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.


“There are about 100 million women less on this earth than there should be. Women who are ‘missing’ since they are aborted, burnt, starved and neglected to death by families who prefer sons to daughters. .  The estimated number of women who are missing are 44 million in China, 39 million in India, 6 million in Pakistan and 3 billion in Bangladesh. This is the single largest genocide in human history.” -Lucinda Marshall, Feminist Peace Network

Feminist Peace Network

“More than 3,800 women and girls have been murdered in Guatemala since the year 2000. What local activists are calling ‘femicide’ is spreading in Guatemala and throughout Latin America. . Guatemala’s femicides are notable for their brutality as well as the impunity that exists for the perpetrators. Countrywide, a mere 1-2% of crimes against life are effectively prosecuted, meaning that someone who commits murder in Guatemala has a 98-99% chance of escaping prosecution and punishment.” -Center for Gender and Refugee Studies

Center for Gender and Refugee Studies