbook” case paranoid schizophrenic:

Quite early in the news cycle, the media more or less diagnosed Jared Loughner as paranoid schizophrenic. Do you think that’s accurate?

He’s a textbook case. Most psychiatrists will tell you they need to examine a patient before diagnosing him, but this guy has all of the symptoms. He has the right age of onset. He has a deteriorating social course, as they say in the [DSM], social and occupational dysfunction. He has delusions, and they’re pretty strange. It’s common for schizophrenics to think people are trying to control their mind, but thinking the government is trying to control your grammar — I’ve never heard that before. The real tip-off is the markedly disorganized speech, which you see in the rambling videos. This is the kind of disorganized speech that you virtually never get in any other condition. It’s what we call pathognomonic of schizophrenia. That is, when you hear that symptom, it’s “schizophrenia until proven otherwise.” He’s also got the affective flattening of emotion, which you see in that mug shot. […]

We have a strong correlation in our minds between schizophrenia and dangerous behavior. What is the real connection between this mental illness and violence?

There is a very small number of people with schizophrenia who are, indeed, dangerous and do things like this. It’s very important to emphasize that the vast majority of people with this disease are not dangerous, and there are certain predictors in terms of who will be dangerous. Past history of violence, substance abuse, both of which are predictors for non-schizophrenics, too. But I’ve followed schizophrenia for 30 years, and I have never seen one of these high-profile homicides where the fellow hasn’t been off his medication when he did it. Being off medication is a clear risk factor for people who have a past history.

Then there are certain kinds of symptoms as well. Thinking people are controlling your mind will increase the risk of violence, also having what we call command hallucinations, so that you’re hearing voices that tell you to do things. […]

We’ve heard a lot of debate about how heated political rhetoric might have led to this. What do you think about that?

I think it’s a red herring. We have seen these kinds of things in periods with relative peace in the political environment, we’ve seen it in turbulent times. I think it’s unrelated, frankly.

The only reason we’re talking about this today is that he killed six people rather than one person and that one of the people he shot is a congresswoman. These are not uncommon events. People like this man, with likely untreated schizophrenia, are responsible for about 10 percent of the homicides in the United States. That means about 1,600 homicides a year.

  • The sheriff, as Digby pointed out on Twitter, is one of the few

    people who know what this guy said after being arrested, and who knows what his prior record entails.  And the sheriff said that responsibility belongs in part to people on radio and TV who spew violent rhetoric.

    There is a young congressional staffer dead tonight, who just went to work this morning.  A young girl just elected to her student council and sufficiently excited about the political process to want to see her congresswoman.  A distinguished judge who just dropped by to say hi.  

    When Sarah Palin put a gunsight on the US map for Gabrielle Giffords, she put it there for these people too–six dead and 18 (?) wounded.  The rightwing commentariat on the internet is already pushing the notion that the shooter is a liberal and they are aggrieved.  They have no shame.  They will not learn.  Olbermann is right.  The appropriate response is to denounce and shun the apostles of violence.

    • Umm...

      have you read the left-wing commentariat?

      Whenever something happens like this, right-wing blogs claim that it’s a left-wing nut.  Left-wing blogs claim that it’s a right-wing nut.

      There’s always something…the “Texas-plane-IRS” guy, or the “Discovery channel” guy, or the Holocaust museum guy, or the Census worker who was “murdered” in Kentucky, or the murderers of George Tiller and Jim Pouillon.  Nobody wants to “claim” them as a member of their side of the political spectrum.  Thus, a tragedy becomes a political event where liberals and conservatives try and “tie” these wackos around the necks of the opposition like a millstone.

      There is something seriously wrong here.  I’ve read liberal and conservative blogs today, and it is NOT about the tragedy…it’s about the spin.

      This, too, is tragic.

      • Safe

        It is safe to assume that the alleged shooter had a mix of views that could possibly fit in both camps.  I have heard all kinds of things, one that he was an atheist mad about the role religion played in government.  I have heard that he was a strong proponent of the gold standard.

        I think we are fooling ourselves if we can say that we know exactly why the person did this.  They clearly have snapped and do not represent anyone in the political mainstream.  We’ve all seen people shout at elected representatives, this person is obviously demented and dangerous and did not exercise his democratic rights properly.  

        The families of those struck by this tragedy are who we should worry about, finger pointing is not necessary.  

        • Is the political spectrum

          a straight line or a circle?  If it’s a circle, eventually radicals and reactionaries meet at the bottom of the circle in crazy town.

          Well said MID.  Let’s keep the families in our prayers.

      • I agree with Michael Moore

        who asks, “If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web w/crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he b sitting right now?”

        I find it disturbing that the suspect was mentally ill enough to be expelled from college, yet was able to purchase a gun legally in November. My understanding of Iowa’s new gun law is that exactly the same thing could happen here now that sheriffs have less discretion to deny permits.

        • I remember thinking Sarah Palin's

          map with the cross-hairs was a bad idea when I saw it.

          But, if she had chosen Xs, circles, stars, or frowny faces for the maps, I imagine this tragedy still would have happened.

          However, I’m sure we’ll be hearing all about Palin and her map, or that this nut liked the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf over the next week though, as both sides try to frame this wacko in the way that they wish.

          When Jon Stewart went on Crossfire years ago, he asked Begala and Carlson where they went after a major news story.  

          Jon Stewart suggested that they go to “spin-alley.”  

          This is exactly what we’re going to see over the next couple of days.  Can we at least wait until after the funerals, conservative and liberal blogs?

  • Interesting, isn't it

    how quickly Sarah Palin allegedly scrubbed her website of the crosshairs map. Daily Kos posted the news within hours of the tragedy.

  • scary

    i’m sure many readers of this blog go see their Representative or attend some sort of political event and to think how quickly this happened is really terrifying.  

    i do have to agree with the Sheriff of Pima County who said “Freedom of Speech does not come without consequences.”  Rhetoric about bullseyes; crosshairs on maps; using a second amendment remedy; don’t retreat, reload; and the just vile meanness spewed out this election does promote violence.  you cannot look at those statements and images and say there isn’t a violent tone.

    we’re all people trying to come together to solve the major issues of our day – there is no need for talk of violence on any side.  i hope the result of this tragedy will be a discussion on how speech by high profile leaders and organizations does impact the lives of people and we are more cognizant about our actions and words.  

    • You are exactly right

      Thank you.  Perhaps this will make all people (Palin, Markos, etc.) think twice before using the phrase “Bullseye” in regards to anyone.  Even if you’re a hunter, let’s avoid using these kinds of words.

    • I have taken my kids

      to so many public political events, without ever thinking about something like this happening.

      Eliminationist or violent rhetoric, e.g. “we came unarmed (this time)”, can provoke acts of violence by mentally unstable people.  

      • Agreed

        Plus fictional violence (whether VGs, movies, or television) can be unhelpful too.

        In essence, there are too many things in this over-violent world that can push someone over the edge.  It’s very unfortunate.

  • Responsibility for Words

    It’s time that the mainstream media hold those that profess this hate-speech accountable – including politicians and media stars. Name-calling, personal attacks and villification is not political debate. We have a similar situation here in Iowa with the villification of our judges. The Constitution calls for a free and independent judiciary, an equal branch of government. Not one that is responsible to the whims of the majority or the political parties. A judiciary should be responsible to the rule of law. When individuals attack a judge, the media needs to point this out. Simply repeating political rhetoric is irresponsible.

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