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With Loughner, Time to Talk Parental Responsibility

I’ve read everything that has been published so far on Jared Loughner. His parents remain silent. I’m certain their agony at this point is excruciating. But America will do herself no favor by failing to ask the tough questions about the role this family’s moral or religious bearings played in this senseless tragedy.

Loughner was still living at home under his parents’ roof. While still a minor, he was drinking alcohol excessively and dangerously. He was using hallucinogenic substances. He dropped out of school. He purchased a gun that sells for $400-500, yet he had no job. He had access to an automobile that he did not pay for himself. He constructed an occultist shrine in his own backyard. He listened to violent, blaring music with immoral and hateful lyrics.

There isn’t an item in this long list that would not raise the hairs on the back of a good parent’s neck and prompt him to action on his child’s behalf.

Even the most casually observant parents could not have possibly failed to see these aspects of their son’s life. Most of the parents I’ve known would have been prompted to stringent action to save a son clearly close to an abyss.

Jared’s parents could have buried their heads in the sand and not seen some of these signs. But Pima Community College officials personally talked to Jared’s parents last fall, letting them know in no uncertain terms that there were grave problems with Jared’s mental health. The know-nothing, see-nothing excuse evaporated completely at that point.

It's not as if parents don't have many tools at their disposal.

Jared’s mother worked for Pima County, which I am certain provided excellent medical insurance. Mental health professionals are covered by all comprehensive insurance plans. Why was Jared not immediately taken for evaluation and help the minute he showed up at his public school intoxicated -- while still a minor child? Why was Jared allowed to stay under his parents’ roof without being forced into a drug counseling program? While Jared was still a minor, he could have been forced into a residential mental health facility.

Why was Jared allowed to conceal illegal drugs in his possession? Responsible parents routinely search the belongings of untrustworthy minors. Responsible parents will even get police help if they are unable to control a minor child.

Why was Jared given the money he needed to continue his destructive behaviors? Apparently, Jared not only obtained the money to buy his gun, but also enough expensive ammunition to do frequent desert target practice with friends. Why was a drug-using, alcohol-abusing, sick teen given enough extra money to destroy himself -- and eventually others?

These are the tough questions that will inevitably haunt Jared’s parents -- probably for the rest of their lives. If Mr. and Mrs. Loughner are doing real introspection at this point, then perhaps good will eventually come of this heinous tragedy. They might, at some point in the future, become spokespeople for a new call to parental responsibility.

Until such a time as this society decides to hold those truly culpable to account, we should expect a growing trend of tragedy at the hands of out of control youth with access to cash, cars, drugs, and weapons -- all purchased indirectly by their own parents.

Some of these youths will be found mentally ill.  Some will simply have gone unhindered to the dark side.  To their victims, none of it will matter.