Welcome Tom Zoellner (TomZoellner.com) and Host bmaz (EmptyWheel.net )

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America

It has been a year and a month since the day the shots pierced the heart of Arizona on January 8, 2011. In all, 19 victims were shot. Six lives were taken and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded. Friends, families, a state and a nation were torn at their emotional seams.

The news crews came for their live shots, talking heads talked, pundits opined, quick clues to a deeper cause and meaning sought and catharsis stated to have been reached in a stirring memorial led by an eloquent President. Over time, the initial raw wounds seemed to merge into the amazing evolving story of strength, resilience and recovery of Gabby Giffords. And, to be sure, there are few parallels in public life to the resilience and recovery of Gabby, it has been stunning, heartwarming and inspirational.

But there is more, much more, to the shooting that day at Congress On Your Corner, and that is the subject of A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America, by today’s guest, author and journalist Tom Zoellner. Tom is not just a chronicler of the events and surroundings, he is a native of Arizona, and Tucson, and speaks not only with factual accuracy and thoroughness, but passion and deep understanding of his subject.

Arizona depends on reinvention. The narrative of a fresh start in a warm place is the root of the economy, and the unsustainable nature of that dream over the long run is the largest part of what ails the state today.

Zoellner opens with the the setup and events at the shooting scene, but then takes the reader on a sprawling ride through Arizona’s history and structure, both as a state and Tucson as his own home. Interwoven into the picture of Arizona and Tucson is also the tale of how and why it is the home of his dear friend Gabby Giffords, and the other souls who came to be part of the story at the Safeway at the intersection of fabled Ina and Oracle roads in Tucson. Much like all the people – from Gabby, to the Chief Judge of Arizona’s Federal Courts, John Roll, to nine year year old Christina Taylor Green, and the others – Ina and Oracle roads do not seem like they ought to intersect where they do. Yet intersect they do, and did in a tragedy that says at once everything about Arizona problems, and nothing to the real ethos of its substantial good and beauty.

At the Safeway In Tucson, all the factors and people intersected with Jared Lee Loughner. Zoellner plumbs the depth of a disturbed and alienated young man who, in hindsight, seems so clearly headed to the result he created. But the story of Loughner, and the environment which molded him, is also the story of the city of Tucson, state of Arizona and, yes, the nation. The story of opportunity wasted and lost, of a social fabric too easily frayed, and human beings too easily lost as the teeming masses swirl around them. It is a tale of us, not just them.

And that is the real power of A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America, it is the tale of all of us. In that regard, it is certainly not always a comfortable and smooth ride through the pages; Zoellner drills into the pathology of the “rugged individualist” movement, stark isolation of disaffected youth, rank bigotry against Hispanics fostered by small but influential right wing zealotry, the out of control gun culture and mental illness in a time when austerity and tax cuts have emaciated the social services that could ameliorate the various ills.

There are more questions asked than necessarily answered by Tom Zoellner’s gritty, but honest book. It is the story of both disassociation, resilience and reinvention. I was going to craft a nice little soundbite like quote to summarize today’s book, but I cannot top the inestimable Charlie Pierce:

One of the great comforting fictions of our time is the notion that acts of public violence are random things. In his exemplary account of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and the murder of several other people, Tom Zoellner denies us the cheap solace of easy answers and sets Jared Loughner’s rampage in the context of a violent time in a country that seems more fragile by the hour.

Perfectly stated.

For those of you unaware, today’s discussion comes only three days before the centennial celebration of Arizona’s statehood which, as you can surmise, came on February 14, 1912. There are a lot of bad stories relentlessly reported about Arizona on effectively a daily basis, and there is certainly extremely honest reportage of it in Zoellner’s book. But take it from me, like Tom Zoellner I am also a native, Arizona is also a beautiful and fantastic state, with wonderful people and a fascinating history. It is all here. So join us for a discussion of A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America.

[Tom Zoellner is the author of five nonfiction books, including Uranium, The Heartless Stone and Train: Smoke, Iron and the Invention of the Modern World, forthcoming from Viking/Penguin in 2013. He was also the co-author of the New York Times bestselling book An Ordinary Man. Tom has worked as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and The Arizona Republic, and as a contributing editor for Men’s Health magazine. He is now an Associate Professor of English at Chapman University and lives in Los Angeles.]

125 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Tom Zoellner, A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America”

BevW February 11th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Tom, Welcome to the Lake.

bmaz, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 1:56 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Thanks, I’m pleased to be here.

dakine01 February 11th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Tom and welcome to FDL this afternoon. Welcome back bmaz!

Tom what brought you to write this book?Were any of the things you discovered about Arizona during the writing especially surprising to you or did you basically confirm your starting ideas?

