A friend of mine on Facebook, when reading one of my posts about the tragic shooting in Arizona, said this: "More than zero is too many". Yes indeed. More than zero gun deaths is too many. It's only January 9, 2011 and we've already had one school shooting resulting in 2 deaths and 1 injured and a horrific mass shooting of a U.S. Congresswoman killing 6 and wounding another 14. Those are only the high profile shootings. On average 32 people a day are murdered by bullets. This one got more attention, of course, because it was an attempted assassination of a Congresswoman.
In reflecting on the events of yesterday, a few things stand out in my mind. I can't get over that Representative Giffords made mention during the 2010 campaign of Sarah Palin's web page that listed 20 Democrats to "go after" with a big gun site over the names. Giffords said that when people do that, there are consequences. Tellingly, Palin took down this web page after the shootings. Why? She had to have understood that her posting of candidates in the cross hairs of a gun scope would be an issue. Some of the comments made by gun rights activists seem to be trying to distract from what the conversation should be about. A couple people made comments on this Huffington Post article by Brady President Paul Helmke. They were ridiculing people for not knowing the exact type of gun used by the shooter. That is not the point here. Picking on details like this to detract from the real issue is disconcerting and disingenuous.
We've spent too many aftermaths of mass shootings in this country in denial, refusing to call attention to the obvious elephant in the room. Guns. And then we go on to the next event or news item that captures our fancy and we forget how we felt when we learned that another mass shooting happened in the U.S. This time, because it affected a sitting Congresswoman, I have hopes that it will be different. All in Congress now feel vulnerable and shaken by the senseless and surprise shooting of their colleague.
Will we keep our heads in the sand and ignore what just happened letting the NRA continue its' fairy tale that more guns make us safer? Let's hope not. This article highlights how rare it is in our history as a nation for sitting members of Congress to be the targets of shooters. Only 5 have died so far. That is why this incident is so unsettling for Americans. There is much more to be said and much more information to come as we digest what happened yesterday in Tucson. The House of Representatives has cancelled most of its' business for next week in order to deal with the implications of this event and to take heed of the obvious safety issues surrounding all of them now. Today I attended an event to interview local legislators about issues before them. To a person, they all mentioned how vulnerable and nervous yesterday's shooting made them. How sad.
The young man who perpetrated this awful carnage appears to have a lot of problems with mental health, drugs and anger. We will continue to learn more about this. How does someone like this get his guns? He could have walked into a gun show in Arizona and easily bought it without a background check. But unless he was adjudicated mentally ill, his name would not appear on a prohibited purchasers list on the NICS system checked by federally licensed firearms dealers. Now we know, however, that the guns were purchased legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer.
What we also know about the gun and the ammunition is that Jared Loughner had 2 ammunition clips each holding more than 30 rounds. He was attempting to load the second clip when he was tackled by some people at the scene. A witness thought it only took about 10 seconds to shoot off the first round. It needs to be said here that if the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 had not been allowed to lapse in 2004, this type of high capacity ammunition clip would not have been legal to import or sell in gun stores. That would have made it more difficult for Loughner to get his hands on these clips. In addition, had he had the traditional clip with fewer rounds it would have been more difficult to shoot as many people as he did. So one logical conclusion to make here is that there actually was a good reason for that pesky assault weapons ban that the gun lobby hated and did everything in their power see that it lapsed. Score one point for the NRA, zero for the victims.
As to Arizona gun laws, people who carry guns don't need a permit to do so. How would anyone know the difference between someone who has evil intentions with that gun and someone who doesn't? Without having to go through a background check to carry a loaded gun in public means that anyone can carry a loaded gun in public. Score 2 for the NRA and 0 for the victims.
Could a law have stopped this man from getting his gun? Maybe. Maybe not. I have said before, however, that we have a culture in the U.S peculiar to our country. We have the second amendment which people hold sacred leading to a culture where we have almost as many guns as we have citizens in our country. This is just not the case in other countries. If more guns make us safer, we need to ask why it isn't working out that way. We have the greatest rate of gun deaths per 100,000 over other civilized countries not at war(current figures hard to find). It requires leaving of our senses and our common sense to believe that more guns have made us safer. How did the gun lobby get so many people to believe this? They are very clever. They are powerful. They use fear. They are well funded and they fund well. They are the NRA.
We don't know yet what motivated Jared Loughner to shoot yesterday. But much has been said about the atmosphere of violent talk and actions that were amplified during the Health Care debate of last year. In Arizona, Immigration has caused a lot of tension and over the top rhetoric. Gabrielle Gifford's opponent, Jesse Kelly, in the heated campaign last fall posted an ad in the campaign inviting supporters to join him to: ""shoot a fully automatic M16" to "get on target for victory" and "remove Gabrielle Giffords from office." There have been violent times in our country around difficult political issues such as Civil Rights, the war in Vietnam and others. It has come from both sides of the spectrum. There is no excuse for it whenever or whoever engages in it.
Eventually the truth will be told. Eventually we will have the conversation about guns and violence that the country deserves to have. Eventually our politicians will have to face what just happened head on. Eventually common sense will make the rules instead of the "guys with the guns", as Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the NRA made famous. More than zero gun deaths are too many. This is a national tragedy that has shaken us all. Certain of us who know what it's like to have a loved one shot to death or injured watched with sadness in our hearts knowing what the families and loved ones of those killed and injured have in their futures. Yesterday was a bad day for us- too many memories.
Most especially, the family of Jim Brady, who was shot in the head in the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan knows the pain and suffering ahead for the victims. Jim and his wife Sarah have been active in the cause of preventing gun injuries and death. Here are their words in a press about yesterday's shooting. The statement ends with this:"
Welcome to Common Gunsense
I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.