responsible and irresponsible

Two years ago today Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was meeting her constituents in a grocery store parking lot in a suburb of Tucson, Arizona. A young man named Jared Loughner arrived at the event with a concealed Glock 19 9mm pistol, which he’d legally purchased a few months earlier.

giffords signLoughner used that weapon to shoot Giffords through the head at point blank range. He then began firing randomly at others at the event. When he paused to reload, he was tackled and subdued by bystanders. Loughner had fired 31 rounds (although he had a 30 round magazine, he’d arrived at the event with a round already in the chamber). He had a second fully loaded 30 round magazine in his pocket, along with two 15 round magazines. That’s a total of 91 rounds.

The shooting only lasted about 15 seconds, during which Loughner managed to shoot 18 people, killing six of them. Had he been limited to the standard 15 round magazine sold with the weapon, the carnage would have been reduced.

Today, on the Facebook page of the National Rifle Association, you can find this graphic:

nrafactsThe numbers may be accurate, but not surprisingly, they’re deliberately misleading. The NRA is right — rifles and shotguns are NOT the weapons of choice for murder. Handguns are. The majority of murders are fairly spontaneous events, often fueled by alcohol or drugs. Folks get drunk, get in an argument, a fight starts, a gun is pulled, and there you are. It’s fairly rare for somebody to have a shotgun or rifle on them in most murder scenarios; usually in the time it takes for a person to leave the area and go fetch a rifle or shotgun, either the intended shooter calms down enough to re-think the situation or the intended victim hauls ass and leaves.

So no, there aren’t a lot of murders by rifle or shotgun. However, when it comes to mass shooting, rifles are one of the weapons of choice. The irresponsible NRA fails to mention that in their graphic. There were also some other numbers missing from the NRA’s graphic, so I’ve added them.

Blunt Instrument Murders: 496 (1.36 deaths per day)
Hands/Feet Murders: 726 (1.98 deaths per day)
Knife Murders: 1,694 (4.64 deaths per day)
Firearm Murders: 8,583 (23.51 deaths per day)
All Firearm Deaths: 31,347 (85.88 deaths per day)

Firearms make it easier to kill, it’s that simple. Easier to kill yourself, easier to kill other people — accidentally or intentionally. Large capacity magazines make it easier to kill more people; it’s also that simple. Those are facts the NRA doesn’t want you to know.

I’m not an advocate for disarming the U.S. As I’ve said before, I rather like guns. But it’s possible to like guns and still want to see the annual body count reduced.

Today, on the second anniversary of the shooting she somehow managed to survive, Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, have launched Americans for Responsible Solutions — an organization dedicated to sensible firearm policy. In their opinion piece, Giffords and Kelly write:

We have experienced too much death and hurt to remain idle. Our response to the Newtown massacre must consist of more than regret, sorrow and condolence.

They’re right. Regret doesn’t change anything. Sorrow and condolence don’t change anything. People can change things. And it’s way past time we did.

3 thoughts on “responsible and irresponsible

  1. I would be curious to know why you like guns. This is something that I cannot, for the life of me, understand—the idea of having any kind of affection for weapons, particularly once one understands that guns—other than in the hands of hunters who might live in the wild (which surely is rare these days)—have no utilitarian properties beyond killing.


    • I like guns because I find they’re fun to shoot. There’s something strangely compelling about being able to point an object at a target, pulling a small lever, and seeing a hole appear in the target. They also make a tremendous noise, which I rather enjoy. And if you shoot some handguns at night, flame comes out of the barrel. That’s fascinating to watch. I like the idea of a controlled explosion propelling a hunk of metal through space and delivering that hunk of metal to a spot I’ve determined.

      That said, I don’t own any firearms. In one of my previous jobs I had a license to carry a concealed weapon, but I never did. When I had to go into situations where I might need to protect myself, I brought along a buddy who was usually armed. I was always concerned that if I had a weapon, I might be less cautious and less attentive to an developing threat.

      I can’t deny that guns are almost entirely designed to kill living things. That’s a sad truth. But despite that, they’re still fun to shoot.

      I don’t think I can answer your question to your satisfaction. I don’t entirely like my answer my ownself. But if I’m going to write about these things, I need to be honest about them, and in all honesty I like guns. I just wish they were much much harder to obtain.


      • Yeah… I guess I kinda get that. Oddly, I compare the experience of firing a gun (which, except for air-guns and BB guns, I’ve never had) akin to the thrill one gets riding a snowmobile, which I’ve done only once. If I never ride a snowmobile again, I won’t feel I’ve lost much. (Unless, of course, I’m somehow stranded on a tundra and am asked if I’d like a ride back to civilization.) I similarly feel that I would momentarily get the same exhilarating kick out of firing a bullet at a target and being prideful at my (yes, of course) accuracy. But what I cannot grasp in the least is the devotion to weaponry with which the anti-gun regulation crowd effervesces, especially in the wake of these heartbreaking tragedies. And then, in the case of the Giffords, going after them for “politicizing” what happened in Newtown. The disconnect is absolutely jaw-dropping.


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