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Steve Lopez on the Tucson shootings; Michael Shermer on the randomness of life; and Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to spread the budget pain.

January 17, 2011

Mental illness can't be ignored

Re "At the root of Tucson attack," Column, Jan. 11

I couldn't agree more that Jared Lee Loughner, the accused perpetrator of the Tucson tragedy, probably has a major mental disorder. It is illustrated in the many encounters described by schoolmates, neighbors and friends.

I have been struck by the callousness that many people have expressed in regard to Loughner's situation, and the discounting of this illness as the cause of the massacre. Far from being a political situation, this is clearly a case of yet another young person who did not receive the help he needed.

Government should respond immediately by working with and funding mental health agencies and programs. It should also find a way to educate the public by making information on mental illness highly visible.

In ignoring the plight of another person with a mental disorder, not only did violence erupt but the stigma of mental illness continues to be perpetuated. Let's make some changes now.

Kathleen Naylor

Santa Monica

I agree with everything Steve Lopez said. However, I think he left out theelephant in the room: the easy availability of semi-automatic weapons.

With an ordinary handgun, the gunman may have been able to shoot one or two people before he was subdued. But as it happened, the tragedy was greatly magnified by the killer's ability to spray an entire group of people with a hail of bullets.

No background check can guard against some lone-wolf crazy person going off his rocker. The only sure way to stop such tragedies is to ban the sale of such dangerous weapons to the public.

Robert McEwen

Cypress

Helping to light the fuse

Re "Cause and effect," Opinion, Jan. 11

Michael Shermer fatalistically asserts that political violence is both random and "bound to happen." However, psychosis is not evenly distributed among populations but varies among societies and affects males in greater numbers than females. Perpetrators of psychotic violence are not wholly random.

Moreover, psychotic violence, like everything else, does not occur in a political vacuum. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) openly warned Sarah Palin that her violent imagery directed toward Giffords was likely to have repercussions.

Social reality does not occur on the moon, and an abstract killer did not shoot an abstract politician. A young white man who had been reading "Mein Kampf" allegedly shot a Jewish Democratic woman who was first figuratively and then literally placed in the right wing's cross-hairs.

In claiming that this was random, Shermer isolates political events as a series of unrelated coincidences, reducing social and historical context to oblivion.

Joshua Sperber

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Because millions of people suffer from mental disease, it doesn't matter how violent political rhetoric may get or how loose gun laws may be. Someone will always do the unthinkable. That's Shermer's logic, but he has it backward.

Because millions of people suffer from a mental illness, politicians need to be more careful with their rhetoric, and the laws need to more restrictive about who can get a gun.

We can't eliminate senseless acts of violence, but we shouldn't encourage them.

John Farmer

Woodland Hills

Speaking of budget pain

Re "Brown's plan — pain everywhere," Opinion, Jan. 12

The thing that bothers simple folk like me is that as we are being conditioned to accept the pain to save our state, the groups that will never accept the pain the rest of us face are public employee unions.

State government seems to exist to provide jobs at higher pay levels than those provided by the business sector, including generous retirement plans and benefits that we simple folk will never see.

Our retirement is based on investment returns, while our public servants have defined plans backed up by our tax money. If their investments are not up to their standards, we can expect to feel the pain.

When will our elected representatives hear the message to put the people of California first?

William L. Ebling

Cerritos

The governor's proposed budget disinvestment by the state of half a billion dollars in the University of California system is alarming. For the first time ever, the state will be investing less in UC students than the students themselves pay through tuition.

As a UC Berkeley alumnus who graduated four decades ago, I am sorry to see the deterioration of what had been a great public university system. And I shudder to think of the devastating negative consequences of this historic budget reduction.

Steven Hendlin

Newport Beach

Role playing

Re "In Hollywood, new grit for teen girls," Jan. 9

I enjoyed the article on the rise of female adolescent protagonists in Hollywood films, but I was

surprised to read not one sentence about the J.K. Rowling character of Hermione Granger. Though Hermione is not the "star" of the Potter novels (and movies), she is a very well developed character who is smarter than her male counterparts.

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