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January 10th, 2011
07:00 AM ET

My Take: Rep. Giffords and the karma of politics as war

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

My reflections on America's latest assassination attempt and on politics as "the continuation of war by other means" begin with one simple claim: ideas matter, as do the words we use to express them.

We do not yet know what moved the killer to take aim at Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday. But we know that when he shot her and murdered six others, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, he did not act in a vacuum.

He acted in a state where handguns such as the 9 mm Glock he reportedly used are about as easy to get as cigarettes.

He acted in a political milieu where slogans such as “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” pass for rational analysis.

And he acted in a country where political disagreements are routinely expressed in the rhetoric of war.

I do not know whether the alleged assailant Jared Lee Loughner ever saw the crosshairs Sarah Palin placed over Arizona on a map her website. I do not know what motivated whoever vandalized her Tucson office in March shortly after she voted in favor of health care reform. But I have no doubt that both were influenced by the verbal crossfire that pushes Palin and other pundits, on both the left and the right, to demonize their opponents as enemies of the state.

I have no doubt about this because I know that ideas matter—that they move people to perform incredible acts of kindness and commit unspeakable acts of brutality. Ideas mattered in ancient Greece at the time of Plato. They mattered in the ancient Mediterranean at the time of Jesus and Paul. And they continue to matter today.

Pima County Sherriff Clarence Dupnik is already taking heat from conservatives for the way he connected the dots shortly after the shooting. "When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous," Dupnik said. “And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

He is right, however, to make a connection between vitriol and violence.

For years, Jon Stewart has been trying to tamp down this vitriol via humor, including through his Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in October. In an interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross he took aim not at Fox News for targeting liberals but at liberals for targeting conservatives.

It’s very easy to dehumanize,” Stewart said, before giving voice to the fear many on the left have of a right-wing takeover of America. “We think of it as, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so scared if they take over,’” he said, referring to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. “And you know what, we will be fine.”

I am not so sure about that. Yes, we can survive a presidency by a conservative Republican, even a Republican as conservative as Sarah Palin. But can we survive even further ratcheting up of this rhetoric of politics as war?

In March of last year, Giffords objected to Palin’s use of the crosshairs image on a map that targeted 20 Democrats (including Giffords, by name) for defeat. “We’re on Sarah Palin's targeted list," she told MSNBC in March, "but the thing is that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district, and when people do that, they've gotta realize there are consequences to that action."

Palin has taken this map off her website, which is well and good. But will she tamp back her rhetoric? More importantly, how many assassinations will it take before out nation's politicians and television personalities do the same?

We are all accountable in my view not only for what we say but also for what our listeners do with our words. To insist otherwise is to pretend that words and ideas do not matter. But words and ideas do matter. They move people to tears, and they move people to murder. All of us who use words in our professions know that. It is time for our politicians and pundits to go and do likewise.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Culture wars • Politics • Sarah Palin

soundoff (76 Responses)
  1. Orlando Dentist

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    July 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  2. Chris

    Many would argue that life is the incarnation of our thoughts and equally illusory. I agree. I also believe that once an action is understood that thought can be thrown away.

