Via the Daily Caller, Jake Tapper makes an interesting point. He wonders whether civil-libertarian groups may have made it more difficult for authorities to intervene against lunatics like Jared Loughner before they commit acts of violence:
“One thing that an older family member of mine said to me, as I mentioned earlier to you, is it used to be a lot easier to get people like this locked up,” Tapper said. “And then civil libertarians got active and became much more difficult to do so. I’m talking decades ago and that’s something that I want to read more about and learn more about, because that does sound interesting.”
Tapper argued that in the very least society needed to find a way to keep people like Loughner from owning a lethal weapon.
“I mean if this guy was literally terrifying his classmates at the community college, they thought, they described him as a serial killer, they thought he was unhinged, he was asked to not come back — that seems to me that society needs to figure out a way, to A – prevent people like that from getting lethal weapons, and B — maybe even go so far as to remove them from the street. That is a subject for debate, just as legitimately as the political rhetoric we hear.”
The normal reaction to these violent incidents is to wonder how such a dangerous individual slipped by unnoticed by the rest of society. In this case, Loughner obviously didn’t — several of his fellow students and professors feared he would shoot up his community college. One of his classmates said she sat near the door in case he opened fire on the class. Another professor remembered being wary about turning around to write on the board in case Loughner pulled out a gun when his back was turned.
Both the community college and the local police reportedly received multiple complaints about Loughner’s behavior. And yet it doesn’t seem like much action was taken to intervene. He was even able to purchase a gun.
So is Tapper’s idea about preemptive intervention worth investigating?
Brett Joshpe, an attorney who has worked on behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice, told me that Tapper “has a legitimate point that our criminal justice system is pretty reactive. It’s not good at dealing with threats before they materialize.”
But he also noted that there aren’t many public-policy steps we can take to prevent tragedies like the one in Arizona from occurring, and the idea that civil libertarians contributed to it is unrealistic.
“Every once in a while, something like this happens. You’re never going to completely eliminate it,” he said. “It’s hard to create a public-policy response when you’re talking about very isolated deranged people whose thinking process is not logical, and there’s not necessarily a direct cause and effect.”