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Tom, welcome to Firedoglake and Book Salon. You have authored a pretty unique book on a subject that has a lot of different angles, root causes, and implications which do not necessarily all flow so comfortably to a reader.

Was it hard for you to piece all the disparate pieces of the larger Congress on the Corner shooting story together?

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Hello Tom,

We are happy to have you here to preview your new book. We have members from the state and all of us were concerned with the emotional impact of the Giffords shooting.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Hi Dakine — I wrote the book to get to the bottom (or whatever bottom there may be) of why my friend Gabrielle and my friend Gabe and 17 others were shot at that grocery store. I could not accept the conventional explanation that this was “the lone act of a deranged gunman” that had nothing to do with any other factor.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Thank you for the compliment, bmaz!

Piecing together the second-by-second account was indeed difficult. The FBI file on the case is still sealed and by the time I got started reporting, all the local cops were no longer talking. So I interviewed as man y witnesses as I could. I also benefitted from the reporting done by my old newspaper, The Arizona Republic, which did a wonderful series on the event.

dakine01 February 11th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 6

Just as a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and comment number you are replying to and makes it easier for folks to follow the conversation.

Note: some browsers do not like to let the Reply work properly if it is pressed after a page refresh but before the page completes loading

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Hi PeasantParty — yes, it was a troubling event for all Arizonans, and I don’t feel we’ve really had the right discussion about it yet.

This chat, by the way, comes to you from downtown Phoenix. In the earlier part of the afternoon, I was over at the weekend festival celebrating the state’s centennial. Our modern state became signed into existence on Feb. 14, 1912.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 2:08 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 6

I would suggest the answer is it was both the act of a deranged lone gunman AND had to do with a lot of other factors; for people that may not have yet read your book, how did you resolve your question in this regard?

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:09 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 9

Dakine, yes, there were many surpising things I learned about Arizona. I tried to go into the project with an open mind, even though I had more than three decades of living here to draw upon. Many things were even worse than I had anticipated.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Bmaz, you are right. A deranged gunman did this, and it could have happened anywhere. But my belief was that a host of aggravating factors in Arizona helped give the guy’s madness a political context and that the nastiness of the last Congressional campaign had persuaded him, in his delusion, to act out violently at a political event instead of another venue. You had to have lived through that election to have felt the latent anger in the air.

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

You just made note of how hard it was to research and get information. I think that many times witnesses are not all spoken to by police and often have facts that are left out of the official story. Did you find this to be true while talking to witnesses?

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 2:14 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 9

troubling event for all Arizonans

Apparently not. Haven’t I seen news stories about how she should be marginalized or worse? Or were all of those not from AZans? Don’t have any links handy but thought there were several prominent AZans who tried to turn her into a villain, not victim?

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 12

What are the stats. Are there as many proportional deranged gunman in other countries as there are in the U.S.?

spocko February 11th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I remember thinking about how the news covers shootings and how they narratives are set before the blood is dry.

The people who see any mass shooting as a potential to enforce gun control laws are shouted down preemptively.

One person who might have an impact on this issue could be someone like Gifford who may have been neutral or even pro-gun for everyone. A change in their position might have resonance. (think James Brady)
Did Giffords views change? What are her current views on guns, gun laws and gun violence?
Has she spoken out one way or another? If she is now in support of certain gun control laws or actions has she been attacked by people who are in the camp that the answer to gun violence is more guns?

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 12

Oh, the angst did hang in the air; it was felt pretty strongly locally here in Phoenix with respect to the Attorney General race and the 3rd District race that Ben Quayle eventually won somewhat on a violent attitude base campaign persona.

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 11

Many things were even worse than I had anticipated.

Examples?

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:17 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 13

This is true. Police writing is by nature concerned only with verifiable facts with little emotional depth. They are trained not to include those kinds of observations in their reports, lest the defense attorneys tear them apart on the stand. But the emotional resonance of the story goes beyond the awfuls facts. For example — one man who was there told me about the birds that started chirping again in the quiet after the violence. That never would be in a police report, but it is a part of the event nonetheless. I also learned where Loughner got that black eye in the creepy mug shot. One of the men who took him down, Roger Salzgeber, punched him five times in the face.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 14

There may have been a couple of isolated people with that attitude, but extremely little of the general feeling given to Gabby, at least that I have seen. It may have slightly more basis in Tucson, but I find it hard to believe by much.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 14

Oh, yes, the ads were quite nasty. Sen. John McCain led people in a chant of “Gabby’s gott go” at a Tea Party rally. That obviously is within the bounds of political speech, and he’s not at fault, but the atmosphere was especially tense.

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 2:20 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 19

Police writing is by nature concerned only with verifiable facts with little emotional depth.

