Debating Tighter Gun Regulations in Wake of Shooting

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Whether or not the Arizona Giffords shooting this weekend was politically motivated is the topic of heated discussion. But certain people are more concerned with how someone with an apparent mental illness was legally able to obtain not only a gun, but a high-capacity magazine of ammunition that "would have been illegal under the assault weapons ban, which Congress allowed to expire in 2004," according to CBS News.

Today, Democratic New York Representative Carolyn McCarthy is expected to introduce a new bill aimed at limiting the sale of such ammunition used by Garrett's attacker. The issue hits close to home for McCarthy, as a 1993 shooting on the Long Island Rail Road killed her husband and left her son injured.

The ongoing gun-control debate is typically reignited in the aftermath of such shootings. But its followers question whether the Arizona shooting will actually initiate reform or if the push for tighter weapons regulations will be rejected as it has in the past.

  • The Shooting Didn’t Have to Be This Bad  In a New York Times Op-Ed this morning, Gail Collins points out that Arizona is one of the most lax states on gun control in the U.S. and agrees that the type of weapon Saturday's shooter used is as important, if not more so, than his political motivations. She suggests:
If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was a sane idea to put her Congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet.
But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’s 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.
  • Stricter Gun Laws are Very Unlikely  Despite arguments for gun regulation sparked by the recent shooting, The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza doesn’t believe the tragic event will actually push Congress to enact stricter gun control laws. He bases his argument on polls and evidence from the aftermath of past shootings. He also points out that the National Rifle Association has extremely influential lobbying power over lawmakers. "Given the declining support for more gun laws over the past two decades and the apparent disconnect between tragedy and public opinion on the issue, it’s hard to imagine any sufficient legislative action to restrict rights," Cillizza writes.
  • Politicians Motivated by Fear for Safety?  But Tom Robbins at The Village Voice wonders if the fact that the attack targeted a political figure will light a fire under other political figures to pass stricter gun regulations. "There's nothing like knowing there are crazed gunmen out there with elected officials squarely in their sites to focus political attentions," writes Robbins. "Which is why it will be interesting to see if official Washington has a stronger reaction to a planned political assassination with a semi-automatic weapon."
  • Ammunition is Not The Problem  At Outside the Beltway, James Joyner explains that although he doesn't believe citizens should be allowed to own weapons of any kind, he thinks the attempt to regulate the ammunition available for legal assault weapons is kind of missing the point. Joyner asks:
Is it a good thing that Jared Loughner didn’t have a 31st round to fire? Sure. But, if you take Loughner as your model for limiting the rights of the 99.99 percent of gun owners who aren’t homicidal maniacs, we’d ban clips altogether. Surely, we’d have been even better off if he had to manually load each round into the chamber individually?
Indeed, the notion that we’d say, “We’re fine with nuts being able to easily kill 10 innocent civilians before people have a chance to jump him but, goddamn it, we draw the line at 20!” is absurd. The maximum number of people it’s acceptable to murder in any given situation, I’d think, is zero. Which is why we make it against the law.
  • But It's a Step in the Right Direction Balloon Juice blogger mistermix is a self-described gun supporter, but thinks blocking the sale of extended magazines such as the one used in Saturday's shooting, is worth while as an effort to prevent future mass killings. He explains:
I’ve got nothing against guns. I grew up around them, and I occasionally shoot semi-automatic weapons with a friend at the range. And I also understand that a determined killer can probably get his or her hands on an assault weapon because there are many of them floating around. But the kind of wacko who plans mass murder often isn’t a high-functioning member of society, and throwing up a few roadblocks in front of him can’t hurt, because there’s really no use for an extended magazine on a 9mm pistol other than killing more people in a shorter period of time.
  • Should the Gun Lobby Have More Power Than Citizens? Peter Cohan predicts the gun industry will be able to successfully promote its rights in the wake of the Arizona shooting, as it has after previous attacks. At Daily Finance today, Cohan argues:
While the legal responsibility for this senseless act is Loughner's alone, the moral responsibility is widespread -- among the gun industry, the politicians who protect it, the patchwork of inconsistent laws that make it too easy for dangerous folks to get guns and the political rhetoric that makes them feel empowered to kill.

The key question Americans have to face is whether it makes sense to let the gun lobby hold more power than citizens who want to live without fear of a well-armed mad gunman going off in a crowd.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.