As an Arizonan, I read with dismay and horror the breaking news earlier this afternoon that Representative Gabrielle Giffords had been shot, along with a dozen others, at a public event outside a Tucson Safeway this morning. News reports have been mixed and confusing throughout the day, but a few pieces are emerging:

  • Rep. Giffords has been through surgery and appears to be stable. Earlier reports of her death appear to have been mistaken. What her status and eventual outcome will be are impossible to say.
  • Federal Judge, John Roll, who had previously received death threats, was among those killed in today's shooting, as was a nine-year-old girl.
  • The alleged shooter, who was apprehended at the scene of the shooting, was Jared Lee Laughner. His Myspace page has been taken down, but here are some screen shots; here is his Youtube page.
  • Laughner appears to be seriously disturbed. His politics are scattered. No way the left or the right can claim him, or that he would have claimed either. His rants include his desire to create new currencies, new grammar, new languages, new religions, and he writes about himself as the Mind Controller. So far there is no distinct connection between Laughner and Giffords.

A reader at Andrew Sullivan's blog describes Laughner thusly:

This guy is a sui generis evidence that I can see of Tea Party influence. His concerns are to create his own reality. The terms: create your own currency, create your own language/definitions. Escape controlling consciousness of the dominant brainwashing powers by sleepwalking.  Create your own laws. Raskalnikov not Sharron Angle.  Reject Constitution, reject God, create your own religion.

If anything Laughner strikes me as a gun-nut anarchist with touches of left and right-wing paranoia. But again, there's no way to say for sure.

At this point we know very little about the shooting or the shooter. There are a number of troubling details surrounding the incident that aren't necessarily tied to Laughner's actions.

First, you have this campaign notice from Gifford's opponent, Jesse Kelly, from last summer. It reads:

Get on Target for Victory in November Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jess Kelly

Kelly's ads show him fully geared up with automatic weapons.

Second, there was the incident at Giffords office where a brick was thrown through her office window.

Giffords had also received death threats.

Details are still fuzzy, but one thing is true: several people are dead, and more are wounded. Violence is never the proper response to political anger, and even if Laughner's politics far way, way outside anything even remotely discernable as mainstream that's no excuse for even the implicit violence in the Jesse Kelly ads, or in the fearmongering we're so often subjected to by political pundits. This sort of thing must be condemned in the most certain of terms so that it is less likely to ever happen again. And people who see the videos or read the posts of obviously mentally disturbed and potentially violent people like Jared Lee Laughner should try to find them help before it's too late.

Hopefully more will become clear in the coming hours. Pray for the victims of this tragedy.