The Arizona Shooting and Gun Control

January 21st, 2011

By Tom Carter

Handguns are designed to kill people, and one of them did its job quite well in Arizona.  It’s time to outlaw handguns.

There’s been a lot of mindless blather in the wake of the Arizona shooting in which a federal judge, a nine-year-old girl, and others were killed and a congresswoman and others were wounded.

Liberals cynically used the tragedy to attack conservatives for inspiring the shooting through vitriolic speech and use of violent metaphors.  However, there was no evidence from the beginning that the shooter was motivated by politics.  Conservatives responded in defense, pointing out the innumerable instances in which liberals have used language just as vitriolic and metaphors just as violent.  This was an example on both sides of politicians and ideologues at their worst.

The political demagoguery overshadowed the tragedy itself.  A mentally disturbed young man had no problem buying a 9mm Glock 19 pistol (photo above), along with the magazines necessary to feed ammunition into it.  At least one magazine was capable of holding 30 rounds or more — perhaps the optional 33 round magazine.  That permitted the shooter to fire up to 34 rounds without reloading.  Here’s a video of a Glock 19 being fired with a high-capacity magazine protruding from the hand grip, followed by a quick reload to a smaller magazine, then more firing.  Imagine the horror of this being done in the middle of a crowd.

As Jan Barry stated in the previous article, “Given enough time, every community from Florida to Alaska, Maine to Hawaii may experience the all-American, historical ritual of shooting up the place.”

He’s right, and the reason is our society is awash in handguns.  These infernal devices, designed for the specific purpose of killing people, are everywhere.  It isn’t just street thugs shooting other thugs; they also shoot average citizens.  Criminals use them to commit all manner of crimes, often killing their victims when it isn’t necessary.  Law-abiding citizens shoot each other and themselves either out of rage and in accidents or as suicides.  Children play with them and shoot each other.  Disturbed people, some of them children, commit mass murder with handguns.  Even the few true self-defense shootings aren’t always necessary, but given the capability to exact revenge, why not?

In the wake of such a tragedy, there are predictable calls for more effective gun control, particularly in regard to handguns.  There’s talk of a new Assault Weapons Ban along the lines of the one that was in effect from 1994 to 2004, even though it was mostly meaningless.  However, one part of that law should be revived — the prohibition of high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.  In addition to the expired federal law, some states and localities already outlaw high-capacity magazines, so it isn’t something new or dramatic.

The amount of bad information floating around is depressing.  One talking head referred to the Glock 19 as an “automatic weapon.”  Wrong; it’s a semi-automatic, requiring one trigger-pull for each round fired.  Automatic weapons are either already against the law or highly restricted.  Opiners constantly refer to the magazine as a “clip.”  Wrong again; a clip was what held the rounds together in an M-1 Garand rifle, for example.  Why are such trivial errors important?  Because they indicate that people don’t know what they’re talking about.

But it gets more serious.  Pro-gun folks talk about a handgun ban, or even a ban on high-capacity magazines, as being unconstitutional because of the Second Amendment.  Wrong; even the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision so beloved by conservatives, Heller v. District of Columbia, didn’t hold that specific kinds of weapons, and certainly not devices like high-capacity magazines, couldn’t be outlawed.   And look at it from a common sense standpoint — if you can’t legally possess some kinds of weapons, then any kind of weapon is subject to being outlawed.  The real problem, as usual, is political.

And then it gets crazy.  I’ve heard it said by conservatives that if there had been more armed citizens at the scene of the shooting it could have been stopped or at least fewer people would have been killed and wounded.  Think about it.  Let’s say there were 10 average citizens packin’ heat at the rally.  Of those 10, the odds are that none had ever fired a weapon in anger or been shot at, and most wouldn’t have a clue what to do.  Three or four would probably never have drawn their weapons; they’re mostly fashion accessories anyway.  Six or seven might have pulled out their guns and started firing.  One — maybe one — would have had the training and experience to effectively use his weapon.  So instead of having one man shooting until he was wrestled to the ground, we would have had seven or eight people blazing away in a crowd, and more people would have been hit.

