Monday, January 17, 2011

Recipe for Disaster

Here's a recipe for disaster:

Take a mentally unhinged young man.

Put him in a state with some of the most lenient gun laws in the country.

Then place him in a county that has had more than 45 percent of its mental health service recipients forced off the public rolls in the name of a leaner government.

Allow him to buy a semi-automatic handgun after passing an instant background check. And let him conceal and carry his firearm, no permit necessary.

Mix in some highly charged political rhetoric which suggests "Second Amendment remedies" as a solution to the nation's real and imagined problems.

Bring it to a boil at a town hall session for a local congresswoman in front of a supermarket.

The result: An atrocious shooting rampage in Tucson that killed six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, and wounded 14, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who took a bullet in her brain. A troubled loner named Jared Lee Loughner, who apparently targeted Giffords, was arrested and charged in the attack.

In the aftermath, proposed solutions are met with a shrug of the shoulders. And then there's this:

One-day sales of handguns in Arizona jumped 60 percent the following Monday compared with the corresponding Monday a year ago, the second-biggest increase of any state in the country, according to FBI data.

Many of those sold were the Glock 9mm, used in this assault and also the weapon
of choice for Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in a shooting spree at Virginia Tech. Handgun sales rose 65 percent in Ohio; 16 percent in California; 38 percent in Illinois; and 33 percent in New York, the FBI data show.

And this: Two House of Representatives lawmakers - Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Heath Shuler, a North Carolina Democrat - are pledging to carry firearms to guard against potential copycat attacks.

And also this: Legislation is being proposed in Arizona that would require the state to train and arm all elected officials and their staffs.

You read that right: the solution to gun violence is to arm even more people. If there's a problem, let them shoot it out.

Who needs due process? Why have a justice system? Just fire away and let the bodies fall where they may.

This surely is the road to insanity.

Let me establish something right here. The Second Amendment is a reality. We have the right to keep and bear arms and I do not wish it repealed. Second, I am no pacifist. I served in the U.S. Army Infantry and fired everything from carbines to mortars with great gusto.

I do not believe, however, we can blindly sell semi-automatic, concealed handguns with high-capacity magazines to anyone with the asking price, then react with shock and horror when an act of carnage takes place.

I do not believe, like a lot of yahoos, that the Second Amendment means we have a responsibility to bear arms.

I do believe we need to reinstitute the federal assault weapons ban, signed into law by President Clinton and allowed to expire under President Bush. It would, among other things, have prohibited the magazine which allowed the shooter to fire 33 rounds before he was stopped.

Are these manufactured for target practice? Get serious.

I believe we need to expand the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It's unclear if the suspect would have been flagged in this system. But he should have been. He was well known to police and had been tossed out of his community college because of mental health issues.

I believe we need effective gun control. The right to bear arms doesn't allow you to own nuclear weapons, surface-to-air missiles or flame-throwers. We should add to that list semi-automatic handguns, super-sized ammo magazines and concealed weapons of any kind.

There are enough high-powered rifles, shotguns, target pistols and ammo available to keep the most ardent gun enthusiast happily occupied until his trigger finger bleeds.

If we do nothing, we have learned nothing from our bloody past. And we are doomed to repeat it.

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