Monday, January 17, 2011

Rendell, Giuliani call for "early detection system" for mental illness and guns

Two high-profile politicians [yesterday] called for sweeping reforms to the nation's mental health system that would prevent individuals deemed ill from legally purchasing firearms.

Had numerous concerns about alleged gunman Jared Lee Loughner’s mental status placed him on a list restricting his ability to buy a gun, his Jan. 8 rampage might have been prevented, said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Republican, and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell, a Democrat.

During a "Face the Nation" appearance, Rendell called for an "early detection system" designed to keep mentally unstable individuals from buying guns. 

Basically, if you've attended more than one Tea Party event (because you could have attended one just by accident) or if you're a Tea Party-backed candidate for the GOP, you shouldn't be able to buy a gun. Period.

I'm kidding... of course. (Ahem.)

Actually, in a country that refuses to do anything about guns and gun violence, this was an admirable display of bipartisan support for a rational response to the Arizona shooting. Giuliani, once something of a moderate but now a Republican hard-liner, even talked about the country's "inability to deal with mental illness."

I would just note that while there does need to be a "rational debate" on gun control, as Rendell said, as well as a serious effort to address mental illness, the Arizona shooting -- an assassination attempt on a politician -- wasn't just about some lone crazy guy getting hold of a semi-automatic pistol with a high-capacity ammunition clip. It was also about the right's culture of violence, both in rhetoric and in ideology, and about the extent to which that culture has come to shape American politics and define conservatism.

As I wrote last week, while it certainly appears to be the case that the (alleged) killer, Jared Lee Loughner, is "deranged" (to use a loaded and hardly clinical term), as well as that he was not a card-carrying member of the Tea Party or GOP, it is wrong, I think to treat him as a detached loner who acted in a vacuum of his own derangement. To do that is to ignore context, to ignore the bigger picture, the "national climate."

In other words, there may be no direct connection between conservatism and the shooting, but that does not necessarily mean that what Loughner did (or, rather, is charged with doing) may be detached entirely from the broader, right-wing political context that may very well have informed his thinking, or his derangement, to some degree.

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