We should have a federal law completely banning handguns — possession, sale, distribution, manufacture…the whole megillah.  Now it’s an additional charge in some jurisdictions for use of a handgun in the commission of a crime; forget that.  The mere possession of the handgun should be a serious crime with substantial prison time for the violator, except for police officers, the military, and a few other carefully vetted professionals with valid needs for such weapons.  But I know this won’t happen — the public won’t support it, and even those politicians who think it’s the right thing to do are afraid to support it.  That includes President Obama.

Lest anyone think I’m a bleeding-heart, anti-gun, ignoramus liberal of the standard variety, think again.  Firearms of all kinds were part of my professional life for three decades.  Earlier, I carried and used firearms as a kid.  I’ve owned numerous firearms.  I’ve fired many different kinds of pistols, even sleeping with one at times for good reasons.  I’ve fired every type of rifle from a BB gun to an M-16.  I’ve fired machine guns like M-60s and the 25mm chain gun mounted on Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  I’ve fired the main gun on tanks and pulled the lanyard to fire howitzers.  I’ve thrown grenades and triggered Claymore mines.  I’ve fired many thousands of aerial rockets and 40mm grenades and millions of rounds from aircraft-mounted machine guns.  I understand loving the feel of a weapon, the thrill of firing and hitting a target, the beauty of a well-crafted firearm.

And I also know what people look like after they’ve been shot, and I’ve watched them die.  And sadly, I know what a child who has been shot to death looks like.

Okay, I’m a realist.  I know the public won’t support a federal handgun ban, and I know politicians won’t do it anyway.  We’ll continue to see suburban wannabe cowboy heroes with ersatz phalluses strapped to their waists as they shop at Wal-Mart on the weekends.  We’ll continue to have people with handguns at home, thinking wrongly that they’re the best weapons for home defense.  We’ll continue to have delusional conspiracy theorists armed to the teeth, ready to take on the forces of the NWO when they land their black helicopters in the neighborhood, led by none other than the Antichrist himself.  And criminals will continue to prey on us with handguns.  Worst of all, we’ll continue to see crazies murdering innocents with perfectly legal handguns.

Fine, we can’t outlaw handguns.  I get it.  But how about banning high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds so we can’t be murdered so quickly and efficiently?  No?  I figured as much.

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14 Responses to “The Arizona Shooting and Gun Control”

  1. Doug in Jax |

    Stupid article. A pump shotgun full of buckshot would have expelled more deadly projectiles from a single mag in less time than this nut did with the pistol.

    So after you’ve confiscated all of the pistols from law-abiding and sane citizens, the next nut will use grampa’s goose gun. And then the Leftists will make possession of a shotgun a major felony.

    Bad guys will always choose smaller-weaker targets, and they will do it on a timeline of their choosing. The only thing that gives smaller-weaker people an ability to defend themselves from thugs (and gives thugs pause to attack) is a handgun.

    Expect a giant leap in attacks on young women once the Left has conforted the thugs that their targets will be defenseless.

  2. Oldpuppymax |

    The previous comment summed it up correctly. Once the left succeeds in “outlawing” one type of firearm, the rest will immediately be targeted. And it has nothing whatever to do with criminals, children or slain judges. An armed public cannot be enslaved. Period. The Founders made certain our God given right was included in the Constitution for one reason only…to provide the people with the means to overthrow a tyrant. Leftists cannot totally enslave the American public as long as 150 million people are armed, with perhaps 60 million of these willing to use those arms against an Obama led dictatorship. This is the reason the left has been working to overturn the 2nd amendment for decades. God willing, there will always be enough courageous, freedom loving people to prevent its happening. But the author of this piece need not worry. We will be here to defend his liberty along with that of every other weak, pathetic individual ready to cede his rights to Big Brother.