    January 12, 2011 at 12:03 am |
  3. RightTurnClyde

    It's pretty cl;ear that Stephen Prothero does not like freedom (he does not trust OTHERS with it and is unwilling to accept the risks related to being free). Although he is left wing he would feel much safer in a totalitarian environment like the one that existed in (either) the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany where absolute controls are arbitrarily set by a dictator (or small oligarchy) and then absolute authority is exerted to assure compliance with the controls - a police state. As once might observe from both Nazi Germany AND the USSR (or even Cuba or China) .. absolute dictatorship does not accomplish absolute control (they all had numerous dissidents) but it does extinguish freedom. I once asked a Russian lady why she did not have ever express an opinion and she said "een Russia ees no good have opinion" Yes, in Russia an opinion could get you killed. Man were killed (50 million over and above who died in WWII) MaoTse Tung killed 70 million. Castro had firing squads murdering hundreds of possible opponents. The North Vietnam Army shot thousands after the fall of Saigon. Pol Pot, the Greek Civil War (thousands murdered by Communists), Yugoslavia, N. Korea. So this is what Stephen Prothero advocates - control at any price. Control at the price of freedom. Dictation from the few (the oligarchy). Distrust of the many - the "masses." We/they ..a power elite and a large military to enforce their will. Oh many still die .. they just die at the hands of the power elite and not at the occasional hand of a crazy wacko. We really cannot eliminate risk. Life is a risk. Life is terminal (and certainly temporary). There are much higher risks associated with driving cars (simply .. seems innocent enough - as easy to get as a pack of cigarettes). 136 people were killed by cars the day the Congress woman was shot. 136 are killed every day in cars. They are killed in every state of the union and in every conceivable way. The same 136/day has been going on since 1950. Cars are easy to get and many drive them without a license. many drive intoxicated. Many are impaired (texting). There ARE laws (lots of them) and BIG TROUBLE if you are DUI or texting. Still 136/day are killed. Noting reduces it. People get killed on ships (are they too easy to get), in coal mines, in swimming pools, at work, in airplane crashes. Should we X-ray everyone two or three times a day to make sure they are not armed? Should there be random strip searches? Pat downs? (Mind you these same liberals are incensed that Arizona asks people for ID's on traffic stops)(that's "racist" - what is an X-ray? Is that an intrusion into your personal privacy?) We have a remarkable level of freedom and it is atrocious that the liberal left wants to extinguish it.

    January 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  4. Mark from Middle River

    "I take issue with this statement, mainly because the word criminals is so varied that it's effectively useless. It's like sports. Sports can cover things from thai kickboxing to badminton. They're not one and the same. So too criminals are varied. You have hard core killers, you have burglars, you have rapists. And then you have murdering nutters.

    A) The more difficult something is, the less people are going to do it.
    B) Given A, making a gun more difficult to get means less people will have firearms.
    C) A percentage of the population are homicidal maniacs.
    D) Given B and C, gun control means less maniacs have firearms.
    E) Given D, firearm control reduces crime"

    Bob – I feel or more important know that your argument lost traction when you begin to parcel out in your mind what you feel are varying levels of crime. Massive traction was lost when you separated rapist, murdering nuts and then "hard core killers".... The burglar we can debate but "murdering nuts" and "hard core killers" What the heck???

    I am sorry Bob but a criminal is a criminal. Now if the “mudering nuts” are found mentally unstable then I can see the split. There is not a gun owning citizen that does not want to keep guns out of such hands.

    A criminal Bob, its someone that looks at the laws that you, me and the rest of society have chosen to live by and thumbs his nose at. Your view is like those who used to say ... I lied but I told a little "white" lie or I am a person of faith and I sinned but it was a little "biddy”sin. Even the burglar, who steals from a 7-11 is threatening the livelihood of the store owners. This is one of those "bleeding hearts" views that some on the Left continue to give ammunition to those on the Right to attack them.

    Now to the second half of your post. I would love to live in the bubble you do Bob. I mean really I would. All I have to do is look south of the U.S. boarder and see that you really have not been watching the news lately. They can not stop and control not only the flow of drugs coming across the boarder but they can not even stop American citizens from going out into National Parks and growing marijuana on federal lands. I know hunters who are gunsmiths that can go to Home Depot and in a week or so make something that will be accurate enough to have put that bullet through the Congresswoman's head from across not only the parking lot of the Safeway but across the road and parking lot of the businesses across from the Safeway.

    We can even look towards history and see the folly of the "more difficult something is, the less people are going to do it.". Look at this guy who did the shooting. He lives in Arizona, which I heard is a lot better state than I was raised to believe it was..... Bob we are talking about a pretty decent sized state. If you really believe in your arguments Bob, then tell me, if guns were banned in Arizona, do you think and believe in your heart and mind, that this mass killing could not have occurred? I am not going to even go into my previous points of the man just using another means to kill these people such as a bomb or just plowing his car into a crowd......I am saying Bob, if we had of started the year 2011 with the stores in Arizona being free of guns and a “strongly” worded law on the books saying that if you have in your procession a firearm you will get a fine and/or time in jail..... Do you believe that this guy could not have shot these people
    …..with the same type of gun,
    …..from the same type of magazine
    .... and with the same exactly the same type ammunition?

