Is it time to regulate arms in the United States?
Jared Loughner, 22, opened fire as Democratic Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords met with constituents outside a Safeway supermarket in Tuscon, Arizona, seriously wounding her and killing six others, including a federal judge and a nine-year old.
County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik captured America’s mood when he said that Arizona had become “the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry” in the country. But the problem clearly went far beyond Arizona. In Alaska, former Republican vice-presidential candidate contender Sara Palin had put a "target map" on her Facebook page ahead of the November mid-term elections. The image highlighted the districts of 20 Democratic politicians she had singled out for defeat after they supported President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms.
One of the targets whose district was marked with the crosshair graphic was Giffords, whose office in Tucson was hit by shotgun pellets earlier this month. The Congresswoman, now fighting for her life in hospital, had criticized Palin for using the gun graphic saying: “When people do that, they’ve got to realize there are consequences to that action.”
The crosshairs were quickly taken off Palin’s page. Rebecca Mansour, Palin's spokesperson, said the crosshairs were never intended to be gun sights. She told a radio show: “It was simply crosshairs like you’d see on maps. It never occurred to us that anybody would consider it violent.” But what maps have crosshairs? Clearly, some Republican maps do.
Those who are familiar with America’s politics might have seen the shooting coming. In July, California police arrested Byron Williams after a shootout on a highway. A drunk Williams said he was on his way to shoot senior figures at the Tides Foundation. According to Media Matters, since right-wing Glen Beck's show premiered on 19 January 2009, Tides had been mentioned on 31 editions of Fox News programs, 29 of which were editions of Beck's show. In most of those references, Beck attacked Tides, often weaving the organization into his conspiracy theories. Two of those Beck mentions occurred during the week before Williams’ shootout.
"To try to inflame the public on a daily basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, has impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with," Sheriff Dupnik said after the shooting.
For the United States to stem shooting rampages, it might need some comprehensive solutions, perhaps including amending the Second Amendment, which gives Americans the right to bear arms. However, despite the horror, the Tuscon tragedy did not suggest that America’s mood was turning sour on gun rights as most lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, questioned only how Loughner—with his history of mental instability—could acquire a gun. After all, even Giffords was a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment.
“Just because you have a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re prohibited from buying a gun,” an official at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Wall Street Journal. “You can be diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and buy a gun. A judge has to find you mentally ill before you are prohibited,” the official concluded.
UPDATE: Some Good News - Carolyn McCarthy readies gun control bill.
One of the fiercest gun control advocates in Congress, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), pounced on the shooting massacre in Tucson, Ariz., Sunday, promising to introduce legislation as soon as Monday targeting the high-capacity ammunition clip the gunman used.
McCarthy ran for Congress after her husband was gunned down and her son seriously injured in a shooting in 1993 on a Long Island commuter train.