A 9-year-old girl named Christina will never live to be 10, shot dead for no reason other than she went with a neighbor to see the local Congresswomen’s constituent meeting one morning in Tuscon.
Six people are dead, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is fighting for her life with a bullet-dug tunnel through her brain, and a federal judge (appointed by a Republican president) is among the fatalities.
Yuck. I’m sure I’m not alone in finding Christina’s death particularly cruel, but the whole affair is sickening. Six lives snuffed out and many more injured in an eruption of unspeakable horror.
Once again, the bullets fly in America.
Iowa recently loosened its gun laws, and local sheriffs are required to issue permits for citizens to carry guns. The disturbed young man (a failed college student, something of no comfort to a college professor) who aimed his semiautomatic pistol at the head of an elected official had 20-round clips of ammo for said weapon—a bit excessive for personal defense against a lone criminal, one would think.
And Rep. Gifford’s support of the Second Amendment didn’t seem to do her much good when suddenly faced with a lone lunatic with a weapon. So much for an armed populace discouraging crime.
The shooting also spotlights some recent extreme political rhetoric, particularly from the loony former mayor of Wasilla. Sarah Palin went way too far in her political bloviating last year when she used images of gunsights to target Representatives (including Giffords) who voted for Obama’s healthcare bill (see graphic from her Facebook page). Palin’s extremist rhetoric included calling on her supporters to “re-load” and talking of firing a “salvo.”
Sarah ought to be ashamed.
But, let’s not take that point too far. The rhetoric and reality of violence is no stranger to either end of the political spectrum.
Whatever else is true, let us Americans agree on this—as long as we have the vote, we have no business threatening or raising arms against our own governments “of the people, by the people.” The attack on Rep. Gifford was a shot fired at our democracy—the democracy that belongs to all of us, Sarah and I, Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Tea Party members, Greens, etc.
It’s OK for the political debate to get loud and rancorous. It’s OK for a bit of shouting. It’s OK, even, for some extreme talk.
But the buck has to stop before the buckshot flies. And before anybody, left or right, suggests that buckshot or guns or violence is the solution to a public policy question. The government isn’t an invading force we must oppose, it’s us. Our democracy might not be as functional as I would like or as responsive as it should be, but it is ours.
The U.S. government is the world’s oldest working democratic republic. That is true largely because we have a silent compact with each other. The losers in elections will bide their time and try again in two years. We settled the argument some 145 years ago about whether the union can be dissolved by the states (it cannot), and since then have had no reasonable excuse for taking up arms against ourselves.
Even civil disobedience, justified when a young black woman sits in the wrong seat of a bus to highlight injustice, is, when it is ethical and effective, not violent.
What about our right to bear arms? I think the founders wrote the Second Amendment with a militia in mind. I don’t think Jared Loughner was carrying a minuteman rifle as a member of the Arizona National Guard. I don’t think the Second Amendment means that Iowa sheriff’s should be compelled to issue gun permits and I don’t think it means that reasonable limits on guns ought to be outright rejected.
Anyway, I hope we learn to exclude violence for our political discourse. Hear me, Sarah? But I also hope we get over the whole “guns don’t kill” attitude.
Yes, it took a nut named Jared, but it also took a gun, and a 20-round clip, too. Guns sure do maim and kill.
One irony of the Giffords shooting is that she was a gun rights supporter. May she recover, may friends and family comfort those who have lost loved ones.
And may we not have to lose many more Christinas before we can have a rational talk about guns and gun laws in this troubled country.
Jan. 10 note: “New York Times” editorial this morning sums up my feelings well. I am not suggesting Sarah caused the Tuscon tragedy, but, on the other hand, I don’t think it’s OK to ignore the role that her rhetoric has had in poisoning our political atmosphere.