    Bob for the Gun Control side I believe they think of firearms the same as drugs. That is why I attempted to help you see the folly of such thoughts with my analogy. They feel that because they or their kids can not just go to the corner store to get a narcotic, that they have to sneak around back alleys to obtain such, then the same can be done for firearms. What people are starting to see is that when a person buys drugs, most are doing such to consume personally. The aim is use the product for personal pleasure. When a person buys a gun, except for the ones thinking of suicide, most are purchasing the firearm to use against another.

    If a gun owner buys it to protect himself and his family then so be it. Tom Seleck sorta sunk the Rosie O'Donnell show when she attacked him on his gun ownership views. All he had to do is point out how she had armed security to protect her wife/partner and their adopted kid. She could not come out with a decent answer why should the rest of America should not have the same rights to protect themselves and their love ones.

    So to reject your “D” argument, I like many Americans, would say that any law you put on the books is only going to be acknowledged and followed by law abiding citizens. The “maniacs”...Bob are they going to follow and respect this law? If I were a “maniac” Bob you would have to believe that somewhere in my twisted mind that I would have a issue sneaking around “back alleys” to get a gun. That I would discouraged from such because Bob signed a law saying I could not go into a store and buy a gun. Do you really believe that such deranged people, Bob would have that much issue with your “A” belief?

    I will follow up with this Bob and I really believe this to be a game winner 🙂

    ..... after what happened last week, do you feel that the armed security level will increase or decrease for government officials, such as the congresswoman? If it does Bob, tell me, how many regular citizens where shot or shot at this past weekend Bob? Will they be afforded the same increase of protection of a “armed” security detail or police presence for them?

    Bob, if members of Congress, the justices of the Supreme Court and the President himself and their families get protection of a person or persons with guns.... why would you want to take away the same right for one of us poor smucks of a citizens who are not elected to office, or are rich? Is it just those with means can protect themselves and their kids from the “maniacs” you spoke of and the rest of us are to do...what Bob? Who is going to protect us?

    I am going to end it there, for now Bob. I have given a lot of questions and I am interested in direct dialogue and am interested in your answers to some of them.

    Peace dude.

    January 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  5. red-eye

    Well here's what we know... America is THE MOST ARMED nation on the entire Planet ... having approx 90 guns for every 100 people ... the 2nd most armed nation is Yemen having 61 guns per 100 people ... if we destroyed TEN THOUSDAND GUNS EACH YEAR ... we could go for DECADES and never get rid of the approximately 315 MILLIon Guns in this country ... but of course you'll hear the Usual GUN NUT GAS BAGS making the usual , Socialist, Marxist, Commie Claims that someone is trying to TAKE AWAY their Gun Rights ..... THIS COUNTRY WiLLL ALWAYS HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF GUNS <<<< ALWAYS ,,,, grow up and grow a pair ... and now Congresswoman Gifford is lying in the hospital with gunshot would to the head from a 22 cent bullet purchased by a lunatic at Wal Mart

    January 11, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      "and now Congresswoman Gifford is lying in the hospital with gunshot would to the head from a 22 cent bullet purchased by a lunatic at Wal Mart"

      ...and you believe that if there were not a wal mart then he could not have found another way to kill and injure a bunch of people. Let's not try to live by emotions kid. Try to grow a brain.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      IF there are 315 million guns in the U.S. (I have no idea, just taking your number) then you can see that 315 million gun owners have not gone on shooting rampages or robbed stores or killed each other in a crap game. So the risk of gun ownership is actually LOWER that car ownership because the one=per-household (or ten) car number results in 136 deaths every day of the year. (they are unintended of course). Arizona has millions of citizens who apparently are allowed to carry guns and DON'T get into trouble with them. That's an argument for freedom (not against it). Nothing would prevent dozens of enforcement agencies (FBI, ATF, Homeland Security, Sheriff, municipal police, state police, US Marshal) from investigating all purchasers of high-capacity pistols and arresting those who are nuts (there ARE laws already about who can own a gun) .. and yet .. nobody did. This crazy even had a run-in with campus police and reports were filed and nobody investigated. Do you suppose that on August 15th 2001you could have convinced (FBI, ATF, FAA, Sheriff, municipal police, state police, US Marshal) to have investigated 25 men who took flight training and were planning to hijack five airliners? Probably not. Nobody investigated them. Some flight school reported them. If there are already plenty of laws and nobody is doing anything about them what new laws would change that? Would they need to investigate all 315 million gun's owned. Would that make any sense? Is it worth the money? How many lives would that save?? Should they take officers away from DUI or domestic violence in order to investigate crazy students? Also .. Walmart does not sell guns or ammunition. It does make liberals mad for some reason.