  3. Dan Miller |


    As a prominent politician of years ago is claimed to have said, “I feel very strongly on both sides of that issue.” First, I’ve never owned a firearm more potent than a BB gun; I now own an air pistol capable of firing about 15 BBs before reloading and hope that in dealing with a burglar in the dark of night it might do some damage to him; either that or it could get my wife and me killed. For practical purposes here in Panama it is almost impossible to own a firearm legally — getting a permit is cumbersome, expensive and even with lots of suck luck takes over a year. Since we are quite isolated and there is zero police presence within 35 KM or so, it could be useful. On the other hand, I haven’t used a firearm for over forty years and that was for Army qualification purposes. Beyond that, I had no need for a weapon. Were I to attempt to use a pistol in the dark it could be dangerous in unintended ways even if I had a week or so of instruction now.

    However, if and to the extent that the Second Amendment is nibbled away at it forfeits meaning. That loss can and likely would extend to the rest of the Constitution, which has over the years already lost too much and also gained too much through interpretations of what it authorizes the federal government to do. Contrary to the wisdom of former Speaker Pelosi, constitutionality is a serious concern. The slippery slope is a dangerous one and I think it should be avoided even at substantial cost.

    Would the ban of civilian firearms put a significant dent in criminal firearm activity? Prohibitions on unlawful drugs (the Constitution nowhere says that the right to drugs shall not be abridged) haven’t noticeably done so and significant criminal uses of firearms have involved those engaged in the unlawful distribution, sale and even use of such drugs. I understand that here in Panama, a principal drug transshipment route, most firearm related deaths involve drugs. Have criminal uses of lawfully registered firearms in states with liberal gun laws been high in proportion to such uses in states with more restrictive gun laws? Not from what I have read and the converse seems to be true.

    Nuts and even sane criminals will find ways to kill people with or without legal firearms. Illegal and unregistered firearms are common. Molotov cocktails seem to be effective and it would be rather difficult (but in no way unconstitutional, I think) to ban gasoline; even the man-made global warming nuts haven’t been completely successful. Any illiterate jihadist seems able to put together or in any event to get various types of bombs and other lethal devices and it seems easy for anyone willing to risk criminal trial to kill people in any number of ways: just drive your car at high speed into a crowd.

    You suggest that imposing severe criminal penalties on those who use firearms for unlawful purposes won’t work. It won’t work if they are not captured, tried, convicted and actually made to suffer those penalties. Maybe death by firing squad would be an appropriate penalty; the recidivism rate among executed criminals is remarkably low. If we are to rethink the meaning of the Second Amendment as we do every time there is a tragedy such as recently in Arizona, maybe we should rethink the meaning of cruel and unusual punishment in the case not only of violent crimes involving firearms but in all other cases of violent crime as well.

  4. Brianna |

    “We should have a federal law completely banning handguns ”

    You’re right, there has been a lot of irrational gibberish about the Arizona incident.

    More seriously, I find it very ironic that when we have issues with free speech, the traditional solution is to seek more speech, and yet when we have issues with guns, everyone cries for more control of guns. When we have problems due to speech, it is universally recognized that the problems due to free speech are trivial compared to the problems we get from restriction speech, and that the cure to any problems we have as a result of free speech is to keep speech open and free. So why do the people who feel this way about speech completely turn the argument on its head when dealing with guns? Why do we not recognize that the problems involved in keeping arms are trivial compared to the problems involved with banning them and that most of the problems involved with guns can usually be solved by keeping gun access legal to all law-abiding citizens?

  5. Clarissa |

    ” We’ll continue to see suburban wannabe cowboy heroes with ersatz phalluses strapped to their waists as they shop at Wal-Mart on the weekends.”

    -How well you write! This is a very powerful, passionate, interesting article.

  6. Tom Carter |

    Doug and Oldpuppymax, thanks for your comments. Your inane views have helped me make the point.

    Dan, I understand what you’re saying. However, I think we could outlaw handguns without doing damage to the 2nd Amendment. After all, a huge number of specific kinds of weapons are already either banned or very highly restricted. That means that other kinds of weapons could be treated similarly. We should also remember that the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact, hence common-sense exceptions to rights like the “falsely shouting fire in a theater” exception to freedom of speech. The other points were addressed in either this article or earlier ones. The bottom line is we could and should outlaw handguns. But we won’t — hell, we can’t even ban these absurd high-capacity magazines — and we’ll continue to have by far the highest handgun death rates in the industrialized (read “modern”) world.

