Tuesday, January 11, 2011

License to kill

Saturday's horrible, violent crime in Arizona that left six people dead and more critically wounded is an affront to all of us.  As a parent, I cried when I read about the nine-year-old girl who was killed.  As a voter I was upset that a politician was gunned down by a member of the electorate.  As a supporter of our free judiciary I mourned the loss of a federal judge.  People have jumped at the opportunity to politicize the event, but while Sarah Palin's bullseye map was irresponsible and tasteless, it was not the cause of the killings.

In my view, there were steps that could have been taken to prevent this horror, or at least to control the damage.  The semi-automatic assault weapon that Loughner used was legally obtained, and legally brought to the public event.  This highlights several egregious gaps in gun laws, all of which have been vigorously defended - successfully, thus far - by the NRA. 

First and foremost, assault weapons have no place in a civilized society.  They have one purpose only, and that is to kill people as quickly and efficiently as possible.  While that has military or police applicability, there is no sane reading of the second amendment that would lead us to put those weapons into civilian hands.  I have no problem with people hunting, and I know how to handle and shoot guns myself.  I even support people's right to own guns for self-defense, though I think the odds of a gun being successfully used to that end are extremely long.  But a Glock serves neither purpose.  It's not a hunting weapon, and it's not a self-defense weapon.  It's a gun that is made to kill people.  And there is no justifiable reason for an average person to be able to own one.

Secondly, it is asinine to allow people to carry concealed weapons.  And without a permit!... National parks, bars and restaurants, public events, schools, the workplace... these are places that should not allow weapons period, and the allowance of concealed weapons deprives those of us who would not elect to be around guns of our ability to make that decision.  Private establishments need to be able to prohibit weapons.  And people who own guns need to respect that their weapons are simply not welcome everywhere.  The allowance of concealed weapons undermines that very concept.

Third, the extended magazine on the Glock that was used in Saturday's crime was one that was banned under the assault weapons law that expired in 2004.  If our lawmakers had had the backbone to stand against the NRA's resistance of that law's renewal, fewer rounds would have gotten off and fewer people would have been hurt and killed.  Again, this extended magazine serves no purpose other than to kill people quickly, and has no legitimate purpose on the streets.  A full ban (not just against its manufacture, but against its possession) needs to be enacted post haste.

And finally, the purchase of a weapon should be subject to a reasonable background check, which can't be circumvented by trade shows or other methods.  The U.S. Army rejected Loughner's attempt to carry a Glock in defense of our nation.  There were also repeated indications of his being an unstable young man.  Why, then, would this nation put that very gun into his hands? 

The NRA resists any gun laws under the assumption that regulation and limitation is a slippery slope that leads to the erosion of our constitutionally-granted rights.  But weapons that have no purpose other than to kill people, and concealed weapons generally, have no place in society.  And a society that puts guns into the hands of those the military has rejected is making some pretty terrible choices.  These are not "slippery slope" issues - they are the concerns of a civilized, democratic society.

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