Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Madman Succeeds

It is nothing short of a miracle that Congressman Gabrielle Giffords is alive; it is a testament to modern medical skill and technology that her doctors are even moderately optimistic.

May the wounded quickly heal, and those who suffered such a heart-rending loss be comforted. Gabrielle Giffords has a long, hard road ahead of her; but she has more cheering for her recovery than she will ever know.

It is a monument to the courage to be found in the average bystander that the gunman was tackled before he could finish his rampage.

Sadly, 6 died and 14 more were wounded before then.

Jim Geraghty's comments on all this stand out:
One more point: we’re starting to hear more reports of people who sensed this man was deeply troubled and potentially dangerous, suggesting another egregious, unforgivable pattern in modern American life. After the Columbine massacre, endless amounts of media coverage declared that sometimes a troubled teen is much more than a troubled teen; sometimes they’re ticking time bombs. In the years after the unparalleled Colorado shooting, students, teachers, and parents were encouraged and constantly reminded that if they saw signs of potentially threatening behavior, to inform the authorities immediately. Fast forward almost a decade, and a particularly troubled Virginia Tech student generated more than his share of red flags: writing in a school assignment that he wanted to “repeat Columbine,” professors describing his behavior as “menacing”, removal from class, at least three stalking incidents, repeated reports to the student affairs office, the dean’s office, and the campus police.

Time and again, students and teachers did what they had been instructed to do — report troubling behavior — and yet the shooter was never seriously impeded from this ultimate murderous act. I suspect it was a combination of bureaucratic inertia, fears of action triggering a lawsuit, and flat-out underestimation and dismissal of the danger the shooter presented.

Do we ever break this cycle?

Sadly, a more cynical side of this has already emerged, a political dimension that disgusts me. I won't talk more about it here, except to say this: the Pima County Sheriff should know better, and be better. And so should those that are trying to use this to manipulate the political debate. In short, I agree with Moe Lane.