Jared Lee Loughner: A Gun Without a Trigger?

Now that Jared Lee Loughner’s bullets have stopped flying, the air is thick with new bullets in the form of accusations and denials, proposed legislative actions, and the pros and cons of the Second Amendment. But most of these rhetorical bullets are far off the mark.

There are many reasons to suspect that  Loughner is severely mentally ill. And I should know, I’ve spent most of my life in close proximity to the severely mentally ill. Both my mother and grandmother were schizophrenic and my sister is severely bipolar. I suffer from bouts of clinical depression myself.

One of the things I’ve learned is that the mentally ill, particularly likely schizophrenics like Loughner, don’t live in the same dimension as you and I. They live in a dark mash-up of reality and hallucination that the initiated often have trouble grasping.

They can seem normal and rational one minute and the next arguing with a disembodied voice. They can lapse in an out of psychotic episodes separated by months or years or they can stay psychotic, as my grandmother did, nearly all their lives.

There are as many different presentations of mental illness as there are people who suffer from it. But, there’s one constant – trying to deal with the irrational through rational means is a long shot at best, and more often than not, doomed to failure.

Triggers Without Guns
The air’s already heavy with accusations that right-wing politicos fanned the flames of insanity. The Palinator says, ‘Gosh oh golly gee, I had no idea people would see that as a gun target. And, how did people jump to the conclusion that my statement about not retreating, but reloading is in any way violent?’

Well Sarah, they said so at the time – loudly – and you didn’t “explain” yourself until people died. Ditto Sharron Angle’s entreaty to take “Second Amendment” solutions if not getting her way. Both of these “explanations” are toilet paper-thin and should be used for exactly the same purpose.

However, claiming violent suggestions trigger violence is as specious as claiming that being gay makes you a pedophile. It’s almost impossible to tell if there is a trigger and what effect it has at all. It’s equally true it might have. In the end, it doesn’t matter. When the evil voices tell you to kill, you do and there is no rational explanation why.

That’s not to say the Palinistas were guiltless to throw “misunderstood” gun sights out there. The First Amendment guarantees that right, but the First Amendment doesn’t say word one about free speech being intelligent speech. At the very least, their actions lowered the national discourse by several notches.

As is often the case, the knee-jerk response to tragedies like this is to become a dynamo cranking out proposed laws guaranteed to stop the violence.

Legislation: Responding Rationally to the Irrational
Increase gun control to keep loony fingers off the trigger? Well, if a person hasn’t been diagnosed there is no way to tell if their finger is competent to grasp the trigger. And if they have, there’s no way to tell if the person’s demons are under control, especially when they can seem completely normal even while in a deep psychotic episode.

Besides, there are many more ways, other than guns, to kill. Some of them are even more efficient. You can bomb, stab, set on fire, or bludgeon your victims with exceptionally large heads of cabbage. If the voices say kill, the mentally ill kill – by any means necessary. Besides, you can’t control the sale of cabbages.

And for the drive all decisions to the state level crowd, no control works if all states have different rules. Otherwise, a gun bought on one side of a lenient state boundary will kill the same on the other.

It’s a uniquely American trait to pay scant attention to violence until the right someone gets killed. If this hadn’t involved a sitting member of Congress, the national anguish wouldn’t be so deep nor last so long.

There are gang shootings that rival this one’s brutality and death toll, yet we don’t get in such a tizzy over them. How is this instance any different from a dangerously disgruntled right-to-lifer picking up a gun or bomb to carry out an assassination? What about Timothy McVey or a Kabul suicide bomber or the Va. Tech shooter? What about someone who carries a gun to a political event to “exercise their Second amendment rights” only to get into a one-sided duel with an overly agitated opponent in the crowd?

If the NRA is right about anything it really is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people…and there are a lot stupid, clumsy, and insane people out there. People I’d prefer not lug their guns everywhere for when they decide to “protect” themselves from an overly righteous Obama socialist.

There are dozens of rational responses we could take to keep this from happening again because most of us are sane and  rational – if not a little overheated. Unfortunately, most would have about as much effect as prostate and colorectal exams for airplane passengers or tapping every phone on the planet to chase down a nut who lives in a cave and makes bad videos. It behooves us to choose wisely because the cure may be worse than the disease.

You can only control those things that are within your control. A person who literally hears the voice of the devil isn’t going to bend to your control. That’s not because they are unwilling or inherently bad people. It’s because they can’t.

And there lies the problem.

Dear Marty, The First Amendment is Not Optional

Not a Fixer-Upper

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? - A Sharia-like movement is afoot to deprive Muslims of everything from the right to build religious centers to their First Amendment protections. Burning Korans is not the answer to violent Muslim extremism.

The Anti-Mosque That Ain’t a Mosque crowd seems to be going all Sharia on America’s ass. You’d think the possibility – not the certainty mind you – of building a Muslim community center amongst the strip clubs and bars of Manhattan is a worse offense than knocking the WTC down to begin with.

We have idiots closing community centers in Kentucky ostensibly for lack of parking because according to the property owner, Muslims can’t be trusted to adhere to no parking signs. Florida’s Dove World Outreach Center, a violation of truth in advertising laws if there ever was one, is reaching out to Muslims by burning Korans. Now, New Republic editor-in-chief Marty Peretz says Muslims are unworthy of First Amendment protection, presumably regardless of whether they are citizens or not.

Marty the Magnificent Sez…
Says Marty the Magnificent, “…frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.”

Gee Marty, my gut – hell, every fiber of my being – tells me you would abuse First Amendment protections too. No, wait! You already have by suggesting the First Amendment is an option like the automatic transmission on your Ford Crown Vic. The same goes for your toxic brethren like the book burning “Doves” and the spreading community of knotheads elsewhere around the country.

Marty, can you not see the irony of exercising your First Amendment rights by saying someone else should be deprived of theirs? Screeching Doves, can you not see the same by the light of your Constitutional bonfire?

Whether Muslims “raise a fuss” is their call, not yours. To speak or not to speak are both protected rights. Besides, my gut also tells me that condemning their “brotherhood” wouldn’t make one iota of difference in your opinion.

The Lonesome Doves and Tim McVey
And Lonesome Doves, would you be burning Bibles if an inbred clan of Timothy McVey wannabes had rammed the WTC? I’m an atheist and I’d be quite happy if someone burned all the holy books, regardless of whatever holier than thou sect dreamt them up.

But wait! No, I wouldn’t! I believe in the First Amendment.

It isn’t optional because I despise you and what you’re saying. It isn’t optional because some lunkhead’s book isn’t as holy as you believe yours is. It isn’t optional because your gut tells you they don’t value human life. It isn’t optional because they are Muslim, Baptist, or Druid nor because some of their members were bat shit crazy and wanted to kill people for things like, gee, I dunno, disrespecting the Koran (see David Petraeus). In this country, people can say what they want and worship or not worship as they see fit – despite cockamamie faux “wars on Christmas” or people being gay in the privacy of their own homes or carbuncles on the ass of humanity who think their shit is infinitely less odoriferous than others are.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT IS NOT OPTIONAL!

…and the day it becomes so is the day we lose the privilege of calling ourselves American.

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