      January 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  6. Mark from Middle River

    "I wasn't aware Obama was quoting a Sean Connery character"

    Ace-

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MJSK9H-_mU&w=640&h=360]

    and bit of this

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ScvAJG51V4&w=640&h=360]

    Personally, on this one, I am a realist. I do not think Obama meant to inflame anyone with his speech as much as Palin website did with hers. Both are politicians. I do not think they want to kill as much as the New York Post article last week with a crosshairs on Peyton Manning.

    I feel it is all about stretching things as far as one can for political points. Palin won't go away. Too many folks like her. There are those on the other side who are still playing by high school rules of the popular kids say a person is unpopular than it must be so. They say Palin is a bad person and get mad ....extremely mad ...(MSNBC)..when half the country dismiss them.

    So we have no doubt that folks on the other side were going to do what ever they could to put the gun in Sarah's hands. What is happening now....surprise folks are dismissing them again.

    Try this Ace, when they were burning G.W. Bush in effigy and there was a movie made about the assassination of Bush..... where were the cries of vitriol from the left then?

    Please Ace, do not be a liberal hypocrite.... one who gets mad when people have a picture of Obama as Hitler but does not get upset when they had G.W. Bush as Hitler.

    January 11, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • HotAirAce

      I do not believe I have behaved hypocritically – I readily admitted I used the information you gave me to find statements by Obama that could be construed, in the extreme, as advocating violence. Making a judgement as to which was the more extreme case (Obama vs Palin) does not make me a hypocrite. Remember, I'm a Canadian – I don't have a dog in this fight!

      January 11, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  7. Rev. Raymond Brown

    Let us pray and organize. We need a national march on washington against crime. If you would like to join me in planning a march, please email me at: leaderbrown@yahoo.com. Now lets pray Dear lord plaese heal congresswman Gabrielle Giffords right now we thank for it in Jesus name Aman! yours truly Rev. Raymond Brown.

    January 10, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      March against crime.
      March pro life.
      March pro choice.
      March pro republican anti democrat.
      March pro democrat anti republican.
      March pro gun rights.
      March anti guns.

      January 10, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      I concur that we ALL can pray for Congresswoman Giffords and for all of our elected (and thus high profile) officials ... and pray too for anyone so troubled that they are irrational and going the3 wrong way (anyone!!) Pray. Prayer is powerful. You CAN pray and you CAN have faith. These are something you can DO about what is happening.

      As for crime .. it's too bad but after all is said and done crime is not a political priority. THAT is a political reality. In the late 60's the nation was shocked when an innocent woman (Catherine Genovese) was tabbed to death over a period of time .. the killer came back to finish her off. She screamed and pleaded for help and 38 people watched her get stabbed to death and would not even call the New York Police Department. The police were in no hurry to get there NOR the ambulance and she died. The nation was horrified.

      The Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (PL90-351) and billions of dollars were given to police and criminal justice agencies to beef up and become responsive to crime. It was not politically popular. People resented it - and they resented more policing. Jimmy Carter closed the program within weeks of being elected.

      Many excellent "studies" were done to increase our understanding of crime. The 911 system got started and became universal. Some excellent progress was made (but not much and it attracted no interest). Some advances were made in police budgeting and in resource management. Many dissertations were funded by the LEAA money. But overall the progress soon ended, the many books gathered dust in a library, the Phd's went on to do other things. Crime resumed its normal trends. Nobody really cares about crime ... and they do not care to spend money on it or do DO anything about it. There is a British poem that says "a policeman's lot is not a happy one .." That IS true.

      Prayer is positive. It is individual. It is heard. It can be a group thing. There is no limit on how much you do it. There is no cost. One prayer is about as good as another (God hears them all). Prayer strengthens faith. It does heal - many of us have seen that .. prayer heals. I would not be surprised to learn that hundreds of millions of us have been praying for her (and need to continue doing that). God loves her (His daughter too!), He created her.

      Isaiah 43 Yahweh, you have created me, You have called me by name and I am yours
      Forever, I will sing of your goodness; I will walk now in freedom to the kingdom of glory
      When I walk through the sea My God will walk with me And the rivers will not swallow me
      Yahweh, you have created me, You have called me by name and I am yours

      January 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  8. Mark From Middle River

    Clyde –

    Take a deep breath and please re-read my post.

