The third rail in this tragic incident of the violent massacre of innocent people in Tucson, Arizona is one that is carefully avoided by politicians and the media alike. Thanks to the antics of the NRA and an extreme right Supreme Court, weapons of destruction are as available to the lunatic fringe of our society as candy bars are to children. The clout of the National Rifle Association has grown beyond the pale. There are few lobbies in Washington as powerful or protective of their interests. Any gun laws are seen as violations of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which cites the need for a well-regulated militia, stocked with arms.
The power of the N.R.A. is pervasive, both in national and state politics. When Democrats were trying to pass a campaign-finance disclosure measure last year, they had to write a special exemption for the gun lobby in order to secure majority support in the House. Liberal Democrats like Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio and the current victim, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords openly boasted of their support for gun ownership. Even if these politics could be countered, the courts, especially the Supreme Court, are raising new, and probably insurmountable, obstacles to substantive gun control. Last year, the court threw out a Chicago gun-control ordinance, the year before a Washington, D.C. law, both of which had the intent of reducing the daily slaughter of Americans by guns.
It is one thing to protect the rights of sensible, gun loving, responsible citizens, but it is sheer insanity to have created the present climate that allows unstable and obviously demented persons access to such weapons. The current tragedy is one of but a series of such events (e.g.,Columbine, Virginia Tech.) that are fostered by this climate, not to mention the daily killing of our citizens by guns which have become so common place that they rate hardly a mention in the news of the day. While the idiotic and hate-filled rhetoric of the Palins of our society are no doubt contributory to such incidents, the soil in which such activities ferment has been cultivated by a lavish devotion to the questionable language of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Until and unless the current tragedy brings these considerations back into the equation, nothing will change. One does not need to be a flaming liberal to suggest that reasonable limits on the rights of crazy people to obtain access to weapons are logical and appropriate. If I were a politician making such a statement, it is most certain that weapon worshippers would show up at my next public appearance openly brandishing their weapons.