It’s about guns

My first reaction to the shooting of Representative Giffords and 19 others on Saturday was wrong.  I thought – “right-wing nut-job”.  As did a lot of other people.  While we were wrong, there is a reason that a lot of reasonable people speculated that it was someone from the right.  Over the past years we’ve had Sarah Palin’s “Crosshairs Map”, Sharon Angle’s “second amendment solutions”, the people who showed up at political rallies with guns strapped to their belts, not to say ” I have a right to a gun”, but ” I have a gun”.  None of these people were ever repudiated by their party or movement – they were celebrated.  One spectrum of our politics has consistently used violent imagery to get their point across.  We’ve lost our ability to rationally debate our differences, political rhetoric is overheated, and it seems like we can’t have a coherent conversation without resorting to name calling.  At the same time many on the left, myself included, jumped to conclusions about the assault.  We took to message boards to say “so and so has blood on their hands”, “this is your fault”, and on and on.  How dare we think of those who disagree with us a monsters and accomplices to a disturbed individual.  Because that’s who is at fault – a young man with problems, a failing mental health system, and an incoherent, state by state gun policy with loopholes big enough to drive a truck through.

Jared Loughner legally purchased his semi-automatic Glock.  The high ammunition clip that allowed him to shoot more bullets is legal (it wasn’t before the Congress allowed the Clinton-era Assault rifle ban to expire in 2004) and he bought it with no problem.  He was turned down at one Wal-Mart because of his behavior, but another clerk at another Wal-Mart sold him the ammunition that he needed.  All of it was legal.  All of it was above-board.  Which brings us to one questions: why?

Mr. Loughner had already been asked to leave Pima Community College for disturbing and aggressive behavior when he passed his background check and bought the Glock that would eventually kill 6 people.  The college was so concerned with Mr. Loughner as to require a mental health evaluation if he ever wanted to re-enroll in the school.  How did he pass the background check for the gun?  I’m sure that question will be answered over the next weeks and months.  Regardless of the answer, it’s time to admit that we have a problem with guns in this country.  They are too available and too deadly.  Jared Loughner isn’t the first to use a legally purchased weapon to murder multiple people and we won’t be the last, unless we reckon with the gun lobby and pass a few laws that have teeth.

We’ve never had a coherent gun policy in this country.  Anytime we try we get wrapped up in the “my right to a hunting rifle means you can’t restrict my right to an Uzi (also, the I have a right to let my 8-year-old fire said Uzi)” debate.  If we’re ever going to get there, we need to start now.  I’m not suggesting that we ban firearms completely.  The right to own guns is protected and was recently upheld by the Roberts Court.  The broad majority of gun owners are completely responsible people who happen to like guns or hunting or collecting.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t restrict the type of guns, who can own guns, etc.  We restrict free speech in certain ways – you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater materially support a terrorist group by advocating for them (which has got a certain group of neo-cons into hot water recently).  Free speech hardly ever kills anyone, but we still see fit to define the circumstance where something is not ok.  The Assault Rifle ban in the 90’s one such attempt at that – let’s bring it back and make it stronger.  Let’s continue what President Bush did after the Virginia Tech shooting and strengthen the NICS (background check system) even more.

But first, let’s treat guns like we treat cigarettes.  Cigarettes are legally, but we have decided that they are a social ill and have found fairly creative ways to discourage people from smoking.  We’ve raised, and continue to do so, taxes on individual packs.  It will cost you nearly $11 per pack in New York City, more than $2.25 in Washington State, and $8.00 in Connecticut.  It’s working – people have stopped smoking because they can no longer afford it.  Let’s jack up the taxes on guns and make sure the revenue goes back to local police departments and victims rights groups.  The message is – have your gun, just pay more for it.  In Seattle, you can’t smoke within 25 feet of any door.  That makes it hard to find a place to smoke in the city.  The FDA has also recently  required that packs of cigarettes carry graphic images of what smoking does to you.  Let’s do the same with guns – there’s plenty of space on the barrel, the handle, the clip.  Wherever there is free space, let’s put an image of what bullets and guns do.

We’re never going to stop nutters in this country from killing people.  But we can lessen their impact, reduce their options.  A smaller clip on Saturday would have meant fewer people shot.  A better background check may have meant no gun for Mr. Loughner.  We need to make sure that there are less firearms in circulation and need to make sure that background checks are as rigorous and demanding as possible.  Because the gun advocates are right – guns don’t kill people, people kill people – with guns.

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Comments
10 Responses to “It’s about guns”
  1. jonolan says:

    One – Both sides have used similar amounts and forms of “violent” imagery. Don’t bother trying to spin it into being a one-sided behavior. It’s too easy to debunk just by referring to your precious Obama’s rhetoric or Olbermann’s.

    Two – Loughner was able to legally purchase a firearm because he had never been declared legally incompetent. He’d never crossed over the line far enough to be involuntarily committed and had never voluntarily subjected himself to evaluation.

    It’s a case of innocent until proven guilty. You maintain all the rights and privileges of a sane person until such time as you are legally determined to be crazy and we have set standards for what you have to do to be involuntarily evaluated for insanity.

    But go ahead and try to ban firearms. All that will happen is that honest people will be forced to buy the protection they need illegally – and they’ll buy better and deadlier weapons at that point.

    Push it too far and you might be on the receiving end of a “2nd Amendment Solution” when the insurrections start.

