Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tucson Shooter - Community College Student.

The horrific murder of at least 6 people in my hometown of Tucson today has shaken me. (As of this writing, House Rep. Giffords is out of surgery and alive.)

The gunman has a series of videos on his YouTube page, including this one, where he moves through a convoluted set of arguments concerning a class he apparently took at Pima Community College.

This terrible episode is yet another reminder that our classrooms are full of other human beings, some capable, friendly, and a joy, and others like Jared Loughner, who need a sort of help most of us can not offer.



  1. Wow, I'm pretty versed in weird constitutional conspiracy things.... but that's truely incoherent.

    I'm still in shock about what happened.

  2. Indeed. Shocking. And our classrooms are filled with all sorts of students. I know that the academy feels like a protective bubble sometimes, but why did Jared Lee Loughner do this at the Safeway instead of in a college classroom?

    It's all just more tenuous than we want to admit.

  3. Well, he clearly has his own reality, which sounds like it may incorporate some elements drawn from cable news, talk radio, and/or internet content drawn from that odd part of the political spectrum where the extreme left meets the extreme right(as well as some unsuccessful training in logic), but also sounds like it arises from a brain with some pretty serious dysfunctions. It also sounds like he was removed from class at least once -- "for talking." I hope that won't lead some members of the public and/or media to conclude that his professors and/or the Pima administration should somehow have been able to predict or prevent what is, indeed, a truly horrific event.

  4. I know I'm about to break one of my own rules about not writing until you have time to think things through, but am I just a knee jerk liberal if I wonder about gun laws at a time like this. Does anything you've heard about Jared Lee Loughner sound like he should be armed?

  5. Here are Loughner's favorite books for his MySpace page. Let the gnashing begin:

    Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver’s Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno.

  6. He appears to enjoy classic literature. The list looks somewhat like a reading list a high school teacher I had gave to their classes to recommend literature we should read to be aware of past issues and happenings.
    I noticed that the news (sorry, I forget which network I was watching) mentioned only Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto during their coverage. Are they attempting to tie his actions to the literature he has read?

  7. On youTube he also said he liked Ayn Rand's "We the Living"....I think this is the case of a well-read crazy person finally snapping and showing up at House Representative Gifford's speach almost at random. Luckily he did not kill himself, so we will find out what is going on in Jared Loughner's head.

  8. @Wanderer
    Of course they will try to connect the dots (the mouthbreathers who comment at AOL News are already trying to make this into a case of "left wing terrorism") opinion is that this was a bright kid who was too nutty for military service (he did try to join the Army and was rejected) who finally snapped and wandered around until a target presented itself. It's sad that it took six people's lives to prove that JL was not dealing with a full deck.

  9. @Wanderer

    Strel is right. They will choose books, movies, whatever that they can link to Loughner that they presume will "play" as crazy to the audience of listeners, readers, etc.

  10. From the limited amount I've seen, it sounds like he may well have a pretty high IQ as well as a serious mental illness. It's not an unknown combination, and since some mental illnesses emerge in the late teens and early twenties, he may have been a pretty good student only a few years ago. Unfortunately, I doubt what has been going on in his head recently is going to turn out to make much sense, or provide many clues for how this sort of thing can be prevented in the future. I'm sure the media *will* try to make cause-effect connections between his reading and his actions, but, as I keep telling students who want to do papers on "how the media cause violence," correlation is not causation. I strongly suspect that the key issue here is mental illness, not ideas. I suppose his reading matter or tea party or libertarian or objectivist thinking may in some way have helped to shape how he acted out his mental illness, but I very much doubt it caused or even exacerbated that illness.

    The gun question seems trickier to me in a state that is still rural enough to allow for some legitimate uses of guns (and no, I don't mean hunting down undocumented immigrants), which means that it probably would have been pretty easy for him to get a gun in ways other than buying one (which it sounds like he may have done, and yes, I do wonder how he could have passed a background check). Not surprisingly given her constituency, Gifford appears to have been fairly supportive of gun rights. But it sounds like the weapon was some sort of handgun that allowed for quick, repeated firing -- not a weapon one would use for hunting or protecting livestock from wild animals. I'm not sure how many legitimate civilian uses there are for a weapon like that.

  11. I see there's now some talk of a second person involved, which I suppose might put things in a somewhat different light, though I'd still tend to suspect either shared madness or manipulation of a vulnerable person.

