In the midst of all the fog, hypocrisy and nonsense, one enlightening fact has now emerged to answer the question, “What could have been done, that wasn’t done, to prevent Jared Loughner’s rampage?” There are no doubt a range of possible answers to that, but, according to a piece on NPR by Laura Sullivan, there is one very big and quite definite answer. The article is headlined “A Missed Chance To Intervene In Tucson?”
Jared Loughner could have been involuntarily admitted for evaluation under Arizona’s progressive mental health laws long before he allegedly showed up at a Tucson grocery store parking lot with a semi-automatic pistol, mental health professionals say.
Arizona allows for family, friends or even acquaintances to petition a local court for a mental evaluation, said Suzanne Hodges, chief compliant officer at the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, the group that provides mental health treatment for Pima County, where the shooting occurred. The court would have then sent someone to interview Loughner and determine if he needed treatment — even if he was not an imminent danger to himself or others, as most other states require.
Being in such treatment would have prevented him from purchasing a handgun, according to Arizona’s gun laws.
At the risk of sounding glib, there you have it.
Unlike most other states, Arizona doesn’t require a new law to address the problem of dealing with people who are displaying clear psychotic symptoms but have not yet harmed themselves or others.
Those who knew Jared Loughner and observed his descent into psychosis could have taken advantage of this. The question now becomes whether they were aware of this legal path to getting treatment for Loughner. Some research, some enquiries, might presumably have made them aware, of-course. In addition, law enforcement officers (e.g. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik) would surely have been aware of this legal remedy and could have recommended it to concerned friends and/or family of Jared Loughner. Why did that not occur, we may well now ask, given his problematic history of making threats and causing disturbances? Perhaps, understandably, Sheriff Dupnik was too busy writing important opinion pieces and giving speeches on political matters — like immigration — to take much of an interest in a potentially dangerous psychotic individual in his jurisdiction who was crying out for treatment.
People in Arizona need to be made more aware of this kind of legal path towards compelling treatment for such individuals, and in particular it should be well known by college administrators, and procedures should be established to take advantage of it in such school settings, where symptoms of schizophrenia often first come to the fore.
And on the political front, Sarah Palin of-course has it exactly right with the statement she has now made four days after this tragedy. It is measured, balanced, and thoughtful, while saying what needs to be said regarding the depraved political finger-pointing in the wake of the mass murder on Saturday.
If President Obama would like to truly come across in a statesmanlike manner, and contribute to healing (not to mention “reaching across the aisle,” which he has always alleged that he might one day try), then he would be wise to take a hint from Sarah Palin’s message, and himself reiterate the fact that the actions of a lone madman do not provide any justification to pursue new laws stifling freedom of speech. Politics in America can be rough, can be wild, and can indeed be nasty — but so it has always been, and overall, it has been to the benefit of Americans, and it really could not have been any other way, given human nature and given the kinds of rights we cherish in this country.