The shooting of Gabriel Giffords has caused me to think about some of my basic assumptions. As a libertarian, I'm relatively pro-gun. I think the Supreme Court has things about right. The second ammendment does plainly guarantee that any citizen should have the right to own a gun, but doesn't prohibit reasonable laws regulating these arms. I firmly believe that 99% of gun owners are honest folks who would never dream of using a gun for aggressive violence.
But, having the right to own a gun for hunting, target practice, or self-defense is one thing. Owning a gun that will let you fire off thirty rounds into a crowd in a minute or so is a completely different matter.
Life isn't a Hollywood action movie. I can't think of many plausible situations where a person is likely to need a gun that fires off more than 5 or 6 rounds in order to defend themselves. I know it will never happen since the NRA opposes any restrictions on guns, but couldn't we slow the pace of these spree shootings that seem to happen almost yearly in the US simply by limiting the magazine sizes of guns? Six-shooters were good enough for cowboys. Let's make that the limit. Then, a spree killer has to stop and reload (or carry multiple guns, but if you're carrying five guns into a supermarket, maybe someone will notice before you get four feet away from the congresswoman).
Can anyone give me a sane argument why this would be an intolerable limit on our civil liberties?
Guns don't kill people. People kill people. And some people are bat-shit crazy and there's really no good way of filtering them out. When they do finally get their hands on a gun, let's make them reload.
Thought two: Hateful rhetoric and a culture of violence.
Blaming Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh for this shooting or for the rise of "hate speech" is more about hating Palin and Limbaugh than it is based on any sort of evidence or reason. Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times that this violence was inevitable due to the harsh rhetoric of modern politics, but it makes me wonder if he's actually paying attention to history and the news.
The reality is, if you're under 25, you haven't seen a serious assassination attempt on a president, congressman, senator, or supreme court justice. You could argue that the president has better security these days, but congressmen aren't surrounded by squadrons of guards. US senators freely go jogging on the streets of DC without armed escorts. Supreme Court Justices don't wear bulletproof vests when they go grocery shopping. For all the talk of political violence, anyone half way paying attention has to see that we live in very peaceful times. As a people, we don't solve our political disagreements by gunning each other down in the streets.
Is political violence today worse than it was in the 60's and 70's? For all the talk that the Tea Party members are racist bastards driven to insanity by a black president, does no one remember that it was little more than 50 years ago when KKK members routinely lynched blacks and murdered civil rights advocates?
Even back in the 90s, it seemed like there was a spate of homegrown terrorists bombing abortion clinics and targeting federal buildings and mailing bombs to college campuses.
Maybe the increased security after 9-11 is the reason, or maybe we just started getting our violent rages out by playing video games, but it seems to me that we've had a remarkably civil and non-violent political discourse in our country for the last thirty years or so. I don't even think the shooting last weekend counts as political violence because the guy was obviously wacko. He didn't need Glenn Beck telling him to shoot people; he had that creepy little skull on that shrine in his back yard whispering what to do.
So, I'd like to say to the right wingers and the left wingers out there reading this: Thanks. Thanks for being decent folks and limiting your political action to name calling and shouting. I'm grateful that you haven't turned us into a place where we settle our differences with rifles instead of ballots. You're alright, my fellow Americans.
Unless you think that you need more than six bullets in your gun to defend yourself from a burgler. In which case you're just a jerk.