    Brianna, events like the Arizona shooting are followed by discussions on gun control because that’s when people might listen to common sense. But most don’t. As to the comparison of freedom of speech and the “right” to go around packin’ heat — I don’t follow your argument. Freedom of speech is not only a basic right (some would say “natural right”) in a democracy, it’s the most effective way to promote good government and protect people from government excesses. The “right” to own a handgun, however, is neither a basic nor a natural right. Maximum freedom of speech and a minimum availability of handguns would make American a much better, safer place where 9-year-old girls are much less likely to be gunned down in public. We’re doing pretty well on the speech part of that; we’ve got a long way to go on the handguns part.

    Clarissa, thanks.

  7. larry ennis |

    Considering some of the fall-out as a result of fine tuning the First Amendment you’d best be careful what you wish for.
    Seems as if not a month passes that our free speech is attacked and modified to please someone. I posted a piece some months ago about erosion of the First Amendment. We have an entire segment our supposedly free speech devoted to words that are represented by a single letter. The “N” word being the latest.
    I’ve always been an advocate of the Second Amendment. As much as I renounce the actions of the Tucson shooter I cannot condone modifying of our rights.
    Tom like myself, has been around long enough to see the results of “fixing it” as it applies to our elected officials. Keep them away from the Constitution and Bill Of Rights.

  8. Dan Miller |

    Tom, you say,

    I think we could outlaw handguns without doing damage to the 2nd Amendment. After all, a huge number of specific kinds of weapons are already either banned or very highly restricted. That means that other kinds of weapons could be treated similarly.

    That’s part of the slippery slope I consider quite dangerous. Some types of speech are already banned, highly restricted or heading in that direction as well: speech perceived as inciting violence, as being hate speech, as causing lunatics to kill people or as simply uncivil. Does that mean that “other kinds of weapons speech could be treated similarly?” After all, speech is a type of weapon. I hope it won’t come to that; it’s already bad enough.

    I read today that there are serious proposals to ban various types of bath salts because mentally deformed people are increasingly smoking or otherwise ingesting them with disastrous consequences. Some of the people being harmed are just the users without whom civilization would be better — potential winners of the Darwin Award — but others are not in that category. According to the medical director for the California Poison Control System,

    The only way this won’t become a problem in California is if federal regulatory agencies get ahead of the curve. This is a brand new thing.

    I’ll leave it to others to opine on what that says about California.

    Where do we stop? Gasoline? It’s dangerous and can be used to start fires and to make bombs. Fertilizer? That too. Automobiles? They can be used to run over people. Airplanes? They can be flown into buildings. Booze? I think we already tried that.

  9. Tom Carter |

    Dan, unlike some of the examples you’ve used, the problem of handguns is so serious that action has to be taken. And it’s kind of sad, really, that all this hoopla concerns small devices intended to kill people that no one has a legitimate need to own. It’s all wrapped up in right-wing politics, delusions about defending one’s self against the evil forces of darkness including the U.S. government, and truth be told an adjunct to weak masculinity. The first of those two are just invalid. The third is a big part of the problem.

    The most common reason people give (excuse, really) for needing a handgun is home defense. First, very few people actually defend their homes with handguns. It’s much more likely that they’ll shoot themselves or someone else by accident, that they’ll commit suicide, or that a kid will get it and shoot himself or another kid. If one feels that his home needs to be an armed camp, then a shotgun (even a small, light one like a .410) is much better. Louder, does more damage when it hits, very frightening to an intruder, less tempting as an item to steal, less likely to be deadly to kids, etc. But then, one wouldn’t look cool and manly carrying one around Wal-Mart on Saturday, assuming they would allow it.

