Walmart, Guns, and Money: What's Inside Gabby Giffords Files for the Gun Debate

From the details revealed in 2,700 pages of documents about the lead-up to Jared Loughner's attack on Giffords in 2011, it seems as though gun control advocates will find much more to strengthen their arguments than will the NRA.

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With perfect timing for the gun debate, the Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff's Department on Wednesday released 2,700 pages of documents related to the 2011 shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. From the details revealed so far about the lead-up to Jared Loughner's attack, it seems as though gun control advocates will find much more to strengthen their arguments than will the National Rifle Association.

The Arizona Daily Star, which originally requested the documents, has a live blog of reporters' discoveries as they work their way through the pile. The Associated Press has an overview of what's been discovered so far.

Among the revelations:

Jared Loughner never sought mental health treatment.

Loughner had recently been kicked out of Pima Community College (after a prolonged process). The school suggested that his father take further action, which didn't happen.

Writing in further detail at the Daily Star website, Steller explains the problem:

Asked by deputies if Jared got such an evaluation, Randy Loughner said “No. Couldn’t talk to him.”

Loughner had no problem accessing a weapon — but had more trouble buying the ammunition.

At a Walmart on the day of the shooting, Loughner's behavior prompted a clerk to deny him ammunition.

He later bought the ammunition at another Walmart nearby.

Both authorities and Loughner's parents nearly prevented the shooting.

When Loughner left Pima College, the school suggested his father take away any weapons.

Loughner gave clues to his friends that something was about to happen.

One witness to the shooting had a concealed weapon.

After the shooting, conspiracy theorists visited at least one victim.

There's at least some fodder in the documents for both sides in an ongoing that's escalating in pitch even as it gets reevaluated in Congress. For the NRA and the pro-gun lobby, rights advocates strengthen one key argument: that more should be done to prevent the mentally ill from accessing weapons — though it's not clear in this case that much could have been done. For gun control advocates, there's much more to work with: that Loughner was able to get a gun; that, despite the arguments of the NRA, an armed witness didn't prevent the tragedy from occurring.

The most helpful thing to those pushing for new regulations may be the simplest, most inevitable aspect of the document release: a slew of new headlines including the name "Giffords," alongside the would-be face of gun control, just days before a critical Senate vote on background checks. The details of the shooting and a new look at what happened during the last moments in the lives of the victims are exactly the sort of emotional force that have overwhelmed the NRA's imagery — and may have a lot more impact across the media than some guy from New York with $12 million trying to "buy America" with some TV ads.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.