First you rile up psychotics with inflammatory language about tyranny, betrayal, and taking back the country. Then you make easy for them to get guns. But if you really want trouble, you should also make it hard for them to get treatment for mental illness. I don’t know if Loughner had health insurance, but he falls into a pool of people who often go uninsured—not young enough to be covered by parents (until the health-care bill’s coverage of twentysomethings kicked in a few months ago), not old enough for Medicare, not poor enough for Medicaid. If such a person happens to have a history of mental illness, he will be effectively uninsurable. To get treatment, he actually has to commit a crime. If Republicans succeed in repealing the Obama health care bill, that’s how it will remain.
Again, none of this says that Tea Party caused the Tucson tragedy, only that its politics increased the odds of something like it happening. It was in criticizing writers on his own side for their naivete about communism that George Orwell wrote, “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.” Today it is the right that amuses itself with violent chat and proclaims an injured innocence when its flammable words blow up.