Why didn’t the ‘right to bear arms’ protect in Arizona?
It looks like Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will survive the attempt by Jared Loughner to kill her, unlike the six others, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, who died when he opened fire at an Arizona shopping mall where Giffords was meeting with constituents.
Loughner’s defense attorneys are likely to try and avoid the death penalty for him on the basis that he is mentally ill, despite evidence that the shooting was planned in advance. What amazes me about this is, Republican officials who have a history of favoring the death penalty, scrambling to explain why it’s not appropriate in this case. Case in point, Paul Charlton, who was a U.S. attorney in Arizona during the Bush administration, who was reported in a news report as saying that even though there were witnesses, there’s not enough forensic evidence to seek the death penalty.
Whether or not Loughner is convicted and is sentenced to death, life without parole, or some other sentence, though, is really not the issue here. For the record, I am against the death penalty, not because I don’t think there are people who deserve it, but because in this country, it is too often applied in a discriminatory way, and once applied, you cannot make amends if it turns out you were wrong. Statistics and other evidence indicate that the death penalty is applied more often when the defendant is a minority or is poor than in other cases. That alone should give death penalty supporters pause.
There is one thing about this case, though, that really bothers me – and because it has not been a subject of discussion, bothers me even more; if Loughner is really mentally unbalanced to the point where his punishment for his crimes is affected, why is not there a call for better controls over access to deadly weapons by people with his condition? Why are not more people asking whether the Constitutional ‘right to bear arms’ was not intended to allow every nut with an axe to grind, and insufficient mental competence to grind it properly, to buy, possess, and ultimately use firearms?
Are we truly saying that the life of an innocent 9-year-old girl is less important than the sacred right of every American to have a gun? Do we think our country so dangerous that everyone needs a gun for self defense? The last time I checked, the new frontier was space, not the vast, untamed western wilderness. And, just as a matter to consider: since Arizona is a very’ liberal’ state when it comes to allowing people to have guns, one can assume that someone else in or near that shopping center had a gun. That being the case, why was Loughner able to fire so many rounds into that crowd without eliciting a response from one of the gun-toting, law abiding citizens who has a gun for protection of the innocent? Where was all that self defense that the ‘right to bear arms’ is supposed to provide, when it was really needed?