The Tucson Massacre

Saturday, some guy shot 20 people in Tucson, Arizona.  The first person he targeted was U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

In the days since, the American media has been flooded with speculation as to the shooter’s motives.  Many people, such as this cartoonist, have focused on the fact that Giffords is a member of the Democratic Party, and a great deal of very heated rhetoric has been directed against that party.  Quite a few have focused on a map former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin posted on Facebook with a symbol of crosshairs on Giffords’ district.  Others have brought up the fact that Giffords is the first Jewish person elected to Congress from Arizona and speculated that the shooter might have been anti-semitic.  Still others have brought up the debate about immigration currently raging in Arizona and have suggested that it somehow made Giffords a target.

I suggest we look at the victims and ask at which of them the shooter aimed his gun.  His first shot was discharged point-blank into the congresswoman’s head.  He also targeted Mavanell Stoddard, hitting her with 3 rounds before her husband, Dorwan, made his way in front of her and gave his life to save hers.   Dorthy Morris was apparently also a target; her husband, George, also threw himself on his wife during the shooting, though he was too late to save her life.  Did the shooter think Mrs Stoddard and Mrs Morris were likelier to be Democrats their husbands?  Or that they were likelier to be Jewish?  Or that they were likelier to share Giffords complex and nuanced views on immigration?  Maybe!  Perhaps they were wearing T-shirts decorated with a donkey, a Star of David, and the slogan “Honk if you love to spend hours discussing immigration policy.”  Or maybe they had something else in common.

To my knowledge, no detailed forensic reconstruction of the shooting has yet been published.  However, what has come out suggests that most of the women and girls who were shot were standing closer to the shooter and were in his line of sight, while the men were either too far away to have been deliberately targeted (for example, Judge John Roll), or gave their lives in deliberate acts of heroism like those of Mr Stoddard and Mr Morris.  The Feminist Peace Network has made the point that the shooter seems to have targeted women; I haven’t seen that point elsewhere yet.

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  1. The issue that sticks to this atrocity like flies to road kill is Arizona liberallllll conceal and open carry laws. Innocent is, once more, on the hands of the NRA. Not that they care.

  2. acilius

     /  January 11, 2011

    Rereading my post I notice a glaring omission. I mentioned the heroism of Dorwan Stoddard and George Morris, but left out the equally heroic act of the wounded woman who was among those who tackled the shooter. I don’t seem to be able to find her name at the moment, but here! is a news story about her act. And of course there were several others who joined in stopping the massacre and aiding the wounded.

    As for gun control, I’m the sort of person who would like to support it. I’ve spent my life in urban areas where there is no good place to practice shooting, and I’d rather count on the cops to protect me than have a gun. I also believe in science, so once I see data showing that gun control laws reduce crime I’ll be their biggest booster. Until then, all I can do is link to this book.

  3. I’m not going to crack this book. And I sincerely doubt you have. But if I’m wrong and you have, maybe you can tell me if it compares homicide rates between different societies with different degrees of gun control? For example, between the United Kingdom, United States, and Afghanistan?

  4. acilius

     /  January 12, 2011

    Actually I have read the book; if you want a quick intro, here is an interview the author, John Lott, gave to the UChicago Press:

    What makes Lott’s argument so compelling are his side-by-side comparisons. Time after time he shows that rates of all crime diverge in countries and other jurisdictions that had resembled each other before one adopted gun control and the other did not, with crime rates rising faster in every case in the areas with the strictest regulation. What I’ve been looking for ever since I read Lott’s book ten years ago is an equally rigorous statistical analysis that will show a different result. Once I find that analysis, believe me, I’ll be glad to support gun control.

  5. I’ve been wanting to ask you why this is “The iron blog of rationality” and not the The Blog of iron rationality?

  6. acilius

     /  January 12, 2011

    About a year ago, we (the 4 authors of this blog) were racking our brains trying to come up with a catchy tagline. My wife is a sociologist, and she’d just been reading something about Max Weber’s concept of “the iron cage of rationality.” So she suggested “The Iron Blog of Rationality.” Which struck us as so hilarious we adopted it at once and have kept it ever since.

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