— “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Arizona is the freest gun state in the union.
Its residents are free to kill, maim and injure. They are free to carry a loaded gun into a bar. They are free to stroll about with a concealed weapon without a permit.
Arizona is so free of gun controls that a mentally deranged man can buy a Glock 19 pistol with a 33-bullet cartridge. With it a madman can kill six people and wound 13 others in 30 seconds.
The nation has 310 million people, almost none of whom is a mass killer. But one Arizonian is: Jared Loughner.
He was emotionally disturbed, delusional, schizophrenic, paranoid and psychotic.
Loughner often said to a friend: “Do you see that blue tree over there?” Or, he would see the sky as orange or the grass as blue.
He once declared to his community college professor that the number 6 should be 18.
Yet in a great irony, Arizona continues to demolish its mental health care system that has long been underfinanced. (Mental health has little constituency in Arizona.) The state has cut a total of $2 billion in mental health funds during the past three budgets.
Nevertheless, don’t blame the recent Tucson slaughter on supercharged political rhetoric. Put the blame on horribly lax gun laws.
In 1994 Congress passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban barring automatic weapons such as the Glock pistol that Loughner used.
Unfortunately the law expired six years ago at the behest of the National Rifle Association. It should immediately be re-enacted.
Loughner easily bought the gun at a sporting goods store. The background check? Laughable. Just felons, people under a restraining order or those deemed a danger to themselves and others were denied the gun.
On the other hand, it’s hard to get even the mildest and most sensible gun laws past a Supreme Court mired in thinking that justifies colonial militias.
Certainly political rhetoric has gone too far with “Second Amendment remedies” and website maps showing congressional districts in gunsight crosshairs.
Congresswoman Gifford’s opponent in the 2010 election held a campaign event in which voters were invited to shoot an automatic M-16 to symbolize his disdain for her campaign.
The bigotry and hatred of Arizona laws banning Latino studies programs advocating ethnic solidarity are unconscionable. Talk shows enflame this gross discrimination.
President Obama, on the contrary, seeks lowered rhetoric. He is a brilliant speechmaker, full of sensitivity and compassion for the innocents who lost their lives in Tucson. He soothed the nation after such an atrocity.
He spoke movingly of Christina Green, a 9-year-old girl who was slain at the meet-and-greet session with Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was severely wounded in the assault.
It was heartbreaking when Obama spoke of the wish for the little girl to have “a child’s life,” the hope that she “jumps in rain puddles.”
But as always it is solutions, not soothing words, that count. Obama said nothing about lax laws in this gun-crazed nation.
America has 30,000 gun deaths annually. Its citizens have 300 million firearms. One out of four Americans has at least one gun. One million Americans have been killed with guns since 1968.
Columbine, Oklahoma City, Virginia Poly, Northern Illinois, Tucson. The gun slaughters mount.
Despite the Tucson horror, Glock sales soared after Loughner went on his rampage. Gun and amunition sales spiked. Gun shows were packed. One congressman proposed legislation to allow representatives to carry guns in the Capitol.
Surely it’s not asking too much to ban the use of automatc pistols by everyone except law enforcement agencies. It is not depriving people of the right to bear arms to outlaw weapons of mass killings and woundings.
The time has long passed for Congress to stand up to the NRA, the all-powerful gun lobby. It is time Congress showed some profiles in courage.
The New York Times rightly assailed the NRA: it “is striving for new heights of lunacy by campaigning to legalize the possession of guns in schools, parks, offices, churches — and even by teenagers.”
The NRA bears much of the blame for mayhem in America.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.