    It occurs to me that we now know what it takes to shock Dr. Tingle out of poetry into prose -- knowledge I, for one, would gladly have done without, given the circumstances that revealed it.

  12. According to news sources the weapon he fired was a 9mm Glock pistol with an extended magazine, pretty much the stock pistol of law enforcement since the 1990s (sans special magazine.) This is a fully automatic pistol that can fire 1000 rounds a minute, so he probably burned through that clip in a few seconds. I think most Glock owners purchase the gun for target shooting and "home defense"; you want to hunt, get a rifle. I could see a small farmer buying one for varmint contol, but a lot of those guys use combination shotguns or .22 target pistols.

    There may be a connection between the Tea Party and this shooting; Sarah Palin had a website with gun sights on states or districts she thought had "problems." Rep. Gifford's district was "targeted." Her office in Arizona had its front glass doors smashed or shot out after she voted for Pres. Obama's healthcare plan. Even No Cookies would have to admit, that there's been a lot of "blut und eisen" talk on the Right for two years, and JL did believe in government mind control and language manipulation.

    [Remember I am not an ex-cop, forensic invesitgator or NRA member.]

    Info on the Palin gunsights - which she is trying to scrub from her website - is at under the "What You Should Know" column.

  13. This guy is pretty thoroughly libertarian. His language suggests libertarian rhetoric and his obsession with what is in the Constitution (without checking) parallels the hyperbolic claims about gold and silver-backed money and other things that the libertarian half of tea partiers cling to.

    I'll just say this: I can only hope that this awful event allows us to stop with the exaggeration and hyperbole and begin having real DISCUSSIONS. Otherwise it will only be the first of many "misunderstandings" of what people like Sarah Palin mean by putting target cross-hairs over people or when opponants hold fundraisers to shoot pictures of the liberal with an M-16.

    English 101: Words have meaning.

  14. I don't think there will be discussions....if Rep. Gabrielle Gifford dies, hopefully certain people will be picked up for questioning (most of the GOP party people*) and certain others deported (Rupert Murdoch) for creating a climate of paranoia and sedition in wartime (the only positive use of the Afghano-Iraqi wars.) This crypto-neo-confederate BS has to end, and if that means sending everybody who works at the "National Review" to the salt mines, so be it.

  15. * Including the Ditz from Alaska AND her secessonist husband.

  16. And the world turns upside down as Strel becomes a rational being!!!

  17. Did anyone else see this in the Wash Post:

    Posted at 4:03 PM ET, 01/ 9/2011
    Jared Loughner's behavior recorded by college classmate in e-mails
    By David A. Fahrenthold
    In early June, Lynda Sorenson, 52, had gone back to community college in Tucson in hopes of getting back on the job market. One of her classes was a basic algebra class--and one of her classmates was Jared Loughner, now identified by authorities as the man who killed six people and critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in a shooting rampage Saturday. Sorenson's e-mails to friends from last summer, provided to the Washington Post, reveal her growing alarm at Loughner's strange and disruptive
    behavior in class.

    From June 1, the first day of class:
    "One day down and nineteen to go. We do have one student in the class who was disruptive today, I'm not certain yet if he was on drugs (as one person surmised) or disturbed. He scares me a bit. The teacher tried to throw him out and he refused to go, so I talked to the teacher afterward. Hopefully he will be out of class very soon, and not come back with an automatic weapon."

    From June 10:
    "As for me, Thursday means the end to week two of algebra class. It seems to be going by quickly, but then I do have three weeks to go so we'll see how I feel by then. Class isn't dull as we have a seriously disturbed student in the class, and they are trying to figure out how to get rid of him before he does something bad, but on the other hand, until he does something bad, you can't do anything about him. Needless to say, I sit by
    the door."

    From June 14:
    "We have a mentally unstable person in the class that scares the living crap out of me. He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon. Everyone interviewed would say, Yeah, he was in my math class and he was really weird. I sit by the door with my purse handy. If you see it on the news one night, know that I got out fast..."

    The class's instructor, Ben McGahee, said in an interview Sunday that Loughner had been removed from class in its third or fourth week, because of repeated disruptions.