Suggest, with respect, that police reporting has little to do with the facts, but instead related to police CYA.

Lived in Manhattan for decades. Rarely found police reports bore any relationship to reality in cases that hit the headlines.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:21 pm
In response to spocko @ 16

Spocko, I’m not sure how Gabby now feels about guns. She hasn’t made any public statements about it. This was a golden opportunity for us all to talk about whether some reasonable restrictions might be put on semiautomatic weapons, keeping them away from the mentally ill, restricting the sale of 30 shot magazines, etc. (which I would see as no threat whatsoever to liberty) but there is no political will for that in Arizona at present.

Tammany Tiger February 11th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Barry Goldwater, who was once a conservative icon, probably couldn’t win a Republican Senate primary in Arizona if he were alive today.

How do Arizona Republicans of 2012 differ from those of 25 years ago when Goldwater was winding up his stint on Capitol Hill?

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to bmaz @ 20

As you well know, bmaz, it is not about the proportionality but much more about who gets the press. My impression is that press war was won by anti-Giffords forces. The “creating their own reality” meme.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to bmaz @ 17

Yes, Ben Quayle, who was in attendance at the Centennial celebration with his family this morning (and good for him, too, as he was the only Congressman that I saw there), won election with the help of TV ads in which he threatened to “knock the hell” out of Washington and its politicians. I wonder how that’s going for him?

Scarecrow February 11th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 12

Welcome Tom and bmaz. We New Mexicans worry a lot about our neighbor, so I was wondering if you can talk more about that “anger.” How much of the setting for that anger was purely local issues, and how much was driven by national issues that we all ought to be concerned about? What was driving it?

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 21

The political discourse has been so hate filled that when the Tea Party went out to events with their guns it drummed up the violent thoughts of people in my opinion.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 25

That is simply and completely at odds with the facts on the ground here that I have seen. Not even remotely close to the general situation.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 24

Tammany, old Barry Goldwater was a charismatic presence and a figurehead for a lot of general ideas, but he was not the most effective Senator in the history of that body. He didn’t puit his name on many bills, and once said that helping reorganize Pentagon bureuacracy in 1986 with Sen. Sam Nunn was the “only damned thing in the Senate I’ve done that’s worth a damn.”

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to bmaz @ 29

Glad to hear that. Not the impression one gets from afar.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 27

I think anger in Arizona is generally in proportion with the rest of the country. What we’ve got here of concern is weaker social ties because of the high proportion of newcomers, as well as communities in which it is all too easy to be lonely and isolated. We also have public schools and mental health care facilities that are more starved for funds than other places because of a low tax/low service philosophy that has been our lodestar of growth since the end of WWII.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to bmaz @ 29

Can’t speculate on cause and effect, but people do bring guns to public events here and sometimes make a show of it to get attention. The laws are sme of the most liberal in the nation and there is a small minority of folks who take great pride in that.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 24

About the GOP here — moderate Republicans are kind of a vanishing species. The primaries are generally set up to favor the guy who generates the most heat and excitement and, as they say, “moderation never drew a crowd.” We have a state Legislature where compromise is quite hard.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 30

Barry was, however, a little more effective in getting things done for Arizona, especially in terms of the Grand Canyon and other parks and federal land issues. Also did a lot for the military, especially the Air Force.

I would not sell Goldwater short were he still alive and fit to run for office; he was simply smarter and more charismatic than the current crop of nuts.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 33

Oh, think you must have been responding to someone else, I agree about the guns.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:36 pm

You know, I might even vote for him, too, depending on who the oppostion would put up. He did bring home the pork, kept AZ bases open, paid respect to the Native Americans, regarded some of the fringe elements of the party as a threat (especially in his later years) and was a picturesque symbol for Arizona, being a former Presidential nominee, etc.

My point was that he was not a terribly effective Senator — his seniority outweighed his actual influence in the body.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to spocko @ 16

One direction that Gabby might go with her influence and talents is to found an institute for the study of gun violence. She owns a handgun herself. I don’t think you’re necessarily anti-gun if you believe in reasonable study and workable solutions to what is clearly a public health problem. One messed-up guy did incalcuable damage that day. And this sort of needless pain happens every day. Are we really so afraid of dialogue about this issue that we can’t examine it?

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 38

I would like to have that conversation, but now is not the time when Presidential candidates think the only way to get into office is to run ads with them holding an MK. I am a gun owner, the difference is that it is solely for personal protection and not used a threat to anyone.

cassiodorus February 11th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

What kind of anti-Mexican energy is there in Arizona right now?

Scarecrow February 11th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

In researching the story, Tom, did you come across points in the history leading up to the shooting where you said, “ah, if only this had been different,” and it would have changed everything? Where were those points?

