Second Guesses in Tucson

Glenn Ricketts

There's a piece in today's Inside Higher Education raising the question of whether more could have been done to prevent the recent shooting rampage in Arizona, that left six dead. Specifically, could more have been done by the authorities at Pima Community College - which the the gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, had attended - to head off the tragedy? That really hits home for me, since I myself am a longtime community college professor who's been jarred into thinking about such nightmarish scenarios in the wake of previous episodes, such as those at Virginia Tech or the University of Alabama. Could officials at Pima have done more? Based on the still-emerging information that's been made public, I think that's a pretty tall order. Loughner was expelled from Pima for his repeatedly disruptive, erratic behavior, and the police were notified. I don't see what else the school in this case could have done, though. Much as you wish you could, how do you peg someone who eventually goes over the top, before he actually does? In my experience, not untypical of community colleges, I've seen a fair number of students who come because they don't know what else to do, others from dysfunctional family backgrounds, as well as those with drug problems, debt problems, antisocial problems, etc., along with a very tiny few who were a little scary. But I've never seen any potential homicidal psychotics, and haven't figured out how I'd spot one before he actually opened fire.

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