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David Hines [userpic]

the Arizona mass shooting

January 10th, 2011 (01:48 am)

I am, as I've mentioned a few times, a righty, and while my business travel keeps me from going to the range anywhere near as often as I'd like to, I'm also a gun nut. I also study mass shootings, because I think it's important to be tactically aware of them. All of which means that I'm paying a lot of attention to the Arizona mass shooting committed by 22-year-old Jared Loughner. I should say "allegedly" as he's not dead and hasn't been found guilty yet, but he was apprehended at the scene with the gun in his hand, so fuck that.

I am hip-deep in work and do not have the time to hunt up the best tactical reports. This is unfortunate, because one thing you learn when you follow breaking news, and *especially* when you follow news about mass shootings, is that *lots and lots of reports are wrong.* News changes constantly, and I don't have full details on the shooting right now. Here's a quick summary. I don't know what direction Loughner came from (some accounts say he might have come out from inside the supermarket), but Congresswoman Giffords was reportedly his first target, and all evidence indicates he was deliberately after her, as opposed to her being the focus of a suitable crowd (HuffPo and Fox News are reporting that he'd prepared a document stating his intent beforehand, but I don't know yet if that's accurate). In any event, mass shooters typically have some emotional connection to the site of their crime, and Loughner had none to the site of his shooting that I know of.

Loughner used one handgun, a 9 mm Glock 19, by some reports with extended magazines (ie, magazines that don't fit flush with the bottom of the grip, but extend beyond it). After shooting the Congresswoman, he fired on the crowd until he ran out of ammunition. Reportedly, Loughner attempted to reload, but a woman wounded by the first round of fire managed to knock the magazine out of his hand. Stories differ about what happened after this; I've seen one report that Loughner tried to reload again and was tackled, and another that he attempted to escape and was tackled while fleeing. On Twitter, I saw that MSNBC had an earlier report that people in the crowd had traded fire with him, but I haven't heard anything about that since, so I'm guessing it's bullshit.

Early speculation, as is to be expected when a prominent political figure is shot, was that Loughner was politically or socially motivated. While there have certainly been mass shooters along those lines (some explicitly anti-feminist mass shooters come to mind), the information coming out has made it pretty clear that Jared Loughner is a grade-A certifiable loon. His YouTube videos (you can find transcripts at BoingBoing) are frighteningly incoherent, and the only political tropes he's adopted that are recognizable to people from planet Earth are 1) he's pro-gold and -silver coinage and 2) he likes burning the American flag (he has one video of a very strange and clumsy flag-burning favorited, and it's pretty obvious that the video was made and posted by Loughner himself under a sockpuppet).

Like mass shooter Seung-Hui Cho, of VA Tech infamy, Loughner freaked the hell out of people at his college. In Cho's case, he wrote really disturbing stuff that freaked the bejesus out of his classmates; Loughner was given to incoherent outbursts in class and even more incoherent outbursts on tests. The school demanded that Loughner receive a mental health examination before attempting to return to class. Instead, he bought a gun. Because he had never been adjudicated mentally incompetent, he was able to do so legally. I don't know Arizona law as it pertains to the severely mentally ill, so I don't know how the school could have done things differently there.

A few thoughts on the political angle. As I've mentioned in the past, I do pay a lot of attention to how I comport myself in public, because every gun nut sooner or later finds himself or herself an ambassador for gun nuts everywhere, and one of the biggest rules is "thou shalt not freak the mundanes." This often contradicts another big rule, which is "thou shalt cause the mundanes to become accustomed to guns and not be freaked by them." (It's the acceptance/visibilty tension, with which social advocates of various stripes are familiar.) This causes me to see a lot of things that freak lefties out in very different lights -- I don't freak out too much over the "target" map that's got so many folks on my flist going full rage, in part because the Dems have used bulls-eyes on maps of their own, but I am really pissed off when Ted Nugent invites a prominent politician to "suck on [his] machine gun."