  18. I see today he was expelled from CC after FIVE incidents in which he was disruptive and campus police had to be called. Yes, that's the kind of crap we have to put up with today. At my own CC, we have one student who has demonstrated similarly disruptive behavior multiple times. His "punishment" is that he must leave at the end of this semester, which is also when his scholarship ends. In the meantime, those of us who have reported him and gone through the sham of a disciplinary process live in fear that he has the potential to turn out like the Arizona shooter. Our student affairs office is more afraid of being sued than anything else.

  19. ....And it gets more interesting; I was totally wrong, Loughner kept his "I'm gonna kill Rep. Giffords" materials in a safe in his parent's house, which means he's far smarter than Joe Stack (the guy who flew his plane into the IRS building), because Stack published his manifesto just before he drove to the airfield. If anything, this crime reminds me of Travis Bickle's plan to kill a fictional senator because he thinks the guy will do nothing to clean up the scuzzier parts of NYC in "Taxi Driver." You could probably replace bits of Travis' rants with the anti-fiat currency, pro-literacy ramblings of JL and they would still make sense grammatically. There is a boiling rage out there in America, the biproduct of a collapsed bubble economy and a suspicion that the nation's greatness has been diminished. It would be one thing if they went after the source of the breakdown (the financial corporations and the politicians who allowed this to happen); instead they try to assasinate people who had nothing to do with the fiasco.

    The second man has been cleared; he was a cabbie who went into the Safeway with JL to get change for the fare, and he left 10 minutes before the shooting began. I could write a lot more about how "popular" two-person killing "teams" were over the last twenty years by serial killers and political assasins, or how the "Lone Wolf" killer was politicized by white supremacist Tom Metzger, but that sort of information is outside the scope of this blog.

    Weird bit of Forteanism in this case: the little girl killed in this assasination, Christina Taylor Green, was born on September 11, 2001.

  20. Oh, I forgot to say this:

    Play Academic Monkey off, Keyboard Cat.

  21. Point of clarification on the automaticness of the Glock.

    The standard (US) police version of the Glock (the Glock 17) is not fully automatic, it is a semi-automatic, capable of firing as fast as you can pull the trigger.

    Fully automatic weapons are not quite illegal, but do have much stricter licensing requirements than the standard background check.

    Legality aside, it is unlikely this crime could have been successfully committed with a fully automatic handgun. Muzzle rise from the recoil would have sent most bullets flying off into the sky. Reports indicate the shooter fired "20-30" rounds (with a secondary source quoting the sheriff at 31 rounds, not impossible, btw). For the number of people hit/killed, this indicates reasonably well aimed shooting, and certainly not fully automatic fire.

  22. It's beginning to sound like this is a situation that could easily have resulted in a campus shooting, especially given the power of the copycat impulse. But since the shooter saw the CC as one more outgrowth of "the government," it turned into an attack on a congressional representative. It sounds like the CC did what they could to get him off campus (perhaps too slowly, in hindsight). To me, at least, that leaves the larger societal questions of how we deal with the mentally ill, and the availability of guns -- especially guns designed primarily to kill a lot of people quickly.

  23. No, from what I'm reading it seems Jared Loughner had honed in on Representative Giffords, had been a participant in a meet with Giffords some time previously....that was the point of my "Taxi Driver" analogy: De Niro's character met the politico in the movie before he decided to assasinate him. Maybe if Gabrielle Giffords held the meeting at a community college, then we could have had a campus shooting.

    One element of this that should not be forgotten is the state it took place in. Arizona is a wreck; they have a very right-wing state government which has sold off everything it can, including the state house that they meet in, to avoid raising taxes. People complain about California, but Arizona is in far worse shape, but nobody is willing to elect moderates or Democrats who can keep the state from capsizing. Right now has a piece by Ken Silverstein called "Tea Party in the Sonora" where he hashes all of this out in bloody detail. Check it out.

    There is talk that JL was involved with some white-power group, but the details are sketchy. Meanwhile it turns out he may have stiffed the cabbie, who will probably call this "the fare from Hell" for the rest of his life.

    We are swimming in guns, both legal and illegal (i.e. either banned types or ones that were used in crimes and resold.) In Arizona it is legal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Many of the guns for sale are actually meant for police, paramiltary, and military use, but have been modified to semi-automatic fire. BTW, in it's great wisdom, the Arizona Legislature wants to pass a bill where they allow both instructors and student to carry concealed handguns "to deterr terrorist attacks."

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