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Tom, from my knowledge of Tucson, it strikes me that the area where Jared Lee Loughner lived and was raised has a variety of different relative property values and attendant social strata, but has a substantial, if not predominant, hardscrabble, and in some parts unincorporated, character. You describe Loughner’s family home as resembling a “bunker”. How do you think this environment played into the mental deterioration and conduct finally evidenced by Jared Loughner?

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Yes, my own belief is that the NRA “voter’s guides” that rank Congressman based on their fidelity to extreme and unbalanced 2nd Amendment interpretations only encourages wacky laws that help nobody but manufacturers, and leaders competing to see who can be the biggest gun-guy in the gaggle.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 39

And for that matter, I’m not “anti-gun” either. I owned one myself for years. I just see no purpose for the unbridled trade in semiautomatics and those disgusting long magazines.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 41

Oh, so many points where none of this would have happened. 1) the nasty election, I’m convinced, gave Loughner a political contour to his illness, and an “enemy” to stalk, 2) One of his friends could have gotten him help, 3) A one-hour safety course for a handgun purchase, which he never could have passed because he was obviously mentally ill, 4) Pima Community College might have referred him to a shrink instead of kicking him out.

bgrothus February 11th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 43

The gun industry does make sure to have influence every time. Like all the corporate entities that have power in our government and society today.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to cassiodorus @ 40

We just saw the sorry spectacle of books in the Mexican-American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District being boxed up and put in storage — “banned from the classroom,” in a sense — because of a law passed that prohbits such programs. It was enormously successful, but Phoenix lawmakers didn’t like it. They feared it would be subversive and found it a target.

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 44

Your comment at #43 puts you in line with my thoughts.

So, as Bmaz states the logistics and conditions of the slayer’s home; do you feel that had a lot to do with his actions?

I remember the Combat Bricks and PaintBall camps of the 70′s and 80′s. I am convinced they are what we now know as Blackwater types.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:54 pm
In response to bmaz @ 42

Obviously the neighborhood didn’t drive him to do it, but the transient and walled-off character of the place didn’t seem to me to be a very warm place. It looked like a metaphor for some of the alienated subdivisions in which I and manhy of my friends grew up.

bgrothus February 11th, 2012 at 2:54 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 47

There is an organization in Albuquerque that will send banned books to any Tucson student who writes about why they want them.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 46

A book that I really want to read is “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun,” by Paul Barrett.

http://www.amazon.com/Glock-Americas-Paul-M-Barrett/dp/0307719936

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Would Goldwater be electable in AZ today? Asking to get a feel for lay of the land. I remember when GW ran against Rock.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 50

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this program. I really would have enjoyed it, I think, had it been around in my high school in the 1980s.

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 49

Curious about burbs, which in my personal experience fall squarely betw 2 stools. I love the city (midtown Manhattan) and the country but not the burbs. Always viewed them as sterile stepford wives carpools. Am I mistaken?

Scarecrow February 11th, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Tom — did you encounter any resistance, other than the unavailability of police/investigating reports, in trying to report on the political climate that preceded the killing? Any pressure to downplay negative aspects, impressions, etc?

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 52

I would like to think that somebody like Barry would be quite electable today. Arizona is not nearly as extreme as its leadership in Phoenix often makes it seem. We have an open Senate seat here this year for the first time in nearly two decades and I think a centrist Democrat has a fair shot at taking it.

Twain February 11th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 53

Book suppression is no different from book burning. When did we reach a point where LESS knowledge is better than knowing facts – seems strange in a democracy.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 55

No, and I wouldn’t have listened anyway (well, I would have listened, but I don’t think I would have tried to pull any punches). This story had to be told.

bgrothus February 11th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 53

Our governor, who seems to be doing the Sarah Palin turn to VP (but denies it every time), has done everything she can to try to make NM more like AZ, but she has also been unsuccessful at every start. For someone who worked as a DA, she has been strikingly unsuccessful in the courts. She is terrible. And a Mexican American. Truly sad.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
In response to Twain @ 57

Agreed — I also don;t see how obliterating history draws us any closer together as one people, or makes us better prepared to answer the hard questions about where we’ve come and where we’re going.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:02 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 54

Experiences differ about the suburbs, but studies show that paranoid schizophrenia develops at double the rate in disconnected urban enviroments, or places without strong social connections. I guess you can be lonely anywhere, too.

bgrothus February 11th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 61

Yes, all of the mass murders at schools have happened, not in cities, but in the burbs. The alienation is terrible.

hackworth1 February 11th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 51

Glock – America’s Gun. Made in Austria.

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Tom,

What was the most shocking or surprising fact that you found during your research?

