- Janet Pelz
I was chatting with Rebecca and Carol at the gym (www.welldonevents.com) and they asked what I was doing today to change the world. O.K., so I’m not changing the world, but having a web site provides me the chance to describe it from my point of view when the mood strikes. So, in a departure from my usual fare…
The Tucson shootings have sparked another round of debate centered on our interpretation of the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution. Did it occur because of hate talk and conspiracy theories, or because of easy access to high powered weapons and higher capacity ammunitions?
I imagine they both played a role, but without guns, conspiracy theories are just, well, theoretical.
It’s hard to draw an incontrovertibly straight line from the issuance of speech to the actions of its consumer. Words of hate and fear are released over the airwaves in overwhelming volumes and at warp speed in our hyper-tech culture. But who’s to know for sure if the crosshair image or the charges of clandestine Muslimism is the thing that sets someone off.
But the trajectory of a bullet is indisputable.
Traveling from the barrel of a semi-automatic weapon through the skull and brain of its first target, with the next in quick succession through the heart or lungs of a 9 year-old girl or a 79 year-old woman. It moves a distance of 1,230 feet per second in a straight line. This is not left to interpretation, but a selling point of the gun’s manufacturer.
You can give a loaded dictionary to a crazy person and you might encounter him mumbling to himself in some public place. You can give a loaded gun to a crazy person and it’s likely that several random individuals will soon be lying in a pool of their own blood.
So, we proceed through the same ritual as we did after Columbine, the D.C. Sniper, Virginia Tech and all the others. (ABC News printed an alarming list of mass shootings in the U.S. since 1999). As a nation we are shocked anew by the carnage, outraged at the commission of such an act, and we debate the cause. Then we agree that nothing can be done – apparently mass shootings are a reasonable price to pay for the right of citizens to keep and bear hand-held grenade launchers -- except to appeal to everyone’s better nature. And then we wait for the next headline.
Fortunately, most of us have a better nature that we’re in control of. In a group of 100 people, 99 of us will join together to decry the violence and behave rationally.
But then there’s the other guy. The one who lost his job, or is jealous of his ex-wife, is tired of being bullied in school, or is off his medication. And as long as getting a semi-automatic weapon and a 33-round high capacity magazine is as easy as it is in Arizona, ABC’s list is just going to get longer.
Stop to think about it – have you ever read the parallel list of national tragedies caused by mentally unstable people unable to get hold of semi-automatic weapons? How many innocent people have died because of a waiting period, or regulations against gun trafficking, or background checks? Or because they could only buy a magazine that fired 10 rounds before reloading?
In a day where the Tea Party has made constitutional fundamentalism a key tenet, I suggest we revert to the days when the Founding Fathers drafted those first two amendments. Let’s agree that political charges can only be made with handbills glued to the doors of public buildings and citizens can only own muskets that require a funnel and gun powder to re-load. There might be a lot more of us around in the future to appreciate our freedoms.