  10. d |

    They do allow it,if you have a permit. So sad,I have seen men carrying guns in H.E.B.,too. Perfectly legal. I feel sorry for all the children of pistol owners,their lives are in danger. Not to mention,the spouses who p.them off. So many gun owners are right on the edge of stability.So many arguements,that could have been settled with a few mean looks and bad words,are settled with guns,especially handguns. Many, not so bad guys, in prison,for murder,when a fist to the jaw,would have sufficed,if not for their trusty phallic symbol. Don’t forget the poor victims,who made the wrong idiot,mad. Don’t forget the dead spouses of the suicide victims,who wouldn’t have done it,without the gun. At least,with a knife or fist,you just might out run him.
    I completely agree with you,Tom.

  11. Brian |

    For those inclined to doubt the efficacy of handguns as an aid in warding off crime, do a bing/google on Gary Kleck. There are far more instances of defensive use of firearms, including handguns, than there are prosecutable crimes.

    Doris> So many gun owners on the edge of stability? Where did you come up with that little nugget? And “trusty phallic symbol”? Really? Since we’re playing arm-chair shrink, I’d have to say that you’re projecting. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

    I remember well a lesson I learned in 1991/92 when we were having a class conducted by our department shrink: the demographic most in favor of gun control is…prison inmates. Do you think they believe in gun control out of some sort of suddenly-inspired altruism? That’s as hard to swallow as a Vaseline sandwich considering recidivism rates.

    As I have said, repeatedly, the police are under neither legal nor moral obligation to protect you. Further, I have to question the morality of someone that would demand and expect that another person risk life and limb when that someone is so unwilling to do it for him- or herself.

    I was once dispatched to a robbery in progress. Elapsed time from the time that the 9-1-1 operator picked up the call to my arrival on scene was about 45 or 50 seconds (I happened to be right down the street). The crooks were already gone by the time I got there. I will reiterate – the cops CAN’T protect you, even with the strongest desire to do so.

    If guns are the cause of crime, then matches and gasoline are the cause of arson.

  12. Tom Carter |

    Brian, these statements just seem very doubtful (do you have sources?):

    “There are far more instances of defensive use of firearms, including handguns, than there are prosecutable crimes.”

    “the demographic most in favor of gun control is prison inmates.”

    Yes, and pencils cause plagiarism, and cars cause auto accidents, and … on and on ad infinitum. For one so attached to philosophy and reason, I find it surprising to see you using this kind of logic.

    The fact remains that the easiest to carry, most readily concealed, and most efficient tool for killing people is a handgun. If our society were not awash in them, there would be fewer homicides, probably many fewer. Home defense, and any other legitimate reason you can think of for owning one, can be just as well — if not better — taken care of with other means, such as a shotgun or a rifle, for example. I know you’re not one of them, but even the nutcases trembling in fear of the NWO invading in black helicopters or the forces of Obama’s evil government surrounding their homesteads would be better served in defending themselves with something other than a handgun.

  13. d |

    Lol,Brian,glad to have you get onto me,again. I know a few nutcases with guns,not me,at least my opinion,but I do have them in my house for snakes and wild hogs,mad dogs and such. If guns aren’t phallic symbols,neither are sports cars…right. Sometimes a cigar really isn’t a cigar,why do men like to suck on cigars,anyway?.

  14. Brian |

    Tom, check out Kleck’s research on defensive use of firearms. There are cites everywhere.

    As far as prison inmates, gun control is a near universal with them. I don’t have the cites, but it was (at least back in the early 90s) taught at the Houston Police Academies.

    I am married to logic, and it is irrational to assume that A) the police will protect us and the B) banning handguns will solve our crime problems. As Dan pointed out, our borders are a sieve for street drugs. Do you imagine, for even a second, that should handguns be banned that they won’t just pour across the border as well? And who is it, do you think, that will end up with THOSE guns?

    Our founders believed in, above all, freedom – freedom was more important than wealth and family to them. I’m in the same camp. Obviously, I’d much rather take my chances in a free society than be kept and “protected.” If I wanted that, I’d move to England or France rather than trying to FORCE people to live the way I think they should live here.

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