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Could Gun Control Have Controlled This?

— One madman plus one gun equals six dead and 14 wounded. That’s the equation that played out this past weekend in Tucson. One of the wounded is Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the apparent primary target, who clings to life after being shot in the head.

The immediate aftermath of mass murders may cause some people to shrug off the tragedy of life and say “these things happen.” But most of us are angry and frightened and want answers. Surely, one answer that’s occurred to some people is tougher gun control.

But the Tucson shooting took place in a time when support for gun control is waning. Check out this New York Times article about gun control and public opinion. I’ll summarize it by saying Gallup Polls show support for stricter gun control dropped from 78 percent in 1990 to 44 percent in 2010.

Anyone who’s followed the drop in the crime rates over those years can guess why this has happened. Multiple killings like the one in Tucson have failed to interrupt the general trend (again, see the NYT article). What’s more, the U.S. Supreme Court found in the Heller case that the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does guarantee a personal right to bear arms. In Arizona, you don’t need a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Individual freedom is the rule in the U.S. for better or for worse, and it’s hard to imagine anything worse than what happened in Tucson. Tougher gun control may help keep guns away from people like Jared Lee Loughner, or it may not. It will be interesting to see how Congress responds, after one of their own was literally in the line of fire.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 11, 2011 at 10:19 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Loughner was a legal adult, albiet with some questions b.g., but how does the high schooler from Nebraska and the one in Wisconsin get their green hands on such firearms???

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | January 12, 2011 at 11:20 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Here's a comment from a reader who sent me an email.

Tom, unfortunately you are correct in all the facts. My hope is that Americans would begin to dig out the dime of common sense that can be accrued in a lifetime. Firearms are dormant deadly viruses and their distributors and glorifiers are merchants of death. I know. The battlefields in Africa and Central America taught me a first hand lesson that I do not wish on anyone. Why not insist on a one year waiting period for prospective buyers? During this time the misguided person ought to be straightened out with weekly sessions conducted by qualified mental health practitioners. Also, throw the book to anyone even attempting to sell black-market firearms. We all have dear people to us and I know we all pray that this undertow of violence in America will not touch them directly. So, let's pray and act to stop the mayhem.

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Avatar for user 'SDCyclist'

SDCyclist | January 12, 2011 at 12:20 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

When you start looking at the hard numbers it's clear the USA ranks high on every list of firearm-related injury/death statistics. We have a problem. Personally, I disagree with the Supreme Court desginating the 2nd Amendment as an individual right. Not that my interpretation counts for much, but I believe the Founding Fathers were speaking of our country's right to defend itself from foreign invaders - to form a military. But, that's a moot argument if the Supreme Court has already ruled on it. But when, as a rational society, do we allow logic and reason to be the tool we use to decide what's right and what's wrong? I think the argument that "People kill people; guns don't kill people" is completely irrelevant and misses the point (as well as being a really desperate way to defend the right to own a killing machine). I would counter, "People who don't own guns can't attend political rally's and kill people randomly in the crowd." In 2011 I think it's pretty clear no one needs to own a gun. No one. They serve no real, valid purpose other than to kill (which is neither a real purpose nor a valid reason for owning a gun). But... they exist. They'll always exist. Make them illegal and they'll just go underground. So what's the answer? I honestly have no idea. Education can usually solve any problem. Maybe there's a solution there...

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | January 12, 2011 at 3:21 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Another comment via email:

It is much easier and takes less courage to kill somebody with a gun than with your hands, with a knife, or other such close up weapons. America must find a way to keep guns out of the hands of most people, normal or insane. I have heard the argument against gun control because then only criminals will have guns. Criminals tend to shoot each other. Control of criminals is another issue, and concerns the police and society's idea of a decent community.

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Avatar for user 'shepjack'

shepjack | January 12, 2011 at 3:31 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Maybe...

