COLUMN: Leaders should tone down rhetoric, examine U.S. gun laws
The current political landscape is deeply disturbing. Politicians preach violence and toxic rhetoric; a trigger-happy populace seems eager to follow.
Unfortunately, it took an assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the murders of six blameless people including a Federal Judge and a 9-year-old, and a dozen more injuries for this country to reopen a dialogue on decorum in public discourse and gun control laws.
As more evidence comes to light on the massacre that Jared Loughner perpetrated in Arizona, a big question remains: Was this tragedy avoidable? While no one can fully answer this question, something can be done to prevent a future tragedy.
Many have blamed the shooting on the rhetoric promoted by Sarah “don’t retreat — reload” Palin, Sharon “Second Amendment remedies” Angle, and “peaceful but prepared” tea partiers.
It is unfair to squarely blame them, but they do fan the flames of anti-government frenzy and conspiracy theories that plague the Internet. There is emerging evidence that Loughner trolled and read sites inundated with such sentiments.
In her taped speech, Palin invoked President Reagan’s belief that we should not blame society for the acts of criminals, but then contradicted herself by saying, “It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
So I’m wondering, when is she going to admit that maybe she shouldn’t have put up a map with gun sights on Democrats, including Giffords? Or that the candidate she endorsed to run against Giffords, Jesse Kelly, should not have hosted an event titled “Get on target for victory” where constituents could shoot an M16 assault weapon? These actions clearly worried Giffords, especially after her office was vandalized and someone dropped a gun at an event she hosted.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor remarked, “Before speaking out, ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions.” Palin and others on the political right need to heed this advice, take it down a notch and anticipate the consequences of their words.
After everyone calms down, we can logically look at the lax gun control laws in the U.S.
The facts are clear. Loughner carried a concealed weapon in the Tucson grocery store. He purchased a clip of 33 rounds of ammunition from a Walmart, mere hours before the shooting spree — without an evaluation of his mental status. In Arizona, his actions were legal until he actually shot someone.
Oklahoma is second to last in many aspects — education spending, health and gun control laws. The thing that keeps us from being dead last in the country is that universities may ban the carrying of guns on campuses.
Just three years ago our state lawmakers wanted to change the law, but students and professors held firm in the debate. Just last week, Oklahoma’s Chancellor of Higher Education Chancellor, Glen Johnson, pledged to uphold the ban on guns on campus.
The prevailing argument, presented by OU President David Boren, stated that in the event of a standoff with guns, authorities unable to identify the active shooter might harm good Samaritans.
This nearly came to fruition in the Arizona massacre. Joe Zamudio, an armed and responsible citizen, walked into the chaos prepared to draw his gun. He spotted someone he thought was the shooter waving a gun, but it was actually the person who wrangled it away from Loughner.
Luckily for all parties involved, he did not shoot.
The solution to the problem is simple, but difficult due to the influence from the Second Amendment lobbies like the National Rifle Association.
It’s time to renew the Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004. I understand the desire some people have to own guns for protection or sport, but there is no compelling reason to own fully automatic assault weapons or purchase clips that contain high amounts of ammunition.
There is a big difference in guns designed for sport and guns designed for killing people. Had the ban been renewed, it would have prevented Loughner from purchasing so much ammunition and harming so many innocents.
It’s also time to implement a more comprehensive process for buying guns — including a mental evaluation, gun safety training and a license. There is nothing unreasonable or unconstitutional about smart gun laws.
In response to the murder of 9-year-old Christina Green, President Barack Obama commented, “I want America to be as good as she imagined it.” We need to correct the laws that have allowed so many mass shootings to occur in order to create the country that our children expect.
One day we will get there.
— Shayna Daitch, international security studies senior