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 56

Am NYSer. Voters are far to the center from wingnut D gov Cuomo, prolly to right of NJ R gov Christie. Fracking, not taxing rich, etc. Don’t think anyone who would actually rep will of voters could get elected bc pols get gigantic donations from HCs, finance in NYS. Trying to figure out if AZ has a similar squeue.

nonquixote February 11th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to spocko @ 16

In my small population rural WI county, we just experienced a murder/suicide perpetrated by the father who murdered his two children 13 and 9 and his estranged wife age 44 and I couldn’t help but be infuriatied by the local teevee news being there to, ‘cover,’ the memorial service.

Not a word about the desparation felt by many without jobs, without health care, without homes because of the greed of the TBTF banks and corporate scammers out there not caring who is affected by actions to rid communities of jobs and hope and life dreams in pursuit of profits and bonuses. This is not about guns. This is about desperation and seeming hopelessness of certain individuals failing to meet expected standards through no fault of their own.

I apologize for just jumping in here, I have not read the book and have just started to follow the comments.

spocko February 11th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 38

I’ve been very involves in the issue of gun violence and the most powerful time for change is right after a tragidy and the spokespeople who can arise from it. Again, Tom Brady but also Diane Feinstein.

After shooting events (which happen with depressing regularity) I see the power of the NRA supporters as they fan out to defend any changes. Not to be morbid, but that is the time to push and push hard for change.

But did you notice how anyone who suggests that is shouted down as trying to “politize the tragidy”?

I had suggested that a powerful TV event would be the victims of a shooting event be put in the same room with the
Spokespeople for Guns everywhere and no restrictions. I would like to see how they explain how the death of their loved one is sad, but having more automatic weapons is really better for the country, or how “someone could kill others with a knife just as easily, would you want to outlaw knives?” the power of these events dissipate as time passes. The gun lobby understand this and do not want to see this. They wait till time as passed and they then block any “emotional” response to the event. I saw this in Omaha after the Mall shooting. The vicitims tried to tighten up loopholes but the NRA waited them out until the majority of people forgot. The big money can do that .

BTW, When I suggested this I was told it was morbid and politizing the issue, yet by NOT forcing people’s views to face the vicitims of their reality we don’t see change.

Oh, and before someone asks, yes I have been forced to hear all the “this home invasion was stopped by a gun” stories and the “if you outlaw guns only guns will be outlawed” stories.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 64

A 2009 Gallup poll found that while Arizonans love the place for its beauty and promise, only 12 percent think their “neighbors care about each other.” That’s pretty bad. Our problems go deeper than political conflict. The fact is that we’ve become strangers to each other.

Tammany Tiger February 11th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

As global warming gets worse, Arizona stands to be one of the most hard-hit parts of this country. Are Arizonans concerned about it, and is state government doing anything to prepare for its effects?

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to spocko @ 67

In Arizona, I’m sorry to say, there was no attempt whatsoever to tighten loopholes after this happened. Instead the Legislature named an “official state firearm” and tried to make it legal to carry guns into bars and onto college campuses.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 50

To be fair, the books are really not “banned” in either the legal sense or lay sense, and it is not the Tucson School District that is the malefactor here – after all they are the ones that implemented and grew this program over the better part, if not more, than a decade. They were under the gun to comply with a state order out of the nutjobs in the State Government in Phoenix, literally faced losing a an immediate crippling 10% of continuing funding. I have talked to them, they are trying to calmly let things cool off and figure out how to get most all, if not all, of the material back into their curriculum, even if in different classes. I have talked to them extensively and believe they are genuine in this desire, but cautious. There is also an ongoing litigation in Federal court that may very well provide substantial relief.

Phoenix Woman February 11th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to bmaz @ 35

Which is why he was horrified by them at the end.

The sad thing is that this is what you get when what once was the Party of Lincoln decides round about 1960 or so (after Strom Thurmond’s revolt in the 1940s paved the way) to further the anti-tax interests of its big-money backers by using racism to spur white working-class and middle-class voters into voting for policies and people that cut the safety net to shreds. And one gets it all over the country, not just in Arizona; Michele Bachmann is a perfect example of someone who owes her career to the inflamed racist anti-government-program hysteria Republicans drummed up in white exurban and rural voters.

hackworth1 February 11th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Mr. Z, Do you see Gabby’s silence as a wasted opportunity to help curtail gun violence?

Has the Obama Admin asked her to be quiet on guns and homegrown terrists? (It is not beyond them. IIRC, they dragged her out to vote in favor of the rightist-civil-rights-destroying Patriot Act Part Deux.)

