A Glock 19 with a 33-round magazine. Jared Loughner used this combination in the shooting rampage that killed six people and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Share Alike Some rights reserved by Cory Barnes.

Gun fantasies

Jared Loughner, the young man charged in the shooting rampage that wounded Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was considered so threatening and mentally unstable that his community college in Tucson banned him from campus. But this judgment did not in any way impede Loughner's ability to buy a Glock semiautomatic pistol and several rounds of ammunition to go with it.

The Tucson shootings should prompt calls for more thorough background checks on gun buyers. It should spark calls for reinstating the ban on military-style assault weapons, which Congress allowed to expire in 2004. It should prompt Congress to limit the purchase of semiautomatic weapons—which can rip off dozens of shots within seconds—to police departments and the military. (What game hunter or target shooter needs to own an attack weapon?)

But when it comes to guns, Americans do not live in a rational universe. In the face of yet another gun massacre, Americans seem to think that there is only one answer: more guns.

In Arizona and across the nation, the defense of gun ownership no longer has much to do with the old idea of protecting the rights of hunters and hobbyists. Defenders of gun rights now portray gun ownership as necessary for self-defense and for deterring shooters like Loughner.

Within days of the shooting, the Arizona Citizens Defense League prepared legislation that would require the state to offer firearms training to politicians and their staff. The philosophy behind that bill was summed up by Arizona state legislator Jack Harper: "When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim."

Yet the Tucson murders reveal the folly of that approach. The gun Loughner used enabled him to get off an estimated 31 shots in a matter of seconds. No matter how fast the response by an armed civilian, it would not have prevented that assault. Furthermore, the act of taking up arms is likely to increase the chaos and endanger innocent lives, as Joe Zamudio discovered. Zamudio was at the Tucson shopping mall when he heard gunfire. He grabbed hold of the gun in his pocket and was ready to shoot a man he saw holding a gun, only to realize—seconds before pulling the trigger—that the man had wrestled the gun away from the real shooter. Zamudio also hesitated because he feared that in drawing his gun he might be mistaken for a second gunman.

The notion that the good guys will gun down the bad guys is a dangerous fantasy. When everyone carries a firearm, we can be sure that a lot more innocent people are going to be victims.

The debate over gun-safety laws is notoriously strewn with contested statistics about what gun laws do and don't accomplish. But there is one set of statistics to which the gun lobby has never had a cogent response: the ones showing that the murder rate per 100,000 people is 5.3 in the U.S., but only 0.47 for Canada and 0.07 for the United Kingdom. Unless one assumes that Americans are just angrier and more violent than other people, something in U.S. society is out of whack. It has a lot to do with our attitude toward guns.

Join the Conversation

Comments

Guns

I wholeheartedly agree with you. I've often felt that giving more guns would create a wild west environment and that's not something I want to live in. Also, very few people will be able to prevent gun violence. In Tuscon, at least 1 or 2 people would have been shot before someone would or could have intervened. What I've heard from someone who owns a gun and goes to the shooting range, is that it's not that easy to hit a moving target. Is the average gun-toting citizen going to get the kind of training that would make them experts marksman? I doubt it.

well i understand you dont

well i understand you dont want a wild west, but every person should be allowed to carry a weapon. I am 18 i have been shooting since i was 4, i am prepared to take down any threat put against me i dont see any harm in that. if guns are made illegal then law abiding citizens of course will not carry guns, but just like drugs criminals will.

Perhaps you don't truly understand after all

I have no issue with a private citizen owning a shotgun or rifle to hunt for food. Although I don't wish to own a handgun, I can understand a private citizen owning a handgun to protect his home from criminals and provided they are licensed, have registered their weapon, have been trained to properly use that weapon, suffer from no mental disease or defect and are not felons, I can accept that.

What the issue is and has been is the lack of registration of weapons, lack of proper background checks, gun shows bypassing any and all background checks and private citizens stocking up on assault weapons with clips containing more than 10 rounds flooding the market. There is no need for a private citizen to have military type assault weapons or clips with more than 10 rounds for 1) hunting, 2) private property protection. Private citizens do not need a weapon with ammunition that will pierce the body of aircraft for hunting or protection.

The 2nd Amendment does not guarantee the right of every Tom, Dick, Harry & wackaloon to possess military weapons and states that weapons are for the use of the militia.

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.

Private citizens are NOT the Militia, we now have an organization called the National Guard which acts as the Militia.

Police & active military because their job is to serve & protect the rights of ALL Americans and are often in the role of defending the citizenry are the only ones authorized by the Constitution to carry military type assault weapons with extended clips.

Accountability

I feel we need to respect the opinions of the victims above all else here. But who put the gun his hand and the ideas in his head? I was compelled myself to create a visual commentary on my artist’s blog about the situation. Take a look and let me know how you feel too… http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/01/sarah-palin-made-me-do-it.html

guns don't kill people,

guns don't kill people, people kill people...please tell me the stats of automobile fatalities...oh whats that you won't stop driving your car?

Guns

Hooray to you for speaking honestly and with moral integrity. More and more small children are picking up guns on their parents book shelves and coffee tables, and killing themselves or their family members. More and more families have innocent squabbles that end in tragedy because of the temptation toward an impulsive act of anger. And then death. And terrifying grief and sadness. I applaud your sense of courage and decency in speaking to the issue without worry about political or spiritual correctness. Correctness in recent years has come more under the category of spiritual shallowness.

Guns don't kill people??

Of course, cars kill more people than guns! However, highways have speed limits. Car driving is regulated. Following the logic of "anonymous," we should have no speed limits on the highways, sell cars that can travel 150 mph to anyone who doesn't have a criminal record and allow them on the highway instead of the speed raceway, and allow driving while drunk. The NRA has tried to pass legislation to allow guns in bars and on college campuses. We should weep at this failure of logic and common sense. The NY Times recently ran a similar article by Egan noting that those states with the most guns have the highest rate of gun violence and deaths by guns.

"(What game hunter or target

"(What game hunter or target shooter needs to own an attack weapon?)"

What police officer or soldier needs an attack weapon? Last i checked, the job of our police officers and military were to protect and defend, not attack.

Actually ... America does

Actually ... America does have a violence problem, not a gun problem.

England, Australia, etc. both had gun laws like ours in the 20th century. And we know when they changed those laws. And there was no effect on the murder rate, and in fact both the murder rate and the homicide rate overall has gone up.

In our own country, D.C. and Chicago both had gun bans for decades. Did they become little islands of safety?

It's what's in the heart, not the hand, that makes a murderer.

Take a look here for more info:
http://stephenewright.com/fromthebluff/2010/12/30/australias-homicide-ra...

Join the Conversation via Facebook

To post a comment, log inregister, or use the Facebook comment box.