Sunday, January 16, 2011

What's Missing in the Jared Loughner Narrative

I've been following the Giffords shooting, as I've done for most of the other major massacres the past several years.

But one thing, despite all the Times stories on Loughner, remains missing, and that is Loughner’s parent's reaction to him getting kicked out of school in September and what happened in the months after, between when he bought the gun in November and when the actual shooting occurred.

The officers drove to Loughner’s house to deliver his suspension letter from Pima Community College, reading the entire letter to him and making him repeat it so he understood exactly what and why it was happening. But then what? By all accounts he was devastated about leaving school, probably a stabilizing force for him, and the letter clearly stated that he would only be allowed back if he received an ok from a mental health professional.

So did he ever see a mental health professional? Was there discussion among him, his family, his acquaintances about trying to get him help? It’s also been generally acknowledged that Loughner was getting crazier and crazier, and many of those who interacted with him felt that something was off. But why didn’t he see someone? Was he opposed? Did he fight it? Was it ever an option? Could he – or his family – not afford it? None of these things has ever been addressed.

I understand that Loughner is an adult, and as such, as far as I know, could not be forced into therapy or an evaluation. But it’s clear that one was warranted. Why didn’t anyone – his family, for one – say, hey, this might be a good idea? Because you have an erratic history and your behavior is suspicious and your life is not going well?

We know that he had a fractious relationship with his father, and for all we know this might have been (one of many, I’m sure) a wedge issue. But to not have this mentioned at all is a huge omission is a story that, as much as it is about gun rights, is really about mental illness and how a troubled young man really needed to get help, even if he was unable to understand or articulate that.

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