So, yeah, I would like to see political rhetoric scaled back in general. But the folks who think that the problem would be solved if Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the Tea Party disappeared tomorrow are wrong. I remember protest marchers carrying signs urging murder and sedition; I remember a film being released and a novel being published, both of them dedicated to fantasizing about the assassination of a sitting president of the United States, and said President being assassinated, in comic books, in two separate publications by two separate major writers, who are still not only working but celebrated; I remember political feelings heating to the point of the chair of one of my local political parties being physically assaulted by a supporter of the opposing political party who walked in off the street and clocked him. And all of these happened when the President of the United States was George W. Bush, and nobody gave a shit. Heck, The Nation recently ran an article co-authored by a guy who'd explicitly called for the murder of a lobbyist opposed to the lefty health care agenda. While there was some substantial disagreement with the thrust of his article, nobody asked, "Hey, what the fuck is a guy who calls for people's murder doing getting published in Nation?!" Said guy has also received a BBC documentary based on one of his books -- coincidentally, about mass shootings, which he blames on right-wing politics.

Anyway, the left is seizing on Loughner's crime as an opportunity to discredit the right (in some cases, while quietly bahleeting posts on their own sites declaring Congresswoman Giffords "dead to [the author]" for voting against Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader -- that was a diarist on the Daily Kos, a couple of days before the attempted assassination). The right, for its part, is pissed off at this. One reason is that, in the righty view, lefty nuts invariably get a pass in the media, while righty nuts are "emblematic of deep and wide-ranging problems on the right," or some such. But another reason is that Jared Loughner isn't even a righty nut, as far as I can tell; his chief political stance seems to have been in staunch opposition to government mind control devices, and the left's trying to tar the right with him anyway. Whether you agree with this or not -- most of my flist will think this view is full of shit -- you should note that this is the kind of thing that really pisses the righty grassroots off. So look for them to be on the metaphorical warpath, in contrast to their leadership, who may be inclined to be more conciliatory.

I'm interested to hear more about Loughner in the days ahead. If he had any political connections, they'll come out; but given his videos' verbosity and incoherence, combined with the descriptions from teachers and students of what the guy was like in college classes, I'd be really surprised if Loughner had anything going that required him to interact with people. His ability to communicate and interact seems to have been seriously impaired, to the point that he was basically on another planet. On a tactical level, very good work by the civilians who took him down, especially the woman who prevented a reload; I hope her name is publicized at some point, because she's one of several heroes of the thing.

ETA repost of a later comment on DW: The Big Damn Heroes are (alphabetically) Col. Bill Badger (US Army, retired), Patricia Maisch, Roger Salzgeber, and Joseph Zamudio. Three of the four gave a good account of events to George Stephanopoulous (video). Col. Badger, 74, heard the shots, and ducked; he was grazed in the back of the head but continued to function. When the shooting stopped, he saw the shooter in front of him. Though Badger didn't realize it at that point, the shooter was reloading. Another witness, name unknown at this point, used a folding chair to clobber the shooter from behind. Badger and Salzgeber then tackled the shooter and took him to the ground, where they and Maisch piled on him. They had the upper body; Maisch, 61, had the legs, until she traded off with Zamudio. She took the magazine from him while one of the men got control of the gun. Then she let the men take over sitting on him while she went into the store to get some paper towels for Col. Badger's head wound. (A guy named Steven Rayle, Gawker's first eyewitness, says he also helped hold the shooter down, but he wasn't mentioned by the sheriff.)

Originally posted on my DW. | comment count unavailable people have commented there. | Do so yourself, if you like.


Posted by: LiamStLiam (liamstliam)
Posted at: January 10th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)

I saw a report somewhere that something malfunctioned when he tried to re-load, and that's what gave the two guys the chance to tackle him.

I could look, though I think it's a newspaper account.

Posted by: Vvalkyri (vvalkyri)
Posted at: January 10th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)

NPR this morning just spoke with I Patricia Maiche - she was on the ground when two other people tackled him, and when others started calling 'get the gun' she was in reach when he started to pull the next clip out of his pocket, and she grabbed it.


I've had NPR on this morning as I get ready for work; they've been giving short blurbs about the non-famous people who died, and I'm really glad of that.

Two more heroes beyond those mentioned in the article above, both of whom ran toward sounds of gunshot - Daniel Hernandez, a college Junior who'd been interning for Giffords for 5 days so far - he is credited with probably saving her life due to quick pressure and keeping her from choking on blood; there was a doc I read about (no time to go look it up) who was in the parking lot and left his wife and kids in the car to run in.

