Michael O. Leavitt: Preventing another Tucson

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  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Jan. 26, 2011 12:23 a.m.

    To the policeman from AZ,
    However, if Loughner had been committed for 72 hours as a threat back in October would that have changed what happened in January?

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Jan. 26, 2011 12:21 a.m.

    Early on the sheriff stated that Loughner had made death threats before. I am not aware of the sheriff having rescinded that claim, it just did not appear in the media any later than the Monday after the shooting. I also have not followed this story closely in the last week, but I have not seen the sheriff state specifically that he mis-spoke on that issue. He may have mis-spoken and he may have admitted it, but if so it has not been well covered.

    While hind-sight is 20/20 the fact that a classmate of Loughner claimed in emails to her friends last spring she feared for her life is instructive. On the other hand she may be low on her tolerance of anyone who acts outside a stringent social norm, and far too flippant in accusaing others of being potential serial killers, and for all we know that lady had other classmates she also claimed were on the verge of serial killing, but it is true some people thought Loguhner was potentially dangerous.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Jan. 26, 2011 12:16 a.m.

    Forcing health-care insurance providers to cover mental health care is not neccesarily the solution. The problem is that society still often acts as if there is something inherently wrong with those who have mental illnesses in ways that it does not treat those who have physical illnesses.

    I am quite hesitant to mention I have been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. My sister is much more likely to mention her husband has diabetes than autism.

    On the other hand there were classmates of Loughner who said that they expected him to come in with a gun. He had multiple altercations with the campus police at Pima Community College, and had been expelled with the only right to return related to his getting counseling.

    Loughner also had twice entered plea bargains related to criminal actions.

    Whether these issues would have prevented him from purchasing a gun is hard to say. Why he was allowed two cahnces at the one-time exemption of inprisonment, and why only some crimes automatically make it so you fail a background check are also good questions. However since he had been charged with crimes, some background check systems would have flagged him.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Jan. 26, 2011 12:06 a.m.

    It is quite encoraging to read an assement of the Tucson massacre by someone who is focused on the real issues it brings out instead of using it to bring up issues that are not relevant.

    I would say this is the best assesment of the massacre I have read so far. Most people in the past have used it to address issues that are not related to it and other unwise actions.

    I especially appreciate Leavitt's discussion of de-institutionalizing mental health patients. There have been far too many people who have tried to present the end of the old mental hospital system as a uniform ill. The fact of the matter is that in the mid-20th century many people were put in mental hospitals for no good reason, many people were kept there far longer than it was reasonable, and many people were lobotomized for no justifiable reason.

    Leavitt is also right that we have failed to adequately replace the old system. However using this as a time to blame others is unwise.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    Jan. 25, 2011 7:24 a.m.

    Brother Chuck Schroeder | 10:57 a.m. Jan. 24, 2011:

    "I say "NOW", ban all guns."

    You must have been real bummed when the US Supreme Court ruled the 2nd Amendment applied to individual citizens and not the state.

    Of course, Brother Schroeder, banning guns would make it safer for the criminals who would still be packing.

  • andrewonoriosr Morehead City, NC
    Jan. 24, 2011 5:45 p.m.

    Now that Olberman is the WORST person in the WORRRLLLDD we can now expect many people to begin to show their anger their leader that taught them to HATE. Thats where all the shootings come from, you nitwits, it's not conservatives.

  • Vanka Provo, UT
    Jan. 24, 2011 5:13 p.m.

    The Constitution does NOT guarantee the right to defend yourself.

    The 2nd Amendment reads:

    "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    Are you a member of a legitimate, well-regulated Militia? National Guard? Then your paranoia is no excuse for owning a handgun.

    Individuals should have a justifiable and socially acceptable purpose for owning handguns.

    Member of a well-regulated militia? OK
    Member of a well-regulated gun club? OK
    Member of a well-regulated law enforcement squad? OK

    Otherwise, NO!

  • What in Tucket? Provo, UT
    Jan. 24, 2011 4:28 p.m.

    This man was known as a danger to society before the incident. He should have been incarcerated in a mental institution. He was psychotic.

  • Fitz Murray, UT
    Jan. 24, 2011 4:24 p.m.

    It would seem that many have already diagnosed the shooter in Tucson as mentally incompetent. But no psychiatrist has, as far as I know. While his actions up to this time frame might not be within the confines of what society calls normal, it does not necessarily fall that the actions are caused by mental illness. The perpetrator should be held fully accountable, but the judicial process is slow and deliberate. We need to be patient and let justice take its course.

    Remember the recent trial of Brian Mitchell in the Smart kidnapping case? The State Hospital psychiatrist had declared Mitchell has mentally incompetent, other psychiatrists disagreed. State courts would not let a trial go forward due to mental illness issues, a federal court did. After testimony from multiple psychiatrists, the jury deliberated and found Mitchell was not mentally ill, but was competent and guilty of the charged crimes.