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Avatar for user 'moneil'

moneil | January 12, 2011 at 4:15 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

I am sure the Founding Fathers would be appalled at how their initial policy on the right to bear arms has been applied today. That said, the ship has left the dock and there is no turning back now. As i think someone above said, if we outlaw all guns now, this will only benefit the black market. What we really need is enforcement on a license to have children. Ok I know how ridiculous that sounds but I think, short of that, the only thing we can rely on is each others' ability to take more responsibility for their children's moral upbringing and their psychological well being. In the case of this young man, while he was an adult when he committed this horrific act, I find it hard to believe his parents didnt see this coming. That's not to say I blame them directly - I feel very sorry for them. But when parents are incompetent in managing their children and these kids grow up to be unstable adults, then it is up to us as a society to bring it to the attention of the authorities (counselors, police) and for them to keep a close eye on them (big brotherish, isnt it). But even when we do that, alas, I suppose some will just get through the sifter.

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Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | January 12, 2011 at 4:41 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Where ther's a will, there's a way. Any determined muderer/assassin can and will get their hands on the necessary firearms. Look at the past freaks of society whose least difficulty in killing was getting a weapon. Lee Oswald, Jack Ruby, James Earl Ray, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, John Hinckley--none was the image of moral rectitude, yet getting a firearm was NO PROBLEM.
Some folks make lots of noise about infringements on their sacred Second Amendment rights. A lot of sound and fury signifying NOTHING.
What a farce. Please introduce me to ONE person in this country, who wanted to get a weapon, but was prevented for all time by the enforcement of any federal, state, or local law from getting a weapon. If you want a gun, you'll get it,--legally, or maybe illegally, but you'll get your gun. Where there's a will theres's a way to get a gun in this country, if you really are determined. Anti-gun laws are meaningless hoaxes.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 13, 2011 at 9:53 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

I am opposed to the banning of all handguns, rifles, shotguns; but I also see the need for stricter firearms legislation in such states as AZ and TX. This is just common sense. I am also amazed by the denial of some such as KOGO's Ladona [sic] Harvey who says just the other day that Loughner could have just as easily mowed those people down with his car! Not that it couldn't happen, but rrrrrrright! How many cases of mass murder via car do we have on the books as compared with shootings? Kinda hard to plow into mall shoppers with your car, I would think. Sam Hengel in Wisconsin wasn't holding that class hostage with a car was he, LaDona? Oh, and I also think it's much easier to turn a gun yourself as opposed to what--turning a car on yourself???

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 13, 2011 at 9:58 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Gred D, Jack Ruby wasn't a "freak" -- and as for the others, Hinkley excepted, they got hooked up.

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | January 13, 2011 at 10:50 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Gun control is an issue that puts me in a tough place where I'm not sure what to say. In a society where guns exist and are plentiful I don't know how gun control can prevent events like the one that happened in Tucson. The NRA has a point when they say the ability to own guns is a strong expression of personal freedom. But do guns really provide practical self defense for individuals? Does gun ownership really protect people from government oppression? I doubt it. One thing I've got to take issue with is blaming the parents of Jared Lee Loughner. I think the statement they issued, following the massacre, showed true class and sensitivity, and I don't care if somebody else wrote it for them. Being the father of two, I know that kids are who they are. Parents are delusional if they think their good influence can mold their kids' behaviors.

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Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | January 13, 2011 at 5:58 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Tom:
Guns are used for the purpose of firng a bullet at a selected target, usually for the purpose of killing the target. Does the Constitution guarantee the right of self-expression and personal freedom as manifested by the use of firearms to kill another human being at will?- Do we all possess the discretionary right to inflict capital punishment on others?--Greg

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Avatar for user 'Tom Fudge'

Tom Fudge, KPBS Staff | January 14, 2011 at 9:06 a.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

