A deadly shooting in Arizona last year had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with mental illness.
The deranged gunman who killed six people and wounded 13 at an Arizona shopping mall in January 2011 pleaded guilty this week and accepted a sentence of life in prison.
It seems like a long time ago that 23-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, whose severe mental illness was obvious to all who saw him, performed his evil deed and, in the process, provoked a national debate about the need for civility in our political discourse.
Many people have probably forgotten about him, perhaps because Loughner's mad act had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with his mentally deluded view of the world.
The Loughner case took on a political tone because one of his victims was U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Loughner showed up at one of Giffords' meet-and-greet sessions and started shooting. Before the smoke had cleared, various pundits and politicians were charging that Loughner's action was the result of overheated political rhetoric aimed by Republicans at Democrats.
There wasn't much evidence for that charge at the time it was made. Subsequent review of what happened and Loughner's personal and medical history, including his obsession with Giffords based on some perceived slight by her against him, revealed no evidence to support it.
Loughner, it turned out, was just another schizophrenic mad man who was not in touch with reality. He will need treatment the rest of his life just to keep him mentally fit. That's not as juicy an explanation of his conduct as the original political hysteria. But that's the way it turned out.