A reader writes:
While the focus of blame seems to be directed toward inflammatory political rhetoric, I find myself wondering how the failure of the mental health system in this country may have once again lead to unnecessary deaths. This tragedy didn't happen in a vacuum. Much like Seung-Hui Cho, the mentally-ill Virginia Tech student who killed 32 people before committing suicide, Loughner seems to be an obviously mentally ill individual who has been going untreated.
Today, the Washington Post reported that "A community college instructor who taught Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner was so disturbed by the student's outbursts in class that he requested Loughner's removal from the course." This same report states that he was removed from the class in September, two months before he purchased the handgun. Once of his classmates, Lynda Sorenson, told the Post that "her only previous contact with someone like that came at time when she was working in a psychiatric hospital."
We now have a documented mentally ill individual who, according to the AP, legally purchased the gun used in the shootings. Once again, the nation is left asking "just how did that weapon transaction even take place?"
We need to develop and apply a competency test that will prevent unstable folk from obtaining rapid-fire weapons. That university banned Loughner from their campus because he was unstable. Had they told any government agency that Loughner was dangerous, and, if that agency had quickly disseminated the information, then maybe he would not have easily gotten a semi-automatic weapon and a big box of bullets to go with it. I don't know Arizona law, but I doubt that the school was required to report that they had a dangerous student, and, citing privacy concerns, the school can escape responsibility for their inaction. And, because government moves at the speed of a crippled turtle, rapid dissemination isn't going to happen.