California State University East Bay

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California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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Political Statement or Outbreak of Insanity?

A well-wisher kneels at the memorial site for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside her Tucson, Ariz. office, on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2010. Jared Lee Loughner is charged with trying to assassinate Giffords in a shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 14. Giffords remains hospitalized in critical condition.

On Jan. 8th, already a week into the New Year, tragedy struck in Tucson, Arizona when Jared Lee Loughner, 22, shot several times at a crowd outside a local grocery store where Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was speaking.

Six people were killed in that massacre, while 14 others were wounded. As for Giffords, a bullet entered her brain and is currently in critical condition. Loughner is in police custody and what lies ahead of him has yet to be decided.

Where pressing charges is concerned, it is difficult to decide exactly what to do with Loughner—as in whether or not he should go straight to prison or to a mental institution. It is already clear that he is mentally unstable in some way or another, but is it possible for political rhetoric to have had a major role at all in his goal to assassinate Giffords?

Some seem to think so. On Sunday, the Associated Press interviewed a few of Loughner’s friends from high school and they explained how he hated government officials and believed they were behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In addition, authorities discovered evidence behind his unhealthy obsession with the government, including envelopes with labels such as “Giffords” and “My Assassination” along with a letter sent to him from Giffords, thanking him for attending a 2007 “Congress at your Corner” event.

He was even expelled from Pima Community College a few years earlier due to his disruptive behavior and for posting a video on YouTube, claiming the college was “unconstitutional.”

Here at CSU East Bay, political science professor David Baggins, tended to agree that political rhetoric was involved in the cause for the shooting. At the same time, he also pointed out how there seems to be a pattern in our society where hateful responses to right-wing Americans often at times results in violence.

“It is a reminder that the level of rhetoric has caused the conditions of people willing to kill other people,” Baggins explained. “It is foreseeable with so much culture in hate that someone is going to internalize that hate and express it in a violent manner.”

Despite the solid evidence, others might not fully press on political rhetoric to be the case otherwise.

Staff administrator Teresa Taniguchi, of the CSUEB human development department, refers to the mentioning of past incidents the media has reported where Loughner’s psychological instability may have been recognized and treated. Taniguchi believes that he was a misdirected individual who more than less likely needed an intervention.

“He’s probably never going to explain why he did it,” said Taniguchi. “Generally when they’re that far off the deep end, there isn’t logic in their minds. The logic is not normal.”

“When there are individuals who display anti-social behavior, they really need to be referred for psychological treatment because it goes beyond just getting them off our doorstep [referring to Loughner’s expulsion from community college].”

If psychological problems are the main cause to his actions, he cannot slide away easily the way John Hinckley claimed insanity after he attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.

Loughner would instead be proven “guilty by reason of insanity” under the Arizona modified insanity defense.

While taking on responsibility for his actions, he may be sent to a state mental institute and then be transferred to a prison, where his sanity ever to return.

When looking back on it all and seeing that it has been less than a week since the shooting happened, CSUEB history professor Kevin Kaatz believes that it may be too early to tell the reason for Loughner’s actions otherwise.

However, he does state his prediction that the turnout just may be due to a severe mental illness, having nothing to do with political rhetoric.

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Political Statement or Outbreak of Insanity?