I have been asked by readers to write something about the murders and the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) that occurred in Tucson last weekend. I have been thinking long and hard on this subject. What do I say? This tragedy needs more political rhetoric like Australia needs more rain. What could I possibly add that hasn’t been hashed, rehashed, and hash-tagged already? My heart is heavy, and I altruistically ache for the families and loved ones of the victims. I pray for the survivors that their recovery includes an eventual emotional peace as well as a physical wholeness.
I admit my first reaction, upon hearing of the lives lost and the attempt on Congresswoman Giffords’ life, was to blame the scorching political climate of Arizona. The targeted talking points of her mid-term Tea Party opponent came rushing back to mind. Sarah Palin set her sites on that district releasing a firestorm of warring ideology. Vandalism, death threats, and a vocalized, personal unease from the Congresswoman were the result. These are just the facts, but absent from the facts are any direct correlation between the ugly commentary and the events that occurred outside the Tucson Safeway. There is no irrefutable evidence that Jared Laughner went rogue over Palin’s prose. There is no Glenn Beck blackboard in the basement. There is no hard indication that the shooter’s rush came from the radio. Until the alleged gunman begins to speak, whatever was brewing beneath this boy’s surface is speculation. So far, it just is what it is…another tragic mass killing from gun violence by a disturbed individual.
I can tell you as one living in the geographic as well as figurative shadow of Columbine, the “why” is something continually pondered. Was it heavy metal music as was suggested? Was it the daily bullying by those with a socially louder voice? Was it their disengaged parents? Was it a mental illness, a marginalized, goth lifestyle, or just simply good versus evil? Going on twelve years past, the questions are still being posed. But there is another one…was the ease upon which these individuals purchased their weapons of mass destruction a factor? That question has been answered, yes.
Now before you start revving up the “just another anti-gun Liberal” machine, let me just say that I am a gun owner. I grew up in a hunting family, and though the thought of Bambi on my wall makes me nauseous, I can eradicate clay target pigeons with the best of them. I am not afraid of guns, but I do respect the power they possess. That being said, I have no problem with stricter control on firearms. For those who confuse gun control with a loss of personal freedom, I have to ask, what is the difference between this and the Patriot Act? Staunch defenders of the post 9/11 legislation’s bending of First Amendment liberties, extoll themselves as having “nothing to hide”. Well, my feelings exactly as it pertains to the Second Amendment. I have nothing to hide; hold my purchase a few days until a background check is complete.
There has got to be some sensible discourse in this country to curb the violent potential of being the most highly armed country in the world (90+ guns per 100 people) with the least amount of sensible civilian regulation. And with that, I’m not so sure I mean Rep. Pete King’s (R-NY) proposed legislation to protect legislators and federal officials from pistol packing constituents. What about the rest of us Mr. King? We can pass laws protecting the public from the health dangers of sinister circles of second-hand smoke, but we can’t do much about the dangers of flying lead. Oh, Mr. King, perhaps it’s my cynicism toward the good will intentions of your gesture, but had you introduced that bill after the news reports showcasing protesters with thigh holsters housing semi-automatic weapons near an Obama speech, I would have more faith in the selflessness of your Act.
I know, this is America, and we love our guns as much as we love our muscle cars and the King James version of a good book, but even the western frontiersman, Wyatt Earp, believed in some semblance of gun control in the form of firearm ordinances. Let’s face it, Tombstone, AZ didn’t get its name because it favored cheap, frozen pizza. It is not my desire to debate the Second Amendment, and quite frankly, in this political climate, it wouldn’t be a productive process anyway. What I would like to do, is open a dialogue of possible, responsible, first-step solutions to what most of us can agree is a problem, the extended magazine of 30+ rounds for handguns. Until allowed to expire in 2004, high capacity clips such as the one used in Tucson, killing six and injuring dozens, were banned in the Assault Weapons Act of 1994. It would be a fool’s folly to debate another weapons ban, but I believe this particular aspect can and should be revisited in the name of public safety. It’s been done before.
In the 1980’s the populous of the “me generation” found time to think outside the DeLorean long enough to demand federal legislation banning body armor penetrating, “cop killer” bullets. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill in 1986, and in doing so said, “This bill, similar to legislation jointly submitted to the Congress by the Departments of Justice and the Treasury in 1984, recognizes that certain forms of ammunition have no legitimate sporting, recreational, or self-defense use and thus should be prohibited. Such action is long overdue.”
We may never know what pushed Laughner over the edge last Saturday morning. Troubled minds tell tall tales. Influence and motivations aside, here is our collective opportunity to do better…be better. Whether it’s citizens and politicos working together at such events as Government at the Grocery, Congress on Your Corner, or hell, Politics on My Patio, rational political discourse for the common good is possible. We, the people, yes, the collective “we”, can promote the general welfare of our nation and secure the blessing of all our liberties as long as we leave the ideological and pontificating theatrics where they belong…reality TV.