I’m on record as thinking that it’s inappropriate to blame Sarah Palin or any other source of fiery political rhetoric for the horrific shooting that took place in Tucson on Saturday. I said it in real time as facts were coming to light; I said it on Twitter.
There are any number of reasons why psychos like Jared Lee Loughner try to kill people. I don’t think political rhetoric is a useful reason to focus on. The long view of history shows that crazy people will twist any number of words into an excuse for violence.
You can’t talk to crazy. You can’t reason with crazy. You can’t know what crazy will do to your words. I mean, people have used the words of Jesus Christ (a hippie pacifist who hung out with prostitutes and lepers) as a call to violence, bigotry, and hate. If Jesus can’t craft an ironclad message that defies misinterpretation, how can we say that Sarah Palin somehow created a culture of violence? Sorry, but I refuse to live in a world where the rhetorical skills of Sarah Palin explain anything.
Instead, I’d like to blame a much more obvious culprit…
As one politician said on the Sunday morning talk shows (I’m forgetting which one), ascribing a coherent political philosophy to Jared Lee Loughner is undoubtedly giving him too much credit. The dude was crazy, and every little detail we’ve learned about him since Saturday supports the notion that he was an unstable lunatic.
So can somebody please tell me why he had a gun? Because if you are honestly going to sit there and tell me that the Second Amendment somehow means that we have to live in a society where people like Jared Lee Loughner are allowed to be armed with semiautomatic concealed weapons and extended bullet clips, then we need to seriously consider changing the Death Amendment and abridging the ability of some citizens to access hot lead.
Nobody should lose sight of the fact that Loughner legally purchased the gun he used. From the Daily News:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced the 9-mm. Glock, serial number PWL 699, to a Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson and confirmed – by store video and receipts – that Loughner bought it on Nov. 30.
Loughner passed an instant background check despite a drug arrest and history of erratic behavior. And thanks to a new law signed by Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, whose state has some of the loosest gun laws, Loughner was able to conceal it and carry it without a permit.
A national assault weapons ban that was signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994 would have blocked the sale of the 31-round extended magazine the feds say Loughner used in the semiautomatic weapon. Republicans let the ban expire in 2004.
That. Is. Insane. It’s insane that one could purchase a semiautomatic weapon with a 31-round magazine and conceal it even if the purchase was purely for hunting; no animal on the planet is that dangerous. It’s insane to think that some people believe these shootings could have been prevented if somebody else had a 9mm semiautomatic so they could have engaged in a freaking shoot-out with Loughner at a crowded supermarket. Stray bullets kill people just as dead as shots on target. Remember, the shooting didn’t stop until a lady grabbed Loughner’s bullets. What a thought! Deprive him of bullets and he can’t keep shooting people!
It’s insane that in the immediate aftermath of this, there are some politicians still defending our gun laws. From the Huffington Post:
Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) weighed in on Saturday’s tragic Tucson, Ariz. shooting over the weekend, saying that the actions of alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner reflect on Loughner, not on U.S. gun laws.
Paul was quick to condemn the act of violence and to offer his prayers and thoughts for the shooting victims during a “Fox News Sunday” interview. That said, he argued, the shooting was an outlier that does not necessarily reflect systemic regulatory problems.
“It’s probably about a very sick individual and what should have been done for that person,” he said. “But the weapons don’t kill people. It’s the individual that killed these people.”
Weapon – noun:
1. any instrument or device for use in attack or defense in combat, fighting, or war, as a sword, rifle, or cannon.
2. anything used against an opponent, adversary, or victim: the deadly weapon of satire.
3. Zoology . any part or organ serving for attack or defense, as claws, horns, teeth, or stings.
Please tell me what the hell Rand Paul is talking about. The whole point of “weapons” is to cause harm. Some weapons can harm to the death. THAT IS THEIR PURPOSE. Without weapons, Loughner would have been reduced to smacking his gums against the Congresswoman’s ankle.
So okay, we have to give Loughner a few weapons. He gets to keep his teeth and I guess his hands and feet, which also allows him to hold pens and probably sticks and rocks. He could have killed somebody with any of these “weapons.” But Loughner killed or injured 19 people. He’s not doing that with a stick. And he’s probably not doing that with an ax or a sword. It’s not like lightsabers exist, people. While we may not be able to stop one person from killing another, how many people they kill at one sitting is something that seems entirely up to us.
And at previous times in our history, we’ve been much more aware of the killing potential of firearms. Not just in the wussy, liberal north, but even in the “wild” west. From Politico:
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, during a press conference about the Tucson shootings, called Arizona “the Tombstone of the United States.”…
The irony of Dupnik’s remark is that Tombstone lawmakers in the 1880s did more to combat gun violence than the Arizona government does today.
For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.
In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits. The Earps (who were Republicans) and Doc Holliday maintained that they were acting as law officers—not citizen vigilantes—when they shot their opponents. That is to say, they were sworn officers whose jobs included enforcement of Tombstone’s gun laws.
But you can’t even make the argument that Tombstone had tougher gun laws without gun nuts lining up to defend their right to bear arms. Even the Supreme Court, citing the Second Amendment, has articulated a very limited view as to what the government can do to curtail the public’s access to guns.
So I’m going to say something that I haven’t heard for a long time, even from the left: maybe the Second Amendment is wrong. Maybe it hasn’t “lived,” and maybe it doesn’t need to be interpreted differently given our modern sensibilities. Maybe it’s just straight-out wrong. The Founders got a lot of things right, but maybe the whole “well-armed militia” thing was an overreaction to the bloody war for independence they had all just fought. Maybe a citizenry with easy access to firearms does more harm than good to our political discourse.
Heck, it wouldn’t be the first thing that the Constitution got wrong. Trying asking a woman or a black person whether or not that document was perfect when it was first ratified. Or hell, just ask anybody who likes voting for their United States Senator if the Founders worked out all the kinks on their first try.
If we can’t live in a world where we have a Second Amendment and the ability to stop people like Jared Loughner from getting his hands on a firearm, then maybe we need to live in a world without the Second Amendment. I’ll take my chances with federal government rolling tanks into my neighborhood without having a well-armed militia to save me. In exchange, I’d just like to live in a world where I could go to a supermarket or a school or a political rally without fear that somebody is going to shoot up the place with weapons they legally obtained thanks to a right that made sense to people in the 1700s.
UPDATE: As if we needed any more proof that our current regime of gun laws makes absolutely no sense, check out this tidbit in the Wall Street Journal:
Arizona shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner was turned away from a Walmart store when he tried to buy ammunition, but was sold the bullets at another Walmart nearby, hours before the rampage, according to people familiar with the matter.
Screw getting some kind of government procedure in place that would prevent deranged people from having legal access to deadly weapons and bullets, we can’t even get one Walmart to talk to another. Where are our priorities? If a person’s credit card gets denied, that information is passed at light speed to every Walmart in the country. But we have no procedure in place to deal with the purchase of bullets?
Mayor Bloomberg slams lax laws that helped Arizona killer Jared Lee Loughner get firearm [New York Daily News]
Rand Paul: ‘Weapons Don’t Kill People,’ Individuals Do [Huffington Post]
Even Tombstone had gun laws [Politico]
Suspect Bought Bullets Hours Before Rampage [Wall Street Journal]