The Freak Show: Arizona, Guns And Politics

The shooting tragedy in Arizona has been all over the news, as you’ve no doubt seen and heard. While you would think something like this would bring about a substance-based debate on the merits of gun laws, instead what we’ve gotten from political and special interest groups is an attempt to use the shooting for political advantage.

If you listen to the pundits, and read newspaper editorials and letters to the editor, you get the same arguments. From those on the left, accusations of the situation being caused by the angry political rhetoric and the fact that Sarah Palin and the hard line conservatives used the diagram of gun crosshairs over the district where the shooting took place, with the express purpose of targeting Representative Giffords for defeat.

On the right, you have claims that this is proof positive that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” since the protagonist was a deranged individual who took the gun and committed the act.

Two things strike me here that should be a part of this debate, but don’t seem to have been brought up by many, if any, of those with the power to pontificate on the event.

The first is the reaction to the shooting. Yes, it was a terrible thing, and something that should shock us all. And our government acted quickly, by declaring a national moment of silence for the victims. Congressman and their staffers gathered en masse on the U.S. Capitol steps to observe the moment and reflect on the tragedy. The House of Representatives passed a four page resolution condemning the tragedy, honoring those killed and wounded, mentioning them all by name. They also postponed all other business, and let that be the only legislative work done that week.

They also organized a special prayer service at the House office building, which included a special table set up in the rotunda for the members to sign a book of condolences. Flags were flown at half-staff. And the President himself stopped his normal work to fly to Arizona to speak at a memorial service.

And to show they take this matter very seriously, New York Representative Peter King is proposing a bill that would make it illegal for someone to knowingly carry a gun within 1,000 feet of certain high-ranking federal officials, including members of Congress. Yes, in their infinite wisdom, and knowing in their minds they are more important than we average Americans, they want it to be a priority to protect themselves. You might call it gun control, but only for people who might want to harm them. How anyone can not think that is comical is beyond me.

But what makes me really unnerved is the fact that they, and the public as a whole, seem to have forgotten about some other deaths that are taking place. We aren’t even through January yet, but there have been 12 deaths of U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan so far this year. Where are the front page stories, the flags at half-staff, the mourning, the Presidential and congressional speeches? After all, these are guys that volunteered to go over and fight for our country, with low pay, hardship level living conditions and the knowledge that they may not come back. Representative Giffords is someone who is a public “servant” in name only; she is paid an extremely lucrative salary, given the best health care and perks of any job in the country and treated like royalty. Yet, she is being praised like an American hero, while our soldiers toil in anonymity. There’s a total disconnect from reality in the reactions to these events.

The second problem I have with the response to the shootings is the lack of sanity. I’m not an advocate for banning guns, nor for a complete lack of restrictions on them, so I think that gives me an objective view of the whole spectacle.

When Jared Lee Loughner went to the Sportsman’s Warehouse outlet, he faced few obstacles to walking away with a semi-automatic handgun. Arizona is a state where there are very lenient gun laws. The 22-year-old easily passed an instant background check required under federal law for all gun buyers. And an Arizona law enacted last year allowed Loughner to conceal and carry the pistol without a permit.

So let’s see… you can’t get a driver’s license without taking a test that shows you know how to safely operate a vehicle. And you have to renew that license periodically. But to get a semi-automatic weapon? No testing needed, or thorough background check.

And even though Loughner was rejected by the U.S. Army (for reasons not disclosed due to privacy laws), suspended from his junior college classes for disruptive behavior and once arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia, he had no problem getting that semi-automatic weapon, and being allowed to carry it in a concealed manner.

Is something wrong here? What’s the harm in having at least the same requirements that you need to drive a car for the purchasing of weapons? I know, the NRA says you can’t allow the passing of any restrictive laws, because that will be the first step down the road to the ruination of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees the right to bear arms. And to those in the gun control lobby, why does legislation always have to be to ban everything?

Where’s the sensible middle ground on this issue? Just like everything else in our political climate these days, it seems to be one extreme or the other. Can’t we find some middle ground that will protect lives, and protect us from nut cases like Loughner getting their hands on these? How about a little sanity for a change!