    As to the ability to stop these types of crimes, I would suggest that had the perpetrator not had a handgun, he could have caused as much damage, or perhaps more, by driving a vehicle into the crowd. Were one wants to do harm, a way will be found.

  • madison Magna, UT
    Jan. 24, 2011 2:50 p.m.

    Repressive governments always are afraid of popular retribution but that is not the case here.

    The Tucson gunman is an admirer of both Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx apparently, based on his top ten reading list published to YouTube, and reported recently in the Washington Post. He appears to favor repressive governments, then, rather than opposing them. Hitler too was once just such a political revolutionary as this man appears to be.

    We need to be less naive. Hitler, for example, arranged the burning of the Reichstag in order to blame his political opponents for the deed.

  • Brother Chuck Schroeder A Tropical Paradise USA, FL
    Jan. 24, 2011 10:57 a.m.

    While Utah's Constitutionalist's whine about this more, "Obama's Birth Certificate to Stay a Secret for Now", and not gun control, this happens. Two St. Petersburg police officers were fatally shot this morning, and a U.S. Marshal was shot. The U.S. Marshal's office had initially sought the help of St. Petersburg police in serving a warrant to a person on three felony charges, including aggravated battery, police said. The shooting occurred about 7 a.m. Investigators had sought the suspect for a while; today, a woman at the home said he was in the attic. Investigators went to the attic and he fired at them and they fired back, police said. Dozens of police cars are at the scene. School officials locked down three nearby schools: Thurgood Fundamental Middle School about 8:30 a.m. and Lakeview Fundamental and Jamerson elementary schools. Tampa police have contributed SWAT members, a tank and an explosives team.

    I say "NOW", ban all guns.

    Like it or not, that's my new view.

  • ljeppson Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 24, 2011 8:29 a.m.

    There is no preventing another Tucson - such will continue to happen with increasing frequency because we are a gun saturated society with people in it stretched to the breaking point mentally - and mental illness has a lower priority. All we can hope for is that one of our loved ones is not a victim and prepare philsophically for the possibility.

  • Doug10 Roosevelt, UT
    Jan. 24, 2011 8:01 a.m.

    Mr. Leavitt makes many valid points and I applaud him on this article. It would certainly help if people were more responsible.

    I think it is important for peoprle to be able to have guns but I think that there should be mandatory training for anyone with a permit.

    Some purport that if there were more guns around this would solve the problem, yet in Arizona all that is required to carry a weapon is a pulse and there were not people there to take down the attacker with more gunfire. The one person who did come running with gun drawn was pointing it at an innocent bystander who had helped take the gun from the shooter.

    I think it is a very bad idea for people not trained to think they can do a policemans job. Recipe for disaster.

    Japan Sweden and Canada have poeple get shot with guns as well. Canada will allow handguns if the owner is a member of a gun club. Canada had 200 people get shot with guns last year and they were the highest out of those 3 countries.

    USA had 9000 people get shot. There must be a reason for shooting them.

  • AT Prospect, KY
    Jan. 24, 2011 5:20 a.m.

    Oh great, Michael is now on the Deseret News Editorial Advisory board. Another member of the Establishment/War party there to be sure we get the proper news. Uh, Deseret News, don't align yourselves with people like this.

    Now, to this story. Michael, it's not the Federal Government's job to prevent events like this from happening. None of their databases would have prevented this. I don't want to live in the police state where such controls are in place as to prevent these things from happening.

    My safety is my responsibility.

  • juni4ling Somewhere in Colorado, CO
    Jan. 23, 2011 8:39 p.m.

    Leavitt, good article.

    The constitution makes clear that we have a constitutional right to protect ourselves.

    Do it.

  • Utah Joe murray, utah
    Jan. 23, 2011 6:28 p.m.

    Very thoughtful piece Governor Leavitt. Thanks for sharing your insights. There is a lot of wisdom in your words.

  • Chickenchaser Centralia, WA
    Jan. 23, 2011 2:41 p.m.

    HIPPA is running amok, and like a comet, its tail of hospitals, and other humanitarian agencies won't tell you how seriously injured your son is when you call from out of town. Authoritarian boneheads who hold this information see this as a power stunt vs the misery of the grieved. Enough!

    Alas, even Michael Leavitt's recommendations will foster little results. Dealing with variables in math is sure, but in humans . . .? Forget it.

  • No One Of Consequence West Jordan, UT
    Jan. 23, 2011 1:24 p.m.

    And after we prevent all future violent acts by mentally ill individuals we can work on stopping lightning and tornadoes.

