On the last day of November, Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old who apparently has psychological problems, walked into a Tucson Sportsman's Warehouse, and in passing a federal instant background check purchased a Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun.
On Sunday, January 9, 2011, following his arrest as a suspect in a Saturday morning shooting rampage at a political event being held outside of a Tucson Safeway store, Loughner was charged of using that Glock in an attempted assassination of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the murders of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, U.S. District Judge John Roll, Gabriel Zimmerman, Dorothy Morris, Dorwin Stoddard, and Phyllis Schneck, as well as the attempted murder of thirteen others.
It didn’t take very long for politicians, the news media and their pundits, to tie this atrocity to overheated political discourse, the hateful, fear-mongering vitriolic and militaristic language of many on the right, but the same charge could be made of those of any political persuasion. Of course, there are those who deny that there is a problem, or claim that Loughner’s actions were not politically motivated, or why is everyone getting bent out of shape over this when Loughner was simply a deranged individual. Each making their assertions with an assertiveness as if their view was the only reasonably possible view.
The fact is that incivility, cruel and hateful language, in not only politics but also inculcated in American society, as well as our obsession with guns and violence defines America. The evidence is in the entertainment and programming that garners the most ratings, the violent games Americans participate in, the radio and television talk shows who spew hateful, inflammatory language and falsehoods that America salivates over, and our insatiable love of war. If one was to take a moment to consider it, I am certain they could come up with much more evidence, some of that evidence as close as in one’s own family.
Although, we may never know with certainty that this Arizona bloodbath was politically connected, inadequate gun legislation is clearly front and center in this tragedy.
On the Monday following the shooting, Arizona’s one-day handgun sales jumped 60 percent over last year. Although gun sales increased countrywide, Arizona had the second-largest increase of any state in the country, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data.
Arizona is a state where gun laws are among the most lenient. A law enacted last year allows gun owners to conceal and carry without a permit. Except for businesses, some restaurants are permitted to conceal and carry weapons, and guns are allowed in the state Capitol and public buildings. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shows that “Arizona is an exporter of guns that are seized in crimes.”
Moreover, since it’s not difficult to purchase any gun in Arizona, or in any of the southern-border states, it’s difficult to stop gunrunners from acquiring guns and taking them across the border. Acquisition of guns from United States gun dealers are tied directly to Mexico’s drug violence.
The shooting rampage in Arizona is a manifestation of America’s obvious gun control problem, and that with a seemingly lack of respect and compassion for others is an indication of a serious moral decline in our society.
Unfortunately, in a free and open society, cruel vitriol, gun ownership, and mentally impaired or even dangerously deranged citizens’ constitutional protections are not limited. But, the fact is that we cannot be completely free. Universally, we are not free to scream “fire” in a crowded theater – it has been ruled extremely and imminently dangerous -- and neither should Americans be free to voice threats of violence, defame anyone, or own a gun without controls on its use, for these actions too are imminently dangerous. And, after all, what legitimate purpose would anyone outside of the military have for ownership of a Glock 19?
Steve Almond, Surely Some Revelation Is at Hand, The Rumpus
Jared Lee Loughner, Wikipedia
Amy Goodman, A Tale of Two Sheriffs, TruthDig.com
Drew Armstrong and Justin Blum, Arizona Shooting Suspect Wrote `Die Bitch' on Giffords Letter, Police Say, Bloomberg News
Michael Riley, Glock Pistol Sales Jump in Aftermath of Arizona Shootings Amid Ban Concern, Bloomberg News
James V. Grimaldi and Fredrick Kunkle, Gun used in Tucson was purchased legally; Arizona laws among most lax in nation, The Washington Post
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' statement on the U.S. Supreme Court D.C. Gun ban decision, Giffords.House.gov
James Grimaldi, The Hidden Life of Guns, The Washington Post
Eugene Robinson, Gun Crazy, TruthDig.com