No easy answers in Arizona shooting

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By William Muller, Contributor

In the wake of the deadly shooting in Arizona, it’s very tempting to take the easy way out by placing blame and restricting freedoms in the name of security.

While gun control legislation may be well intentioned, much of it is poorly informed and based on faulty assumptions.  Calls for gun control typically follow a bloody tragedy, when tensions are high and people are willing to sacrifice liberties for a temporary sense of security. Some in Congress use such tragedies to push their own agendas when it comes to firearms.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., wants to make it illegal to possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of high-ranking federal officials and members of Congress.  It’s not clear how this would stop someone already intent on murder or by what means a magic bubble could be enforced.

On another front, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., announced their intentions to sponsor legislation in their respective chambers to reinstitute and strengthen a portion of the Clinton-era ‘assault weapons’ ban to restrict the importation, manufacture and transfer of gun magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets.

Proponents of the measure believe that because Jared Lee Loughner was using a high-capacity magazine capable of holding 30 rounds, he was able to inflict more damage with his attack by reducing the time he had to spend changing magazines.  However, Loughner could have simply taken two or more loaded guns with him instead. Seung-Hui Cho, who stalked the campus of Virginia Tech, killing 32 people, used two semi-automatic handguns with standard 10-round magazines.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, McCarthy was leading the charge to ban assault rifle components, such as pistol grips and barrel shrouds  –  safety coverings designed to protect skin from hot rifle barrels. When asked by MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson if she knew what a barrel shroud was, McCarthy said, motioning with her arm as if indicating a rifle strap, “I do believe it’s a shoulder thing that goes up.”

There is absolutely no proof that legislation such as the 1994 ban on assault weapons reduces gun crime or fatalities in a meaningful or measurable way.

Gun-control advocates warned of dire consequences in America’s streets if the ban was allowed to die in 2004.  Now, more than six years after the ban, the national homicide rate remains unaffected.

It appears this fact has not escaped most. Recent polling data from Gallup found that while only 29 percent of Americans felt stricter gun-control measures would prevent another Tucson massacre, 62 percent felt legislation made no difference at all. Rasmussen received a similar response – 20 percent advocated gun control as a preventative solution and 70 percent opposed. 

The problem with attempting to pre-empt these massacres with boilerplate solutions is that mass murderers like Loughner are rare and unpredictable.Loughner’s grudge with Rep. Giffords dated back to as early as 2007 – leaving him with years to stew in his dangerous obsession and more than enough time to obtain any weapons he needed – legally or illegally – and plan a course of attack. 

The political left has woven a suspenseful tale around Loughner, that he was driven by coded messages from Sarah Palin and right-wing radio hosts urging him to kill their enemies. A screwball theory like this is easy to dismiss, except  that the political right have also chimed in with their own unique theory: Loughner was a leftist because he read Karl Marx.

A close friend described Loughner’s views as becoming ever more nihilistic as he got older . He would often talk about “how the world is really nothing…illusion.”

What passed for politics from Loughner was vacuous, disorganized and undefinable by any standard – a schizophrenic smorgasbord of American political paranoia and his own fantasies.

Loughner sought the easy way out, lashing out for a sense of power, self-importance and attention that only the 24-hour news cycle can provide. His crazed, hollow-eyed mug shot provides us with an all-too-simple blank slate on which we can freely associate our fears, insecurities and rage.

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