Many bloggers have weighed in about the horrible attack in Tucson, Arizona that killed 6 people and wounded 19, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. A lot of the blame is being put on the Tea Party for creating a climate of violence in which, to some crazy people, such attacks appear justifiable.
But the perpetrator, one Jared Lee Loughner, appears to be a garden-variety American crazy: paranoid, alienated, and with schizophrenic tendencies. While there were political overtones in some of his writings and videos, I don’t see any smoking gun connecting him to the Tea Party; and there’s no evidence yet that he was motivated more by right-wing politics than simple lunacy.
While it does seem that this kind of violence is whipped up more by conservatives than liberals (viz. abortion-doctor killings), conservatives too can be the targets of gun-equipped crazies. (Remember John Hinkley, who tried to kill Ronald Reagan just to get the attention of Jodie Foster?) So before we start pinning all this on the Tea Party, let’s get the facts. I hate the Tea Party and their platform as much as anyone, and I despise their “let’s-get-them” rhetoric that uses the language of shooting and targets when referring to liberals. But they may not be much of a causal factor in this case.
What is ineluctably involved, however, is the availability of automatic weapons, one of which Loughlin used to gun down those 25 people.
There is no justification for allowing Americans to buy and use automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Indeed, I don’t see much justification for Americans to legally buy a firearm of any sort, save for target practice or hunting (and I have severe reservations about hunting for sport rather than food). Europe gets along fine without guns, and has many fewer murders. As the American Bar Association points out, “the rate of death from firearms in the United States is eight times higher than that in its economic counterparts in other parts of the world.”
Right-wingers, gun advocates, and the NRA use the Second Amendment as justification for Americans owning all sorts of guns, including automatic and semi-automatic weapons. And that’s the way the courts have interpreted it, too. That Amendment says this:
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.
Well, we have a militia now—it’s called the military. How can anyone, even an originalist, say that this Amendment justifies untrammeled access to weapons by everyone? It’s about a militia! And a “well-regulated” militia, not a bunch of unorganized Americans with rifles. And if you respond that without guns, ordinary Americans couldn’t overthrow the government and the military like our ancestors overthrew the British, well, I’ll take that risk.
It’s time for America to do what most of our counterparts do: ban guns or put them under the tightest of restrictions. We may not be able to get rid of crazies, but we can get rid of guns.
There are two embarrassing ways that America differs from what the ABA calls “our economic counterparts” in the rest of the world: we are way more religious, and we have way more guns. The combination, of course, is toxic.
As the old folk song goes, “When will they ever learn?”