Patricia A. O'Malley
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Patricia A. O'Malley

Social Policy & Programs Consulting

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The Second Amendment, Mental Illness,

and Other Observations on the Tucson Tragedy

January 13, 2011


Having taken a few days to ruminate on recent events, I offer the following.

The Tucson Tragedy on Saturday brought out the best and worst in America and Americans.  

Two factors led to the event - our lack of a proper mental health care system and our obsolete second amendment.

Yes, I'll say it.  A few members of Congress proposed minor changes in gun laws this week.  They are variously weak, impractical, or absurd. It's time to amend the Second Amendment.  Guns were standard life tools 200 years ago, and citizen militias were necessary.  Today, most of us don't need a gun any more than we need a hippopotamus.  Today, our professional National Guard makes militias redundant.  If you think you need a gun for "protection", then there's something wrong with the way you're living your life.

Yes, I know all about the NRA.  No, I don't suggest prohibiting all guns. But I do want to see a serious, thorough, adult, conversation about issues, problems, and remedies.  I don't expect it to happen anytime soon because the gun goons are well funded.  But massive community organizing projects always begin with the kernel of an idea.  

I just hope we can get it done before it's too late again.

I agree with Cenk Uygur .  Jared Loughner's rants were exclusively political in nature.  He was obsessed with Gabrielle Giffords. He stalked her.  He targeted her.  He planned to assassinate her.  He shot her, killed six people, and injured twelve others.  Whatever his politics, this most certainly was a political act.  His enemy was "the government".

Preaching hate, preaching fear, threatening second amendment remedies, exhorting followers to be armed, dangerous, and reload, watering liberty trees with blood, and marking human targets with crosshairs do not by themselves cause disturbed and dangerous individuals to act.  But they don't serve any constructive purpose either.

Loughner's community recognized his condition, yet he remained untreated.  Perhaps it was impossible under local laws, but that situation must be corrected too.  As former Rep. Patrick Kennedy said over the weekend, every American family has some experience with mental illness, and all too many have experience with gun violence.  Families like Loughner's need help and support to get treatment for their loved ones.  The dead, the wounded, and the survivors are testament to our failure to create a thorough, sensible mental health diagnosis, treatment, and support system.

It's time to start that conversation, too.  For both issues, we must begin the examinations from the ground up.  We need a practical, effective, mental health system that protects the public while preserving individual rights.  What would that look like?  How do we get from here to there?  We need a practical, effective, national firearms policy that protects the public while preserving individual rights.  What would that look like?  How do we get from here to there?

I'm pleasantly surprised by most of our elected officials.  For the most part, their words and deeds have been appropriate and responsible.  I do have a problem with the unelected perennial attention-grabbers - Palin, Gingrich, Angle, Beck, Limbaugh, and the rest of the gang.

Unfortunately, John Boehner didn't bother to show up for the service in Tucson Wednesday night because his cocktail party fundraiser was more important to him.  Other people had previous engagements, but they managed to change their schedules to honor the dead, the injured, the families, and the heroes.  Nice going, Mr. Speaker.

Sarah Palin isn't smart enough to come up with the phrase "blood libel" , but the tone of her sanctimonious, self-serving, strident stunt video shows her true colors.  Comparing sincere criticism of her political activities with the deliberate persecution of Jews throughout history is beyond contempt.  Maybe she needs a new TelePrompTer.

Americans have the biggest, best, fastest, most extensive communications and media instruments ever to grace the planet Earth.  Yet the information in the first 24 hours of this event was maddeningly inaccurate.  Really, guys, you can do better.

I offer my sincere condolences and best wishes to the injured, the survivors, the families, and their communities.  

Two quotes come to mind.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi -

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  

Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead –

For More Information
See what the NRA really is
Contact your Members of Congress:
House of Representatives
The Senate
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

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