By Bill Buchanan
I did not want to write a column about the tragic shooting this past weekend in Arizona — not because I have become so anesthetized from past mass murder shootings in this country that one more doesn’t make that much difference. I had already written this week’s column on a completely unrelated subject. But the shooting this weekend has been gnawing at me ever since I first learned of it. I can’t really put my finger on why I felt compelled to write about this particular shooting. It was senseless and horrific, but probably no more so than the many other multiple shootings that have occurred in recent months, recent years.
Perhaps part of my hesitation has to do with my frustration at not being able to offer a quick solution to this disturbing phenomena. I would like nothing better than to say, “You know, in the future, if we did so and so, it would stop all this madness.” But I don’t have anything very specific to offer.
There is always the extreme gun control argument that we should just outlaw guns, period. Well, as we have learned with alcohol and drugs, prohibition in a free society is not an easy task. For another thing, if you totally shut down gun production today, there are already more than enough out there to go around. According to FBI estimates, there are more than 200 million privately owned firearms in this country alone. When you add in guns owned by law enforcement agencies, the military and other sources, the figure climbs to around 350 million, roughly one for every man woman and child in the country. So that cat is out of the bag. Anyone in this country who really wants a firearm can get one, either from disreputable dealers or on the black market if legal avenues are not available to them.
Also, there is that pesky little Second Amendment to the Constitution that states: “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” That is not going to be changed anytime soon, and it should not be. People should have the right to own certain types of guns for hunting, target shooting and home protection if they desire. But the gun that was recovered at the scene of the shooting in Arizona was a semi-automatic handgun with an extended ammunition clip. The shooter was able to fire 31 shots before having to reload. Fortunately, he was taken down before he could put in another 30-round clip. Does anyone outside of law enforcement or the military really need a 31-shot handgun or some type of machine gun or assault rifle? No. It may be your constitutional right to own a firearm, but unless you live in Beirut or Afghanistan, regular citizens do not need a tank for personal protection. The law should limit the amount of firepower available over the counter to just anyone.
And now liberals and conservatives are pointing fingers back and forth as to who is to blame here and terms like “blood libel” are entering the discussion. At the time of this writing, it was expected that House Speaker John Boehner will offer up House Resolution 11 to honor the dead and injured and recognize the brave acts by some on the scene. In part, the text of the resolution states, “The House of Representatives condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrific attack which occurred …”
Well, that ought to do it. Passing that resolution is certain to prevent this type of thing from ever happening again. I’m sorry, I know people mean well, but pointing political fingers or wringing our hands is just not enough. There needs to be a frank and non-politicized effort to do something to stop this madness from escalating. How about commissioning a panel of distinguished people to study the problem from several angles? I am talking about a small (five or so) group of respected national figures meeting with experts, studying the problem and making very specific recommendations to the president and Congress. I don’t think you are going to stop this kind of violence, but maybe we can at least slow it down.
Society has changed radically since I was a kid. I know I sound old when I say this, but when I was growing up, there was only one incident I can ever remember in my small town where a fight between two guys escalated into murder. If you had a serious disagreement with someone, about the worst thing that would ever happen is that you would meet after school and get into a fistfight. A few punches would be thrown, someone would get a split lip or a bloody nose, and that would be it. I cannot remember anyone pulling a knife at one of these arguments, much less a gun. Now it seems too many disagreements end with a bullet instead of a black eye. That radical change in social behavior needs to be addressed.
There are many victims of the Arizona shooting. There are those who were killed and injured and their families who will be racked by worry, grief and loss for as long as they live. And there are those who witnessed this terrible event and will carry it in their nightmares for years to come. I sympathize with them all, and my thoughts and prayers are with them. But the image that stands out to me is that of the little 9-year-old girl who went to that rally because she was interested in learning more about politics. She was born on a day of tragic events (the 9/11 attacks) and died on the day of another one.
It is time our leaders find the courage to tackle this issue and undertake a serious plan to limit murders in this country. I don’t know whether such action will stop future tragedies like this one from occurring, but political posturing and spouting platitudes sure as hell won’t.