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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.

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