Monday, January 10, 2011

The Gabrielle Giffords shooting proves United States needs stricter gun control


On Saturday, another horrific shooting spree occurred in the United States. An American Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, 40, of Arizona, was shot in the head. She is expected to survive but her life hangs in the balance. Six people were killed in the rampage, including a federal judge, an aide to Representative Giffords and a nine-year-old girl. The tragedy happened at a political event held by Giffords outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson.

The gunman was tackled to the ground and apprehended. He is 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, a political radical with a troubled past. Loughner was charged today with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and the attempted murder of a congress member.

Jared Loughner is obviously a deranged individual. Last September, he was suspended from Pima Community College for posting a video on YouTube in which he ranted against the college. His parents were contacted about the suspension and informed that in order to be reinstated their son would have to “obtain a mental health clearance indicating , in the opinion of a mental health professional, his presence at the College does not present a danger to himself or others.” Six weeks later, Jared Loughner purchased the gun he would use in the shooting.

Why was this mentally unbalanced young man permitted to purchase a gun? There were red flags everywhere about Loughner ‘s mental stability. A background check should have uncovered the fact that he was not fit to own a weapon. How many tragedies will it take for Americans to wake up to the realization that their gun control laws need to be far stricter? How many innocent people will have to die?  How many more Columbines will there need to be? How many more Jim Bradys or Gabrielle Giffords will have to pay the price for America’s lax attitude toward gun ownership.

Unfortunately, the signs are not good. In an article in yesterday’s New York Daily News by James Gordon Meek, it was reported that Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting has led some lawmakers to declare that they’ll carry weapons to protect themselves. Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rep Heath Shuler were named.

These lawmakers just don’t get it. They continue to ignore the root cause of the problem. They don’t seem to understand this simple truth; there are already far too many guns in the United States and guns are far too easy to acquire. Instead of calling for more stringent gun control laws, Chaffetz and Shuler talk about carrying weapons themselves.

The proliferation of guns will only lead to more tragedies such as the one in Tucson, Arizona.  A vast arsenal of easily acquired firearms is a recipe for unmitigated disaster.  It increases the chances that tthe weapons will fall into the hands of a violent or mentally unbalanced person.   A lack of gun control means that guns are more likely to be procured by the Jared Loughners of this world.

Where is the American politician who will stand up for gun control? Are U.S. public officials so intimidated by the National Rifle Association that they are afraid to do the right thing? Are there any courageous leaders in the U.S. who will advocate stricter gun control in the wake of the Tucson tragedy?  Gabrielle Giffords herself has opposed gun control.  If she recovers her health, perhaps she will she change her mind and lend her support to the cause of gun control.  I'm not expecting that to happen.  Nevertheless, I would like to remind Americans that Gabrielle would not be lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life if her attacker had been prohibited from buying a gun.

- Joanne

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