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 69

Global warming – you know, on this one I’m not sure. My friend Tom Sheridan has just published a revised edition of his book Arizona: A History and he has a lot to say about it in there. I’m planning on reading it next week. In its first edition, it is a magisterial book and I expect the revision is even better

http://www.amazon.com/Arizona-History-Revised-Southwest-Center/dp/0816506930/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329001918&sr=1-1.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 73

I have not heard about Gabby being put under any undue pressure. She was always guided by her own conscience and I expect that if she wants to pursue this issue, she will.

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 68

Very Interesting! Some of us here at FDL have battled what we call trolls in the comments. They do their best to keep us from discussing and fleshing out topics and trying to get a grasp of how all these things affect us as a society.

Things like bank bailouts while people are still being thrown into the streets from foreclosure. Job losses while the “JOb Creators” can’t create a single corporation, and the like. I think you have discovered the illness of Americans.

billyc February 11th, 2012 at 3:16 pm

On the day of the shooting I spent hours on the net. Later, on the evening of the 8th, I visited Jesse Kelly’s website and got a screengrab of his homepage emblazoned with this headline: “Kelly places the crosshairs squarely on Rep. Giffords”. On Sun., the 9th, I revisited Kelly’s website and found that the page had been scrubbed and a notice of condolence had replaced the incendiary artifact from his campaign in 2010. My question: do you think the toxic political atmosphere that existed in Tucson in 2010 allowed a deranged person like Laughner to flourish like a hothouse flower?

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Tom,

Did you by chance get any quotes from McCain after the shootings when he wasn’t in front of a microphone?

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
In response to bmaz @ 71

Bmaz, I hope that proves to be the case. I agree this isn’t a “book ban” in the classic sense of the word, as nobody is hiding the books away, but they have indeed been expunged from the classroom as has the whole MAS program and it does amount to a form of censorship. TUSD was struggling under that law spurred into being by Tom Horne, which had nothing (in my view) but misinformation and hysteria at its core. I am hopeful the paranoia will disappate and the real history of Arizona, in all of its colorful complexity, might be taught in the open.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 78

Only time I have ever talked to John McCain was in a press scrum at Sky Harbor Airport many years ago. Though I was briefly a neighbor of his estate up near Sedona, having lived for a brief spell in a cabin above Oak Creek that looked down on his spread.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:21 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 79

Boy, do I second that.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:21 pm
In response to billyc @ 77

BillyC, that kind of dialougue didn’t cause this to happen, but I definitely think it was an aggravating factor and the vitriol provided an enabling context for something so awful to happen.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:22 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 73

Yeah, I agree with Tom; it is still a little early in her recovery to be placing those kind of burdens on her shoulders.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 80

Trust me, McCain ain’t all that pleasant to talk to; you have not missed anything.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Tom, in your book, you weave in and out of the history and ethos of Arizona, both good and bad. One of the areas you plumb is the, for lack of a better phrase, “rugged or militant individualism” aspect. How do you see that as influencing the events leading up to the shooting? What effects on this kind of statewide phenomenon (even more so up in the Kingman area) do you think the shooting may have in the longer term?

Tammany Tiger February 11th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 79

It doesn’t take more than a few wingnuts who have a big chunk of time on their hands are convinced they’re right. In our town, a Tea Partier (who unsuccessfully ran for school board last year) has turned the Michigan’s third-largest school district in knots over his crusade to ban two books, “Beloved” and “Waterland,” from an AP English course. Needless to say, he had read neither.

spocko February 11th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 70

Nice. I work with the Group, “Mayors Against Illegal Guns”
After the shooting they went to a gun show and bought the same glock and large clip (excuse me, magazine) that Loughner used. Our undercover guy bought them without a background check. THAT is a loophole that could and should be closed.

Following that I attempted to bring that Gun and those clips to the CPAC hotel to an event where NRA spokespeople were speaking and give them to them as a gift from the dead in Arizona and ask them when they are going to support the closing of gun show loopholes.

The people at the hotel, the security people and the DC police all begged me to not do this, even though I’m pretty sure I could get international coverage of the “stunt”.

Yet, Arizona names an “official state firearm” and tried to make it legal to carry guns into bars and onto college campuses.

One of the reasons that I didn’t follow through on my “stunt” was because I didn’t have the deep pockets and lawyer support to pull it off. I know how to create a story the media would love. I know how to push an narrative, but it is not something that people on our side are prepared to fund.

Tammany Tiger February 11th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to bmaz @ 84

I find it more than a bit baffling that even after seeing off a Tea Party challenger in the primary and winning re-election, McCain has continued to move to the right. I sense that he’s still bitter over having lost in 2008 to a younger man (of color, no less) who never served in the military.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

We have what I call a “man from nowhere” syndrome in which folks without much of a history in Arizona can come in and get a lot done in a hurry. This ranges from building up cities, to running for office to making a boatload of money. It is a positive attribute of America, but it highlights the way that Arizona can have a certain amnesia about our own heritage. Gabby’s opponent in 2010 was a 29-year-old former U.S. Marine vet who had one year of college, moved to AZ to help with his father’s business, never run for office or had any kind of civic involvement, said multiple foolish things (from any political perspective) and he came within a few thousand votes of beating her, though she was hardworking, competent and well-liked. Man from Nowhere.

