Saturday, January 15, 2011

Crosshairs and Second Amendment Remedies: America Deserves Better

Screengrab of alleged shooter's MySpace page

As many of you know, my fellow Politicos, in the past year I have discovered that I like target shooting. A lot. I seem to have a pretty good eye, and love to go out to the range and try to hit that 1000 yard target with a .308  when I get a little time and money, about every couple of months. What I haven't shared are my own experiences with gun violence and the struggles it has caused in my life, and how every time there's word of another shooting like the one we've seen this week in Tucson, it all comes tumbling back. Maybe one day and maybe, once all the legal proceedings are over, I will be free to discuss all that.

As you are well-aware, last week, we had yet another mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. An assassination attempt toward Representative Gabrielle Giffords, in which she was shot in the head and in which 19 people were shot, six fatally. The gunman was stopped when he tried to reload another extended 30 clip and was tackled to the ground by the citizens who were there to talk to the Congresswoman. In a true "small d" democracy sense of the word, everyday folks were there to let their representative know what they think should be done to "form a more perfect union." They were doing their civic duty, being active members of their democracy. It can't get much more wrong than this.

In a post I wrote in October 2009, I stated:
As I have said before, we are watching the GOP unravel before our very eyes, and we are compelled to watch as if it were a bad accident. And I will say it again, and again, and again: not only will we be witness to the obstructionist downfall of what was once the Grand Old Party. But they will have no one to blame but themselves when they've decimated their political party, and the blood will be on their hands when the hate-filled, self-righteous crazies they've created rise up and and act upon the violence they eschew. May reason and the return of sanity come to light before it happens.
We all saw this coming. We protested ads like Palin's crosshairs:

And ads like these against Giffords herself:
And even before these, the violent words of Sharron Angle, whom, of all people, remained silent after the tragedy for a solid week, despite her serious advocacy of "second amendment remedies":

When does political rhetoric become incendiary threats? When we threaten to "take people out." When we put specifically named individuals in the crosshairs of a gun. When we actively encourage folks to take arms a when the vote doesn't go their way, when we encourage citizens to take arms against a tyrannical democracy??? Hate speech has gotten to the point that many people, myself included, have warned against. They've crossed the line, yelling, "Fire!" in the proverbially crowded theater. Did they put the shooter's finger on the trigger? No, but they told him it was a good idea, even convinced him and encouraged that it was his patriotic duty. There's only one reason folks like Angle lie low and Palin et al scrub their websites and twitter feeds is to destroy the evidence of their fingers all over this one. No one cleans up if there isn't evidence of a crime.

While what these folks have done is protected by the First Amendment, it doesn't make it morally right. When I was taught in fifth grade, and again in high school and college about The Constitution,  it was made clear that with every right comes a responsibility. When we act on a right without exercising it responsibility, that's something different: it's called license. According to, license is defined as the following:
Latitude of action, especially in behavior or speech.

a. Lack of due restraint; excessive freedom: 
b. Heedlessness for the precepts of proper behavior;

How did we get to this point? How did we get to the licentiousness in which armed insurrection over the government is acceptable talk if a vote doesn't go your way? How did we get to the point where using gun sights to target your opposition is acceptable?  When exactly did gun ownership has become a sacred cow? When did the NRA instill this "the government will take your guns, and then you'll never be able to overthrow them" mentality into the public, and when did the GOP become their mouthpiece? When did the NRA get so powerful that they can squelch even the discussion of a bill to eliminate the sale of extended clips used in mass shootings? How is it that extended clips and machine guns are still legal?

The Assault Weapons bill, which made extended clips illegal, was allowed to "sundown" under a Republican Administration. Typical, sure. But if nothing else comes out of this horrible tragedy, we must move forward, Boener be damned, to keep extended clips out of the hands of civilians. Itforward, a  cannot help but have a drastic effect in preventing gun massacres like occurred in Tucson. Let us not make the lives of those killed be in vain. Let us use this as a way to regain sanity as a nation. I am perfectly happy to reload after ten shots at the range. I am fine with being inconvenienced if it will lower the chances of this kind of heinous crime being committed again. We will find out if Boehner, The NRA and the GOP are willing to be incovenienced to save the lives of nine year old student council presidents in the future.

The Politico family sends all of our prayers and sympathies to the families of those who were lost in Tucson, and to the families of those who lost their lives in the countless other gun deaths in this country. We send our prayers and best wishes to those recovering from this and other gun tragedies, that you may become whole again, and express our our gratitude to those brave citizens who kept this tragedy from being even more devastating than it already is.