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.)
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