Another comment via personal email: I think there is absolutely NO REASON FOR ANYONE TO OWN A DEADLY WEAPON FOR ANY RATIONAL REASON:
NO FOREIGN POWER HAS INVADED THE UNITED STATES, WE CERTAINLY DO NOT WANT TO START A WAR AMONGST OURSELVES, AND THE RIGHT TO LIVE IN PEACE AND SAFETY HAS BECOME MORE IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS, PARTICULARLY SINCE WE STARTED INVESTING SUCH A GREAT AMOUNT OF OUR TREASURY AND TIME LOOKING FOR ALL SORTS OF WEAPONS OR PARTS , OR MATERIALS THAT COULD POSSIBLY BE USED AS WEAPONS IN TRANSPOSTATION, FEDERAL BUILDINGS, SCHOOLS, UNIVERSITIES AND ALL OTHER PUBLIC PLACES WHERE PEOPLE NORMALLY GATHER. WE ALL WANT MORE SAFETY THESE DAYS, AND I BELIEVE NO ONE CAN FEEL SAFE KNOWING THAT ANYONE COULD BE CARRYING AROUND, READY TO SHOOT, A DEADLY CONCEALED WEAPON !! ANY PERSON IN NEED OF SELF-DEFENSE CAN AND SHOULD USE A NON LETHAL -(MAYBE TRANQUILIZER DART)THAT WOULD DISABLE AN ASSAILANT FOR LONG ENOUGH UNTIL POLICE CAN INTERVENE AND AN ARREST BE MADE. IN A COUNTRY WITH 90WEAPONS FOR EVERY 100 PEOPLE, NO STATE OR NATIONAL LAW THAT WOULD REQUIRE A LOCAL PERMIT, OR WAITING PERIOD, OR ANY NATIONAL DATA BANK CAN PREVENT AN INDIVIDUAL FROM STEALING A GUN AND COMITTING A TERRIBLE CRIME. I THINK IT WOULD BE A GREAT MISTAKE to AGAIN TRY THE MANY TIMES FAILED STRATEGY OF INCREMENTAL RESTRICTIONS BY MEANS OF A MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSISTO CREATE A LABELED SUBCLASS OF CITIZENS WHO ARE BEING DENIED WHAT IS CONSIDERED A "CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT" FOR THE REST OF THE CITIZENS, AND I BELIEVE THE ONLY WAY TO SOLVE THIS SHOOTING EPIDEMIC THAT IS KILLING TENS OF THOUSANDS OF INNOCENT INDIVIDUALS EVERY YEAR IS TO LABEL THE WEAPONS INSTEAD WITH THE LABEL MOST OF THEM HAVE EARNED:"WEAPONS OF TERRORISM AND MASS KILLING"
FOR THE LAST TWENTY YEARS OR SO, MOST OF THE HORRIBLE MASS MURDERS WERE NOTHING ELSE BUT TERRORIST ATTACKS ON US CITIZENS.
WHY IS IT THAT WE ARE STILL ONLY CONSIDERING BOMBS AS MEANS OF COMMITTING TERRORISM IF MOST OF THE TERRORISM IS DONE WITH FIREARMS MOST OF THE TIME STOLEN, OR ILLEGALLY OBTAINED? DO WE REALLY THINK WE CAN STOP A CRIMINAL WITH MURDER ON HIS MIND BY ASKING HIM FOR A PIECE OF STAMPED PAPER?! THE RIGHT TO OWN A GUN FOR ANY REASON SHOULD NOT TAKE AWAY TH THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO SAFE WAY FOR ANEED FOR ANYONE TO CARRY A CONCEALED GUN SHOT BY SHOT GUNS FOR TARGET PRACTICE AFFICIONATOS SHOULD BE PERMITTED ONLY IN THE DESIGNATED LOCATIONS, HUNTING WEAPONS DURING HUNTING SEASON ETC. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL YOUR THOUGHTFULL PROGRAMMING.
A.M WEYANT

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Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | January 15, 2011 at 2:12 p.m. ― 3 years, 3 months ago

You have to credit the folks in AZ with being consistent. Guess what the biggest show in Tucson town is today. Go ahead, guess. Why, what else --a gun show!!!
Lots of folks are chomping at the bit to find a way to GET MORE BANG FOR THEIR BUCK!
I always thought Mexico was far behind this country in human and civil rights. Not so, it appears. In terms of second amendment rights, Mexico is light-years ahead of the US. OWNING, KEEPING, AND SHOOTING GUNS is one of Mexico's near universal rights. We still have a way to go to catch up with Mexico, and the availability to own and shoot firearms at will in Mexico.

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