Arizona madman attacks 18 people and entire nation

January 9, 2011 

At this point it is a guess -- but not a very risky one -- that 18 people, including a member of Congress, a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, have been shot and at least six killed by someone trying to make a political point.

Taking an semi-automatic firearm to a peaceful gathering of citizens outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., is of course a coward's way.

The spawn of Timothy McVeigh.

It's easier for a guy with an automatic weapon to work up the courage to confront people discussing politics if the shooter believes no one else will be armed.

Now Arizona joins the many states that have seen assassinations and attempted assassinations play out in modern times.

But for some killers, not satisfied with assassination, mass murder has been added to the horror of political killings.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was reportedly shot, point blank, in the head Saturday. U.S. District Judge John Roll was reported killed, along with a 9-year-old girl.

The Associated Press reported mid-afternoon Saturday that 18 people were shot during the attack and six are dead. The injured victims were at four Tucson-area hospitals.

Names of some of the victims were not available because relatives hadn't been notified.

But there was no way to keep the congresswoman's name or the judge's out of it. Some of the congresswoman's staff members also were shot.

The man in custody, we are told, is 22. His name is given as Jared Lee Loughner.

Giffords had a tough fight for re-election, barely beating out a Tea Party candidate.

But this was the action of a madman, not the work of organized politics.

The condemnation was universal and swift. President Obama called the shooting "an unspeakable tragedy."

The thoughtfulness and kindness displayed by the new speaker of the House, John Boehner, eloquently expressed the outrage and grief of a nation.

He said: "I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff. An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families.

"This is a sad day for our country."

Judge Roll, according to The Arizona Republic, was appointed to the federal bench by President George H. W. Bush in 1991.

In 2009, The Republic said Roll faced death threats over a civil-rights suit filed against an Arizona rancher by illegal immigrants.

The paper said Roll and U.S. Marshal's officials attributed the threats to hysteria from talk radio.

Roll and his wife were placed under federal protection for a month, a process the paper said he described as "unnerving and invasive."

And there is a problem elected officials of all political persuasions sometimes face.

They are all adept at vigorous debate and most are eager to mingle with the people who elected (or opposed) them.

Members of the House, including Rep. Giffords, like the fact that since they face election every two years, they always are "freshest from the people."

The Constitution designed the House of Representatives that way.

So events like Giffords' -- just going back home to report and to listen -- are of immense value to the nation.

They don't want a phalanx of bodyguards between themselves and their constituents.

But Saturday's shooter doesn't see America that way.

The shooter sees America at the mercy of his trigger finger.

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