Since Jared Loughner's attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, Republicans have united behind the idea that this was an isolated act by a crazy person. They argue that because Loughner was mentally unstable, their political rhetoric, often filled with guns and other violent intimations, is not to blame. Loughner probably was a mentally ill person with no coherent political agenda, but that's actually a good indictment of the conservative policy failures that allowed the shooting to take place.
At RH Reality Check, Amanda Marcotte notes that Loughner appears to be an example of someone who needed attention from mental-health professionals but "slipped through the cracks." Of course, cracks exist because we allow them to. Arizona has a poor record for mental-health care, and in 2010 the state cut mental-health services funding by 37 percent for this year. Overall, state spending on mental-health care has gone down year after year; about half that money would be imperiled by the Medicaid cuts the new Congress is now threatening. Conservatives' willingness to cut health care programs, combined with out current budget crises across the country, is exactly how we create the cracks for folks like Loughner to fall through.
The other area in which conservative policies enabled the massacre was Arizona's lax and poorly enforced gun-control laws. As Jamelle wrote earlier, if the Republican Congress had reauthorized the assault-weapons ban in 2004, the gun Loughner legally purchased and used to shoot 19 people would have been extremely difficult to acquire. Conservatives argue that gun-control laws can't stop criminals from getting guns, but Loughner wasn't a brilliant schemer. If Arizona's mental-health system had caught Loughner, then a well-managed background check system would have, too.
Republican statements like Sharron Angle's "Second Amendment solutions" were disturbing when they were made, and even more so now. Whether or not they were the cause of Loughner's homicidal paranoia, it was Republicans' anti-government, extreme pro-gun-rights policies that let him take what was in his head and make it a reality.
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