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 89

What was so appealing to AZans about Giffords’ opponent, or so unappealing about her, that he came so close?

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 88

I actually liked a lot of what McCain had to say about the corrosive effect of money in politics and against the U.S as a torturing nation. What’s happened to him since running in 2004 is baffling.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 90

Gabby was portrayed as a tool of Nancy Pelosi and the president, who had become lightning rod figures. Arizona had been suffering economically, people were scared by the foreclosures and lack of jobs, and illegal immigrants were taking a huge amount of unfair blame. So were Democratic politicians like Gabby. It wasn’t that Kelly was so popular (he was a fresh-faced unknown) but people were hungering for a change.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 90

Big interest and excitement among the right wing, coupled with some money, and little excitement and motivation for Dems who as a party just horribly underworked and underperformed.

nonquixote February 11th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 92

See #66 above.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to spocko @ 87

I admire a lot of what Mayors Against Illegal Guns says and does and I hope they can be successful in their message of reasonable reform. Liking guns doesn’t mean you have to be completely unbalanced in demanding these grotesque explosions of availability and unbiquity of what is — at heart — a product for the quick snuffing of a human being.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to nonquixote @ 66

Agree with you about the loneliness. But I also think that easy availability of firearms makes what would have been a black eye or a stab wound into a mass killing. We should also have a society where such things are considered enormous aberrations instead of just another random tragedy. And I grew to get really tired of that word, “tragedy,” applied to what happened in Tucson, because it is a bland and sappy word. It implied a natural disaster or something that couldn’t have been prevented. This could have been prevented.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Oddly enough, the night before the shooting, I went over a couple of blocks from my home to check out and cover a high dollar fundraiser by corporate, finance and political bigwigs for then State Senate President Russell Pearce, the putative father of Arizona’s anti-immigrant/Hispanic SB1070 legislation. I took some pictures, scribbled some notes and got up the next morning to write on the insanity of such community leaders and businessmen getting in bed with such a vile and destructive thing. Within minutes of sitting down, first Twitter, and then TV reports started coming in from Tucson.

What did you find as to how this SB1070/anti-other mentality played into the mix that fostered the shooting and the seeming inability of the state to learn, grow and evolve in the aftermath?

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to bmaz @ 97

Definitely there was a lot of anger in the air in 2010 and 2011 that provided an aggravting context to the violence. While I don’t think the shooter gave SB 1070 a second thought, it certainly was another reason why Gabby’s name was all over the place as a convenient villan and scapegoat.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to bmaz @ 97

I am wondering what the U.S. Supreme Court is going to do with SB 1070 when it hears the case. Certainly there is an argument that federalist principles are being jeopardized, i.e. a state overlapping with federal enforcement. Even the originalists have to be turned off by that approach.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 98

Agree as to Loughner, but it sure strikes me that SB1070 and similar baloney out of the Legislature and Brewer have sure kept the waters roiled and dulled the good evolution that might have come from the shooting.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 99

I think it would pass muster with the Roberts Court if not for the federal preemption argument; I am cautiously optimistic they will follow Sue Bolton’s lead on that.

BevW February 11th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

How much of a “bump” in status did Brewer get for the finger in the President’s face?

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I noted you, in your book, hit on the effect of the dystopia created by the cookie cutter sprawling suburb tracts that were the calling card in the 60s and 70s growth period of John F. Long development – and I would say Del Webb too .Did people you engaged seem to have any understanding of how this kind of building fill was stripping Arizona of its natural character?

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to bmaz @ 100

This is not the pragmatic response that we have deserved from the leadership.

eCAHNomics February 11th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 99

This SCOTUS will do with what benefits the 0.1%ers. Sometimes that is difficult for those outside of that rarefied atmosphere to figure out, as the 0.1%ers are so far ahead of us in playing the ‘system.’

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to nonquixote @ 94

I think the media has intentionally left out the biggest story of our times. They deflect from the real economic situation and refuse to focus on the homeless camps and what people are doing that have fallen off the unemployment benefit rolls. The stress and what that brings to people that have been conditioned by our own politicians brings an entirely new dimension to America.

