So the big question on everybody's mind this morning, because it's really hard to tell at this point, is, is this guy "mentally unwell" or is he instead acting on his overripe outrage over some actual political principle or other? On the other hand, does it really even matter why somebody does something really bad?
What? Who? No, no, I'm not referring to Donald Trump this time, I'm talking about that bearded guy in the weird mugshot. Although it is true that we question the level of derangement of each, do we measure it by the severity of the act (murdering three people) or the magnitude of its reach (electing a president who refuses to admit that thousands of Arab-Americans in New Jersey did not jump with joy as they watched the Twin Towers come down)?
While we don't know yet whether the national buzz over Planned Parenthood really motived the shooter to shoot up the place, I'm not really fixing to join that fight even if it ever resolves itself, since it so often happens that some crazy person does some crazy thing in the name of some crazy cause or other, and we're never really able to figure out how much is the craziness and how much is the cause, that I'm all tuckered out trying to keep them all straight.
But I will venture this thought:
It does seem that, of most the causes that all those crazy people do crazy things in the name of, rarely do they ever seem to be causes I agree with. Maybe John Brown, trying to do something to end slavery, but I'm not really even sure that's really what he was fighting for. Most of them seem more like what John Wilkes Booth did in the name of Confederate glory.
But this, from Josiah Hesse of the Guardian, seems to sketch the outlines of our problem with guns in this country as well as just about anything else:
Three weeks before Friday’s Planned Parenthood shooting, a man was seen brandishing a rifle while walking down the streets of Colorado Springs on Halloween morning. A concerned citizen called the 911 Emergency Line to notify the police, but was told by the operator: “Well, it is an open carry state, so he can have a weapon with him or walking around with it,” referencing state laws that allow the brandishing of a firearm in public.
Shortly after the call the man shot and killed three people before being shot dead by police.So let's presume, just for fun, that this bearded Planned Parenthood shooter is mentally ill: Now what? Is it against the law to be mentally ill? Can you be arrested for that? Maybe a better question is, what would a conservative -- someone who thinks guns don't shoot people, mentally ill people shoot people -- what would a conservative who thinks mental illness is the real problem propose we do about him, and do early enough to save the lives of those three people?
And if nothing, what if he had walked into the parking lot, or even into the building, "brandishing" a gun or two? Until he actually shoots somebody, he's not doing anything anybody is supposed to even notice.
And also, if nothing can be done, do we just consider these deaths the price of liberty? The price of living in a free society, where we are not only free to own deadly weapons, we are free to "bear" them? To "brandish" them? Even, in the case of George Zimmerman, to gun some unsuspecting stranger down with them?
There was a time not too long ago that, if you saw a gunman walking around with a gun, you would call the cops, but times have changed. Now when you call, in the time it takes the 911 operator to explain to you that there's nothing wrong with a gunman doing that, the gunman guns three people down. Or, for all we know, he robs a Waffle House. Or some six-year-old girl, finding the gun in the couch cushions, guns herself down.
Fortunately, she lived in America, Sweet Land of Liberty, where people have the Constitutionally-protected right to do that sort of thing.