    I sorta covered that folks do not need a gun to kill but can just use a rock, knife, front bumper of a car or a bomb. No where in my post did I say or attempt to reason that guns were evil.

    If I did elude to such please point out the passage. Thanks

    January 10, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      I apologize. I misunderstood what you said. Sad that so many people are actually exploited HER misfortune to advance anti-gun politics. I did not read your posting correctly.

      January 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  9. Mark From Middle River

    " blatant as Palin’s cross hairs poster. If there is, please provide a pointer"

    I think the president of the United State quoting Sean Connery talking about how they handle their politcal adversaries is worst than palin's website.

    I do agree with you that the rhetoric is getting intereting these days. I read some of the jibberish that this kid wrote and I can't wait to see where his story finally lands.

    But I know this..... Can't blame G.W. or Obama, or Pelosi or Palin for this one.

    January 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I wasn't aware Obama was quoting a Sean Connery character but was able to use that to find a list of Obama's rhetoric. I think "bring a gun" is not good but I didn't see anything worse, and I still think Palin's poster is much more explicit. It has a connection to guns and targets specific districts and congress persons by names, whereas Obama's rhetoric is generic.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  10. Reality

    And why did not this guy's parents, relatives and/or friends see the situation and do something to help this "waywardee"?

    January 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ Reality

      Met any telepaths lately? I haven't. Of course that doesn't mean we shouldn't hold everyone else responsible... because they -should- have known...

      January 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Reality

      From Time Magazine:

      1. For months, he showed a classic symptom of psychosis: disorganized thoughts and speech. He routinely made irrelevant and nonsensical comments in classes. On one test, according to the Washington Post, he wrote, "Eat + Sleep + Brush Teeth = Math." On another test, he wrote, "Mayhem Fest!!!"
      (See what motivated Gabrielle Giffords' shooter.)

      2. He showed another symptom of psychosis, or at the very least, an inability to function in social situations. One example from the New York Times: he enthusiastically read a poem in class in which he discussed touching himself in the shower.

      3. He showed signs of paranoia, telling a classmate that U.S. currency was worthless and that the government was seeking to control people through grammar. He also became interested in a concept he called "conscious dreaming" (a concept at the heart of the mind-bending thriller Inception).
      (See photos of the outpouring of support for the shooting victims.)

      4. He regularly smoked marijuana, and while there is only a small correlation between having a mental illness and committing violence, that correlation becomes much more significant when mental illness is combined with drug use, according to John Monahan, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia School of Law.

      5. Several classmates said Loughner scared them. One of them even wrote e-mails in June saying she was afraid he would bring a gun to class. A teacher worried every time he had his back to Loughner that the student would pull a gun on him.

      6. Loughner had five contacts with campus police, although it is not clear what behavior led to those contacts.

      Hindsight is perfect, of course, but all inst-itutions need to monitor students and employees who are consistently acting strangely. There was arguably enough evidence for Pima authorities to go to a judge and have Loughner involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, as Virginia Tech did with Cho. At the very least, the college could have required Loughner to check in with a counselor on a daily or weekly basis."

      Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2041733-2,00.html#ixzz1AldNXRpU

      January 11, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      The national standard for involuntary 72-hour psychiatric evaluation is based on one simple concept.

      Does the individual present a threat to themselves or others? There must be tangible evidence of a threat, not just an assumption. Either this person committed a crime, or it was reasonable to believe that he was capable of committing a crime based upon his actions or reactions. So, considering your points:

      1. "disorganized thoughts and speech"
      Certainly indicative of some form of pathology, but not "threatening" unless specific statements were made.

      2. "an inability to function in social situations... discussed touching himself in the shower."
      Clearly socially inappropriate, but again, not threatening.

      3. "signs of paranoia" Similar to much of the blather we find on the internet...
      and "interested in a concept he called "conscious dreaming" a sci-fi movie staple. Let's not forget Vanilla Sky...

      4. "Smoked pot.. " So, even if absent a formal mental health diagnosis, the pot could have enhanced his symptoms. Sure. Same for millions of others who are crazy and don't know it – and use drugs...

