Arizona: Let's Start Thinking about Locking Up Lunatics

In my Washington Examiner column "Systematic assassinations not part of our politics," I wrote of the Arizona murders:

If any blame attaches to others, it is to authorities who had notice of his madness and did not do enough to confine him or prevent him from buying a gun. The Pima County sheriff, who was quick to suggest the attack was among the "consequences" of Republican rhetoric, also reported that the shooter's bizarre behavior was brought to the attention of authorities.

Arizona reportedly gives authorities more leeway than most states to put such an individual under restraint or at least prevent him from buying a gun. Perhaps there is some good reason this was not done; but at least there are questions that need to be asked.

Or to put it more bluntly, shouldn't this guy have been locked up? I am pleased to see that William Galston, writing in his New Republic blog, has the same idea, and calls for a reconsideration of the laws that have reduced the possibility of involuntary commitment. Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, writing in the Wall Street Journal, makes the same case and adds interesting detail. Jennifer Rubin, on her new Right Turn blog at the Washington Post notices that, as her headline reads, "Left gives up on guns, moves on to mental health," and applauds the move.

As Galston warns, involuntary commitment is a proposal that is bound to raise some apprehensions and there are serious and difficult questions about how it should be implemented. But there are horrible costs to the policy our society has been following these past several decades.

Michael Barone is a resident felllow at AEI.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto/Krakozawr

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  • Michael Barone, a political analyst and journalist, studies politics, American government, and campaigns and elections. The principal coauthor of the annual Almanac of American Politics (National Journal Group), he has written many books on American politics and history. Barone is also a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner.

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