Is Tucson any different one year after the horrific shooting that killed six and wounded 13?
How Tucson has “changed” is the most common rhetorical question asked by media last week in their retrospectives leading up to the commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the shooting.
Many of the reporters and editorialists writing and broadcasting those stories have been immersed in it for a year and it’s hard for them to speak to the dozens of people who have been profoundly changed by the tragedy and not think that the good that has come from evil has rippled across an entire community, changing it, too.
But it hasn’t.
Jared Loughner before the shooting was a young man tortured by the demons in his head, his descent into madness unhindered by his apparently indifferent parents.
His mental illness prompted numerous news stories about mental health care in Tucson, Arizona and the nation and whether it’s adequate.
And it remains inadequate. We’ve done little as a community or a state to improve mental health care in Tucson. To add insult to injury, the Legislature last year in its zeal to cut government spending by reducing funding of public health insurance assistance to the poor also cut behavioral health funding.
Are there other Jared Loughner’s out there slipping through the cracks of a fractured mental health care system?
What’s Tucson and Arizona doing to find them, help them, treat them and prevent them from boiling over into a homicidal rage like Loughner or Nick Delich, who shot three police officers, killing one in 2007, or Robert Flores, who killed three instructors at the UA nursing school in 2002?
We debated after the shooting the proliferation of guns and gun violence in our community and the nation. Has Tucson risen up to become ground zero of the gun control movement?
We responded by buying a record number of guns last year in Arizona and the Legislature made it easier to carry a concealed weapon, no permit or training necessary.
The day after the shooting, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik speculated that the hateful rhetoric and invectives of talk radio somehow contributed to pushing Loughner over the edge.
But his comments sparked a debate about civil discourse in America and how we all should speak nicely to each other when we disagree. Are we more civil in Tucson now?
Not at all.
But is this cynical view of Tucson post Jan. 8 all that we should take away from the shooting, that tragedies happen and life goes on, same as it ever was?
A lot has changed since Jan. 8, 2011, namely the people who survived the shooting and the family members of the dead, their friends, families and c0-workers, as well as some who didn’t know any of the injured but who have decided to not let Loughner’s evil act overwhelm Tucson’s good.
They have created foundations and charities and institutes that help children learn how to respond to bullying, that teach and encourage civil discourse, that bring grandparents into schools, that advocate for sensible gun restrictions and better mental health care or that help victims of violent crime learn to survive on the other side of hell.
Thousands of Tucsonans came together this past weekend to mark the passing of a year since death and destruction changed their lives. The “community” hasn’t changed much. But many members of the community have changed.
And it’s through their good work that perhaps in years hence when a reporter asks the rhetorical question of whether Tucson as a whole was changed for the better by Jan. 8 the answer will be obvious.