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Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words

January 11, 2011 at 4:02 PM

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Arizona shooting spurs discussion about gun control, services for mentally ill

Posted by Letters editor

Political hyperbole

Editor, The Times:

As we are all still waiting for the facts surrounding the tragedy in Arizona to fully come to light, many in the media and on the political left in this country have nevertheless decided where to lay the blame: incivility [“Congresswoman shot in Arizona rampage,” page one, Jan. 8]. Interestingly, the motives of the actual gunman seem to be of little importance to them, but the remedy is evident.

We are told that to prevent similar incidents of violence in the future all we need to do is, essentially, be nicer to each other, and to make our politics less personal. The real villains here are Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, the entire tea-party movement and Fox News; the real victim, our democracy.

I am no fan of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Fox News or the tea party, and I agree that there is something wrong with our politics. But to suggest that the shooting in Arizona is somehow the inevitable result of the current state of conservative political discourse, rather than the horrible act of a delusional paranoid, is in itself an example of extreme political hyperbole, and does absolutely nothing to civilize our politics.

— Stephen Crotts, Edmonds

Taking responsibility

No reasonable person can hold the tea party or any of the other conservatives responsible for the tragic deaths in Arizona this weekend. Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the others did not kill those people.

However, they must bear responsibility for the type of people that are attracted to their vitriolic tirades. It seems telling to me that, lately, deranged individuals are using the rhetoric of conservatives to justify their actions. The foaming-at-the-mouth hatred by white conservatives did play a part in the tragic killing of a 9-year-old girl who went to the mall to see her congresswoman on a sunny day. Think on that.

— Mark Barabasz, Hansville

Blame lies with shooter alone

It is absolutely despicable to hear those who should know better spouting off blame for the tea party, talk radio, Sarah Palin and others for the tragic events in Tucson. The blame lies squarely with the deranged shooter and him alone.

The media should not give a podium for these people who blame everyone but the shooter for his insane actions. People everywhere should come down hard on the demagogues who refuse to act in a sensible manner and blame their political enemies for all the evil in America.

— Frank Lucarelli, Kirkland

Toxic words

I am heartbroken beyond words at the tragedy that has left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded and six others dead. No doubt right-leaning folk will dismiss this event as the unpredictable work of a mentally-ill, social misfit. While there may be some truth to that assertion, it conveniently avoids more fundamental issues that afflict our society: Why do so many media outlets support right-wing personalities whose stock-in-trade are intolerance and paranoia?

I’m sure everyone will strongly condemn the gunman’s actions. However, targeting politicians or describing their districts as “in the cross-hairs,” talking about “Second Amendment” remedies, displaying weapons at political rallies, delegitimizing the citizenship of our president and casting government and civil servants as evil and corrupt do nothing except increase the likelihood that another tragedy like this one will occur.

Until right-wing politicians, media personalities and interest groups take responsibility for inciting violence with their toxic words, retrograde policies and fear-mongering, nothing will change.

— Larry Wechsler, Seattle

Denying firearms to those who should not posses them

The tragic shooting in Tucson was an experience of déjà vu. It took me back to the shootings at the Jewish Federation when my daughter, Cheryl, was shot by Naveed Haq who should never have been allowed to buy or possess a gun — he had an extensive history of mental illness but wasn’t in the state’s database when he went to purchase his weapons.

Washington state and Arizona (and presumably numerous other states) pass laws to prohibit mental patients, felons and drug addicts from purchasing firearms and then they do not fund the implementation of these laws nor do they impose strict requirements and penalties on agencies and hospitals that fail to comply. They do not consider strict and prompt updating of the databases to be high priority.

This is a serious and shameful national failure. No one seems to be expressing outrage over this. The news media and the politicians are all asking the wrong questions and they are not addressing the very serious systemic flaws in states’ administration and management of denial of firearms to those who should not possess them.

If the constitutional protection of the right of responsible citizens to defend themselves is to survive, the right must be matched by careful, prompt and accurate denial of firearms to those who have lost the right to possess them. Right now, this is not happening.

— Stan Stumbo, Bainbridge Island

Directing attention to mentally ill

Once again, our headlines are dominated by a horrific shooting, this time of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords [“Feds claim evidence of assassination plot,” page one, Jan. 10]. Instructors and fellow students who knew the shooter describe their frustration and inability to get help for this mentally ill student, even though the signs of mental illness were obvious.

Mental illness is not a character flaw. It is a brain disease. Yet, our communities do not provide adequate medical help for those who suffer from serious mental illness — in Arizona or in Washington state. The consequences for public safety cannot be ignored.

People with untreated psychiatric illness comprise approximately one-third of our nation’s homeless. Yet, the state Legislature is poised to make further cuts in services for the mentally ill. Cuts to these services do not save money since the mentally ill are pushed into expensive emergency rooms and jails. Cuts to services for mental illness are inhumane and dangerous.

Treatment for mental illness works; neglect of the mentally ill threatens us all.

— Isabel D’Ambrosia, Seattle

Prevent further incidents, aid mentally ill

In the wake of the tragedy in Tucson, I am horrified that services for the chronically mentally ill in Washington state have been severely cut in the current budget crisis. Chronically mentally ill people depend on medication and psychiatric services to keep them emotionally stable.

While it is true that many chronically mentally ill people are not violent, a sudden loss of medication coupled with paranoid ideation can produce the kind of homicidal behavior we have just witnessed in Arizona.

I implore the governor and Legislature to be proactive and to restore these services or, frankly, our community may be next.

— Elizabeth Clark-Stern, Lake Forest Park

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