    Unless we are willing to completely revoke all free will we cannot prevent people from doing evil.

  • Hellooo Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 23, 2011 12:07 p.m.

    random acts though tragic will occur in our society ast they do in all others. In the Tucson shooting, Mr. Leavitt's 5th point is probably most applicable as the holder of the event Representative Gifford made no provision for security and none was provided for the event by local law enforcment either from the city or the county. It may be true that a shooting would have still occurred, but it is also true a ounce of prevention and security was and should have been available.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Jan. 23, 2011 11:41 a.m.

    It may take a village to raise a child, but homicidal maniacs always act in a complete vacuum. When one of these things happens we wring our hands and click our tongues but are quick to note these were the actions of a madman; better health care including mental health care would not have prevented this. Certainly the political climate or gun crazed culture or a non stop diet of hideously violent video games and movies had nothing to do with it. We're fine with writing the loughners of the world as lone wolf lunatics, as long as we don't have to do anything else about it.

  • lawenforcementfromAZ Glendale, AZ
    Jan. 23, 2011 10:20 a.m.

    As a retired law enforcement officer, I agree with Mr. Leavitt's report, but what he recommeded ommitts some important items:

    1. Many states have laws permitting the emergency, 72 hour commitment of those who are in danger of injuring themselves or others. In this case the shooter was previously obsrved by law enforcement officials to exhibit these tendencies, but nothing was done. Many law officers are hesitant to act for a number of reasons, but they should be trained and held accountable to do their job.
    2. I also agree that in today's society, those who qualify and who have a desire should exercise their 2nd amendment rights, but in this case, it would not have made any difference to the first victim, but quite possibly some of the others could have been saved if there was appropriate action taken.

  • KDave Moab, UT
    Jan. 23, 2011 10:00 a.m.

    Leavitt is right about HIPPA. But, report your neighbor as being mental, and you get sued and lose everything you have.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Jan. 23, 2011 9:58 a.m.

    Seems like its so easy and of course politically correct to point out the flaws of individuals who do crimes against our society. If we had just been more diligent in our recognition of faults and weakness we could have prevented the crime.

    My question is, If we knew the name and address of every such person in the U.S., what would we do with it. Would we assign watchers 24/7 to observe and control the individual?

    While the conservatives tell us that words dont cause an individual to do bad things, why does it seem like individuals are just following the instructional advise of the conservative pundits.

    One of the greatest propaganda theme is the notion of personal responsibility. Conservatives fervently push the idea that a person is responsible for himself and must take the responsibility for making any desired changes in his world.

    In most if not all cases the person has acted on his own. He took the responsibility of doing it himself instead of asking society or government for help.

  • Emajor Ogden, UT
    Jan. 23, 2011 8:18 a.m.

    I am not sure that these recommendations would have made much of a difference in the case of Jared Loughner. He hadn't committed any prior acts of violence or publicly made any threats, so on what basis could he have been accused of being mentally ill or prevented from owning a firearm? He was socially awkward, but many people are who never end up harming themselves or others.

    Mr. Leavitt is concerned with the decline in mental health care services. As a respected member of a conservative administration, perhaps he should speak to Arizona Republican governor Jan Brewer, who (after the Tucson shootings) proposed $36 million in state budgets cuts for mental health services.

  • andrewonoriosr Morehead City, NC
    Jan. 23, 2011 7:04 a.m.

    Concerning the report (Report to the President on Issues Raised by the Virginia Tech Tragedy)
    I would assert the following in an attempt to help with quelling of violent killings on campus and other regions around the USA.
    After hearing and seeing the footage of the killings in Russia's Beslan, North Ossetiaat, an auditorium filled with over 1000 people and the deaths of more than 300, 187 being children for no reason except "may I suggest" they may have been Christian, I have concluded these findings.
    The #1 reason innocent people are killed in a violent escapade is the following.
    #1 Fort Hood------- 13 dead 21 wounded. No one armed with protection and required to have no loaded firearms.
    #2 Columbine School------13 killed No one armed with protection since the school is a "no arms on campus" regulated school.
    #3 Omaha Nebraska mall---9 deaths, no protection.
    2nd Amendment. People, arm yourselves. It is you right. Don't be as the others fallen. Without protection from the cowards who prey on the masses who aren't allowed to carry. Petition your Mayor and your Legislator to allow citizens to carry and protect themselves and you.

  • SLars Provo, UT
    Jan. 23, 2011 2:17 a.m.

    "Fourth, it is critical to get people with mental illness the services they need. Meeting the challenge of adequate and appropriate community integration of people with mental illness requires effective coordination of community service providers who are sensitive to the interests of safety, privacy and provision of care."

    Or we could force insurance companies to cover mental health issues along with physical health. Instead of dumping them into overburden underfunded government programs.