Saving Ears, Not People: Seven Cases in Which Mass Shooters, Including Jared Loughner, Used Ear Protection


Jared Lee Loughner is just one of many mass shooters in recent history who worried more about damaging his hearing than slaughtering innocent people.

Video surveillance footage reportedly shows that Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner had inserted ear plugs before opening fire with his Glock and shooting 20 people.

The irony is appalling -- an apparent trade-off between a few seconds of pain in the ears for the shooter and the ultimate nightmare for his victims.

Loughner may have planned to kill himself after the mass shooting, either by saving a round for his own skull or going down in a hail of police bullets. If so, it's unfathomable why he'd feel the need for ear protection. Maybe he thought preserving his hearing would allow him to carry out his maniacal mission more effectively. Or maybe this is just another sign that he'd gone completely bonkers.

Here are a few other infamous cases in which the perpetrators of massacres brought along ear protection: 

* On December 1, 1997, 14-year-old Michael Carneal arrived at his school, Heath High in West Paducah, Kentucky, inserted ear plugs and opened fire on classmates, killing three.

* Michael McLendon, 28, didn't like some his co-workers at an Alabama poultry plant. He had a list with names, including that of a co-worker who'd reported him for not wearing ear protection at work, as required. When he went on a killing spree in March of 2009, slaying five relatives and five innocent bystanders, he wore ear plugs.

* Workplace shooter Timothy Hendron, 51, wore ear plugs while shooting more than 100 rounds from two handguns, a shotgun and a rifle. Three people were killed.

* In 1988, a reverend at a Baptist church in Emporia, Kansas saw a man enter the church wearing what appeared to be "bright orange earmuffs." When he heard gunfire ring out, he realized the ear muffs were the sort of ear protectors commonly used at gun ranges. One person was killed and four others injured.

* The Beltway snipers. In a Chevrolet Caprice modified for sniper shooting, authorities found a range of items -- including ear plugs.

* Lisa Duy, on our list last week of 10 mentally ill mass shooters, put in ear protection before entering the lobby of a television studio, killing a woman and wounding a security guard.


They may be plagued by their consciences, but not tinnitus.



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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.