    • Michael says:

      Nice of you to think that I’m a fan of Olbermann because I share some of the same beliefs that he does. Though I’m curious about what you’re referring to when you imply the President has used “violent” imagery. The revolutionary and violent imagery has been rather one sided as everyone has allowed our politics to become debased. But as I said this is not about politics, it’s about guns.

      I don’t want to ban all guns, simply restrict them. There’s no reason that someone needs an extended ammo clip or an Uzi or M-16. We should make firearms hard to obtain, they should be the most difficult item in the world to be approved for. Background checks should be far more thorough – and include a psychological examination. This will cost money, which is why we should raise the taxes on firearm and accessory purchases.

      What’s deadlier than a gun? Is there a black market for cannons that I’m not aware of?

      • jonolan says:

        Olbermann is just a Leftist pundit; that’s the only reason I included it.

        As for Obama’s violent rhetoric, some quotes from his jabbering maw:

        If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun because from what I understand folks in Philly like a good brawl.

        Get in Their Faces!

        I don’t want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry! I’m angry!

        It’s time to Fight for it

        Punish your enemies

        I’m itching for a fight

        All said to his supporters during the course of the last two years or so.

        As for your anti-American hatred of guns and your mind boggling ignorance, I won’t waste my time or breath commenting.

        Be assured though that, if your mindset catches on in Congress there’ll be a lot more deaths. I’ll personally make sure of that for the lasting good of my nation, which your sort of filth has no valid place within.

        • Michael says:

          And, you’ve made my point.

          Don’t agree with us and we’ll kill you, your beliefs are filth. Sounds so American.

          And, by the way, you’re right – it was wrong of Senator Obama to say what he said.

          • jonolan says:

            No; look like you might succeed in violating Americans’ constitutional rights and I’ll kill you.

            You can disagree with me all want. I’m only concerned when it get to the point that Americans’ rights are being violated by Liberals, though at that point I’m perfectly willing to end the problem of Liberals permanently.

            • Michael Kelly says:

              And they say our political rhetoric is overheated.

              Jonolan, Defender of Freedom, I am not seeking to violate your constitutional rights. Very few people are on this issue. What most people are seeking is to place reasonable restrictions on the right to own and operate firearms. This is something that we do from time to time. In the past 30 years we have prohibited the sale of fully automatic weapons, “cop-killer” bullets, plastic guns, extended magazines, and even rocket launchers. We have strengthened our background check system. Our duly elected representatives, and by extension the American people, have decided that certain instruments of death and terror should not be sold or used by a civilian population. This has been done by Republican (Reagan, W. Bush) and Democratic (Clinton) Presidents along with the Congress. It is simply not unconstitutional to put limits and restraints on rights.

              A thought experiment – if a Congress passes a constitutional amendment banning firearms with a 2/3 majority and 3/4 of the states approve said amendment, would that violate the constitution and require the murder of “liberals”? We would, after all, be taking away a right in that case.

              • jonolan says:

                You want to infringe upon my 2nd Amendments rights by truing to price firearms off the market, which is what you advocated.

                That has nothing to do with “reasonable” restrictions or better background checks.

                • Michael Kelly says:

                  You’re right. That is one of the things that I am advocating for. Along with better background checks and reasonable restrictions. The second amendment protects your right to own a firearm. That’s all. It doesn’t proscribe that guns must be reasonably priced. Making guns more expensive does nothing to infringe on your right to own one. It just makes it more expensive.

                  • jonolan says:

                    You’re very messed up in your thinking. Passing laws designed to make getting a firearm difficult and out of reach of many people is quite clearly an infringement of the underlying right.

  2. lacithedog says:

    Prior to the Heller-McDonald decisions, the law was that the Second Amendment applied to the Article I, Section 8, clauses 15 & 16 Militia. To quote Justice William O. Douglas from Adams v. Williams, , 407 U.S 143, 150 -51 (1972):

    The police problem is an acute one not because of the Fourth Amendment, but because of the ease with which anyone can acquire a pistol. A powerful lobby dins into the ears of our citizenry that these gun purchases are constitutional rights protected by the Second Amendment, which reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    There is under our decisions no reason why stiff state laws governing the purchase and possession of pistols may not be enacted. There is no reason why pistols may not be barred from anyone with a police record. There is no reason why a State may not require a purchaser of a pistol to pass a psychiatric test. There is no reason why all pistols should not be barred to everyone except the police.

    The leading case is United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, upholding a federal law making criminal the shipment in interstate commerce of a sawed-off shotgun. The law was upheld, there being no evidence that a sawed-off shotgun had “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.” Id., at 178. The Second Amendment, it was held, “must be interpreted and applied” with the view of maintaining a “militia.”

    “The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia – civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.” Id., at 178-179.

    Nevermind, once again a crazy has gone berzerk with a legally purchased firearms and nothing will be done about it.

    If the concept of gun rights were truly present in English Common law, wouldn’t there be similar lax laws in other common law jurisdictions?

    No, Look at Britain. Even more importantly, look at Australia after the Port Arthur Massacre!

    I Take Justice Douglas’s comment to be far more persuasive than the revisionist law which has come post Heller-McDonald (see the last line of Miller since that is the Justice Douglas who is mentioned).

    Seriously, nothing has been done since the Boomtown Rats wrote “I Don’t Like Mondays” and nothing will be done since people have misinterpreted the Second Amendment to make this behaviour acceptable.

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