By Alan Caruba
In 1247, the Bethlem Royal Hospital was established at Bishopsgate, just outside the London wall. It was better known as Bedlam and was the first asylum for the mentally ill in England. By 1403 it had some prominent guests. Bedlam had become the generic name for psychiatric hospitals and, more colloquially for a disturbance of the peace.
There was such a disturbance on Saturday when Jared Loughner shot U.S Representative Gabrielle Giffords in the brain at point blank range. He then shot others including a Federal judge and a nine-year-old child.
There is something like 25,000 laws on the books concerning the purchase and ownership of guns and not one single one of them could have prevented what happened.
This is not a defense of guns. The U.S. Revolution began at Concord and Lexington when a group of farmers picked up their guns and shot at British soldiers. No one is going to un-invent guns and everywhere they were banned, tyrannies of every description occurred.
This is about the Jared Loughner’s who, in my lifetime, assassinated men like John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Some nine U.S. presidents have either been killed or attacked by assassins. In 1981, John Hinkley Jr., in an effort to impress the actress, Jodie Foster, nearly succeeded in assassinating Ronald Reagan. Earlier Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford were shot at.
Anyone who has been a reporter as I have been will tell you that every American city has a section that local residents fear to travel to or through. Murder occurs in every American city, large and small, every day. Usually it is a drug deal or robbery gone bad or a gambling dispute.
For reporters, the killing of someone prominent is a news bonanza. It overrides the usual buzz in a newsroom devoted to the more commonplace stories. There’s a reason the news channels are into full coverage mode and why, by the end of the week, when they have exhausted the few known facts of the Tucson shooting, they will return to a normal coverage of the news.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind. It’s not about gun laws. It’s not about Tucson. It’s not about Arizona. It’s not about political analysis and dialogue, so you can ignore the hypocritical ravings of MSNBC’s Keith Olberman and others eager to blame Rush Limbaugh or the Fox News Channel.
Loughner is Hinkley redux. Described by all who know him as “a loner” and rejected for military service, invited to leave the campus of a local college, more than a few people understood that Jared had a screw loose.
The closest you can get to understanding what happened is to rent Martin Scorsese’s brilliant film, “Taxi Driver.” There you will see Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of Travis Bickle, the archetype of every lone gunman. And yes, also in the film, you will find Jodie Foster.
The shooting was about mental illness. It was about paranoia. It was about schizophrenia. It was about all the other killings where innocent people were gunned down by someone hearing voices in his head.
Say a prayer for Rep. Giffords, but remember, they walk among us.
© Alan Caruba, 2011