Posted by: Vvalkyri (vvalkyri)
Posted at: January 10th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)

gah. lj lost my comment and i'm running late.

Patricia Maiche was on the ground when a couple guys tackled him and was the one to reach out and grab the clip he was trying to take out of his pocket.

Posted by: matt_doyle (matt_doyle)
Posted at: January 10th, 2011 04:16 am (UTC)

My initial reaction to the whole thing, based on the initial news reports, was very politically slanted; which in retrospect I regret. It's hard not to view the attempted murder of a political figure as a political act, but given Loughner's behavior, I'd say you're right -- I think being anti-mind control is a pretty non-partisan stance, and that seems to have been his main position. Someone on facebook stated that the saddest thing to happen yesterday was the shooting, and that the second-saddest thing was the instant political polarization everyone leaped to, and I'd have to agree.

Edited at 2011-01-10 04:17 am (UTC)

Posted by: Drooling Fan Girl (droolfangrrl)
Posted at: January 10th, 2011 03:29 pm (UTC)


This looks like a good early portrait of this guy and his state of mind. It's another case of 20/ 20 hindsight. For me it's definitely a mental health issue.


And in a tangentially related way, I find the rhetoric surrounding the Rand Paul support who stomped on that gal's head to be of interest.




Posted by: David Hines (hradzka)
Posted at: January 10th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)

I remember finding the Rand Paul rally video to be really interesting at the time, from a tactical/defensive perspective. They've got somebody who's made multiple approaches at the principal, and they wanted to get her away. Fair enough, I can see that. They get her away from the candidate, even restrain her -- it's defensible. And then, when they've got her down, that guy puts the boot to her. Bad Idea Jeans. At that point, she presents no threat to the candidate, no threat to them, and he has no reason to strike her or even add his presence to the mix, except that his adrenaline was up and defeating the hated lefty protester made the guy feel like a bad-ass. It's actually a great defensive case study in what not to do.

Posted by: Drooling Fan Girl (droolfangrrl)
Posted at: January 10th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)

Pretty much. I mean he's saying, I put my foot on her head because of my back.


They had her on the ground with FOUR guy! So sorry Mr. Proffit, you win tonight's booby prize! A LAWSUIT!

*eye rolls*

Ok, about me and guns, for hunting absolutely, for personal protection... hm maybe, but like when it starts getting into military grade hardware, I draw the line.

For me personally, I won't have a gun in the house. I used to have problems with suicidal ideations and a violent temper, so having a gun in my house never seemed like the best of ideas to me, that and you get burgled and you surprise them once they've found the gun seemed like a kind of scary thought.

Posted by: Aiglet (aiglet)
Posted at: January 10th, 2011 07:42 pm (UTC)

I think that there's a qualitative difference between saying "this person is directly responsible for X person doing Y bad thing," and "this person is responsible for introducing more violence into the public discourse and thus making it more likely that loons will focus on violence when they go to do something looney."

I mostly avoid political opinionating whenever possible (I get all my news from the BBC), so I don't really ever see either side being particularly bad (which they seem to only do in "safe" spaces). That being said, I suspect that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have a combined reach that is much, much larger than comic book writers, Daily Kos editorial writers, or even really mainstream fiction writers. Which means that their brand of introducing violence into the discourse is going to hit a lot more potential loons than most people's.

But then I also tend to think that one of the big problems with American (and most other places') politics is that there doesn't seem to be any concept of pundits and politicians being responsible for communicating with everyone, not just the people who already agree with them. That there's no sense of "public debate" anymore that doesn't mean "we say nasty things about the other side and tell lies until you can't distinguish them from the truth anymore." That the news doesn't want to be the gatekeeper of facts rather than opinions, no matter who they support. (I tend to use climate change and guns as the two big examples of "things where the other side is Just Wrong a lot of the time and doesn't really need six inches above the fold every time the topic comes up.)

A long way to say "I do thing Palin and Beck bear some responsibility here, but it's not in the direction that people seem to be claiming, and they're not alone."

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