Granted, it’s the gun lobby’s world, and we only live in it – and sometimes, as in the case of the Arizona shootings, we also die in it. So goes the American culture. Yet it still seems wrong that a nutjob who was considered too dangerous for a math class, and who was viewed by the military as too dangerous to tote a weapon, could nonetheless be judged, under federal law and the state of Arizona, as sufficiently fit to speedily obtain a semiautomatic Glock down at the local chain store.Even gun lovers surely would agree that there’s something wrong with this picture: A deranged kid clashes five times with community college police, then gets suspended; his parents get a letter from the college, warning that he will not be readmitted without first receiving “a mental health clearance”; he is cited by the county sheriff’s department on a drug-related charge; he is turned down by the military…yet, here in gun-lobby America, he’s a law-abiding Second Amendment beneficiary who aces the instant computerized background check, and thus becomes the proud owner of a fast-firing gun touted by its manufacturer as ideal for “efficient defense in emergency situations.”
The lax gun laws are specifically designed to aid our Loughners with ease of purchase. Our latest lunatic (there will be more) was not inconvenienced at the cash register. There was no waiting period; if the state had required one, Loughner’s mental health woes might have easily come to light in the wake of a cursory investigation. Even if the sportsman’s store had turned him away, however, he easily could have manned up with the help of a private seller, because Arizona (like 40 other states) doesn’t require any background check for private purchases; nor does Arizona require that its certifiably sane citizens (such as Loughner) first obtain a permit before toting their loaded guns in public.Yep, Loughner was deemed to be a solid citizen in full compliance of the law…up until the moment when he allegedly laid waste to 19 other solid citizens. Somehow we should be able to do better than that.The problem is two-fold: (a) the laws are weak, and (b) the enforcement is weaker. There’s a national background-check database, but a federal law enacted in 1968 requires that the states only report those individuals who have been “adjudicated” as dangerously nuts. Loughner slipped through the cracks in part because he was never adjudicated. But even if he had been adjudicated, it’s likely that Arizona would not have put him on the federal database – because, like many states, Arizona has been notoriously slow to input its wackos.
How come? To get the answer, let’s set the stage with this quote:”So here we go again, we all know the drill by now. Politicians of all stripes offer their ‘thoughts’ and ‘prayers’ to the victims’ families…And cable television will rerun the same video clips umpteen times, fill the airways with talking ranters, and thus leave the impression that nothing is happening in America or overseas, probably for the next week or so…before (we) settle back into our routines, until the next massacre provides a temporary jolt.”I wrote that, back in April of 2007 – when another twisted kid surfaced, this time to shoot up Virginia Tech, killing 32 people with the same model of gun featured in the Arizona massacre.When that ’07 shock wore off, we indeed settled back into our routines. While doing so, however, we managed to tighten the gun laws ever so slightly. It turned out that the college shooter had previously been adjudicated by a court as mentally dangerous, and had been ordered to get help – yet the state of Virginia had failed to report this information to the federal database. Which is why the shooter speedily bought his hardware after breezing through a pair of background checks.In response, Congress passed one of its patenty wimpy gun-control laws. Rather than require, under threat of severe penalties, that states do what they are supposed to do and report all their adjudicated mental cases, Congress came up with a carrot: If the states speedily complied to the fullest, they would be offered grant money. not surprisingly, this hasn’t worked. Arizona itself has acnowledged that, since 2008, it has put only 4,465 adjudicated cases on the federal database – with another 121,1700 still to go. And there are even worse states. Lousiana has reportedly submitted only one case. Nebraska, none. Care to guess who else has submitted none? Pennsylvania. And yet, with respect to the demonstrable need to tighten gun laws and thus foil the aspirations of future Loughners, you may have noticed the deafening silence emanating from Congress. Not even the felling of one of their own, at the hands of a sick kid perpetrating his personal Second Amendment remedy, will likely prod these lawmakers to take on the NRA. For too long they have been terrorized by the gun lobby, and old habits are hard to change. As NRA bigwig Wayne LaPierre declared in March of ’09, “The guys with the guns make the rules.” And apparently guys like Loughner get the right to enforce them.——-My favorite diagnosis of the shootings, courtesy of conservative commentator David Frum:”After horrific shootings, we hear calls for stricter regulation of guns. The Tucson shooting should remind us why we regulate marijuana. Jared Lee Loughner, the man held as the Tucson shooter, has been described by those who know as a ‘pot smoking loner.'”Hey, that could be a new slogan for the NRA: Guns don’t kill people, stoners kill people.——-The word “hero” gets thrown around way too much these days. This guy was the truly real deal. If you’ve seen Band of Brothers, you know what I mean. Dick Winters, we salute you.