Remember, we have been taught all our lives that people that don’t work or that are extremely poor want to be that way because they are lazy and no good. Somebody has got to change the story line because what has happened is of no fault to these people.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to BevW @ 102

Might get her some additional national money, not sure it does much for her here though – she already had the crazy anti-Obama crowd.

spocko February 11th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 95

Thank you. One of the reasons that it has had some successes is that the “hardliners” in the leadership of the NRA don’t actually reflex the views of the majority of the members. Many of them also believe in reasonable reform. But the “don’t give an inch” views of the leadership leads to ridiculous things like enabling terrorists to purchase automatic weapons at gun shows.

I grew up in a hunting family and I understand the difference between urban and rural views on guns. My father was against easy access to handguns and just find with background checks. I was one block over from the 101 California Shooting in San Francisco. That kind of freaked me out.

I watched while the husband of one of the shooting victims brought his motherless toddler to the hearings in a backpack where they were working on changing the automatic weapons law. It was very hard for the people to attack him for doing that, (but many did anyway)
“How dare you bring your child to this hearing trying to ban automatic weapons!”
“Sorry I couldn’t find a babysitter. Her mother would normally watcher her, but she is dead because she was killed by a man with an automatic weapon.”

That is the kind of interactions I want to see more of with the people who still support loopholes of weapons and the people who are suffering the impact of their stubborn views.

Ironcomments February 11th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Jared Loughner is a terrorist plain and simple however this christian fascist nation doesn’t recognize the rule of law. This deranged individual used violence to promote some political agenda.
http://my.firedoglake.com/ironcomments/2011/01/12/why-are-we-afraid-to-call-jared-loughner-a-terrorist/

nonquixote February 11th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to Tom Zoellner @ 96

Thanks for noticing and for helping me clarify an angle to approach the reproachment of the legislators fully responsible for the pain inflicted in my neighborhood through their concealed carry BS and their capitulation to corporate profits without regard to consequence. I have your book on order at the local library. We fortunately still have those here.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:52 pm
In response to BevW @ 102

I think her book got a quick hit of interest. Not sure if the endearment she got from the Obama-haters was outpaced by the general embarrassment most of us felt at watching such a silly spectacle. Government isn’t supposed to be an episode of “Judge Judy.”

BevW February 11th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Tom, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, Arizona, and Congresswoman Giffords.

bmaz, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:
Tom’s website (TomZoellner.com) and his book

bmaz’s website (EmptyWheel.net)

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Michael Hastings / The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan; Hosted by Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

BevW February 11th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Talking about guns, DOD is naming a battleship(?) after Giffords now.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Oh, good grief; um, no.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to spocko @ 108

That is a really powerful story. Unfortunately it is all too easy to get shouted down on this issue.

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Tom, I join Bev in thanking you for taking the time to chat with us today.

Folks, as you can tell there are a lot of factors at play, and Tom has done the difficult job of trying to bring them together. It is really a great read, and I highly recommend one and all buy this book! And if you don’t buy it, find it in a library, you won’t be sorry.

Tom Zoellner February 11th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thanks, everyone, for this excellent book talk. Really appreciate the questions, and for those of you who haven’t yet visited Arizona, please do so. It really is a special place, despite the recent controversies. Check out my website, if you like. tomzoellner.com. And happy 100th birthday to Arizona! We turn 100 years old on Tuesday. May it be a good next century.

Tammany Tiger February 11th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thanks, Mr. Zoellner, for spending some time with us. I’m hoping to make the trip out to your state and take in some Cactus League baseball.

billyc February 11th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Tom, thank you for answering our questions. I haven’t read your book but plan on doing so because I’m still trying to figure out why AZ is such a haven for wingnuts.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, I thought I heard a reporter say on the day of the shooting that authorities on the UofA campus were investigating the trashing of the Mexican-American Studies Center from the night before. I know the trashing was not linked to Laughner but sheds more light on the highly volatile situation that existed in Tucson at the time of the shooting.

nonquixote February 11th, 2012 at 4:00 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 106

I do appreciate your concern. I have been aware of the effects of, “media,” for decades. Thanks so much to FDL for our guest and the discussion.

PeasantParty February 11th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Thanks again, Tom. I wish all the success possible with your book.

BMAZ! Good going!

Bev, you are one special person to host these for us every week.

Ironcomments February 11th, 2012 at 4:05 pm

So opposing points of view are now being moderated out of the comments section these days in fdl?

bgrothus February 11th, 2012 at 4:08 pm
In response to bmaz @ 71

That is fantastic, bmaz. Very good to hear. We have to understand who we are if we are going to get where we need to go.

bgrothus February 11th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

NM just passed the memorial against Citizens United in the Senate. Now it goes to the voters!

bmaz February 11th, 2012 at 4:14 pm
In response to bgrothus @ 124

New York and LA cities have done so as well, and some others. The more the better!!

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post