      5. "... she was afraid he would bring a gun to class. A teacher worried ... that the student would pull a gun on him."
      Based on what evidence? Was this reported? Why not?

      6. "... five contacts with police, not clear what behavior led to those contacts."
      The police have a legal responsibility when they believe psychiatric dangers are present, although we don't know the details here.

      Bottom line is that unless this kid did something specific to warrant a 72-hour inpatient psych eval, any judge in the country would defer in his favor. Your points # 5 & 6 seem to be the only outliers.

      January 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Mark from Middle River

    Ace – So what about this comment/statement:

    "“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” : Obama"

    Ace, is this responsible rhetoric?

    January 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Nope!

      January 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      A more complete reply:

      No, in hindsight, it was not responsible rhetoric. And I did say above that all are guilty of escalating rhetoric. But I don't think there's anything out there, from a mainstream politician or party, as blatant as Palin's cross hairs poster. If there is, please provide a pointer.

      January 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  12. Mark from Middle River

    To be lost in a war of words.

    "Nope, but if the homicidal maniac had to throw rocks at his victims, I believe we'd have a lot fewer deaths to mourn."

    Davey, my blog friend, when I read this statement by you I remembered how back in the eighties the news media showed images of Palestinans attacking Isreali tanks with "rocks".... It seems that they have moved on to stronger and deadlier weapons.

    Davey, the arguments, they just do not work anymore and gun laws are being thrown out. This is because folks are thinking and are realistic on single point. It is that, a criminal is a criminal. The argument that it would make it harder for a criminal to get a gun is laughable when drugs and even human trafficing can not be stopped.

    If this nut from Tucson already had it in his mind when he woke up this morning to commit the crime of murder...does anyone think that in his travels to commit the crime of murder, a capital crime... that it would effect or cause him pause to not commit the lesser crime of getting a firearm if the same were banned?

    This just is another moment that folks have to accept as part of life. If someone wants you, me or anyone dead ...if they wake up and know that their target is going to be a certain location at a specific time .... if the same someone is that motivated then it can be a gun, it can be a knife, it could even be the front bumper of a car or truck. God forbid Davey, it could and if you have been following the news lately...it has moved into bombs.

    I live on the East Coast and last week two packages were mailed to government officials in Maryland, with one package detonating a small charge. No gun needed in those attacks.

    The lesson that some folks need to heed is the lessons coming from the Middle Eastern wars that we are involved in. You hear, about soilder and soilder killed and maimed by roadside IEDs. Just driving along and detonation. The world is watching as single or small groups of militants hold off the most powerful military on the planet. Not going gun barrel to gun barrel but to a bomb placed and walked away.

    The worry about guns, I do understand what some of you say, but when Cain slew Able ..or the other way around 🙂 ... it was not with a gun, arrow or spear. It was simple a "rock". It is similar to the church issue in that some, on the other side, feel that its the church that is the problem when so many of us know that it is just the simple evil that can exist in the hearts of men and women. This just does not hold true for inside of the church but with basically every aspect of human life.

    January 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • NL

      "The worry about guns, I do understand what some of you say, but when Cain slew Able ..or the other way around ... it was not with a gun, arrow or spear. It was simple a "rock"."

      If Cain had a Glock perhaps he would have killed his parents and others as well if, you now, there were anyone else in the world. 😉

      January 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ NL

      So, what – you want to demonize technology? We've come a long way since rocks, NL, You've completely ignored (or dismissed) Mark's point.

      On with the agenda – damn the facts!

      January 10, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      You are wrong Mark from Middle River. You are try to reason to a a conclusion you have already posited (that guns are evil). Homicidal maniacs even today (especially today) are not inclined toward guns. They are inclined to suicide bombs. They even make their own children into bombs (there is nothing much crazier than that) Some bombs, underwear bombs, IED's, anthrax mailed in letters - these are not gun things - but they are maniacal. They are done by crazy people irrationally obsessed with killing others. The make elaborate plans (the M.D. at Fort Hood) and they drive a car from Denver to NYC to blow up Times Square ... why? To kill. It makes no sense. it's crazy. Somebody was caught bringing deadly viruses into the U.S. .. to kill ... millions. That's insane. They want to kill scores of people they never met and who never have done anything to antagonize them. That is absolutely crazy. It is not guns. It is not access to guns. It is not a choice of rocks versus guns. It is irrational behavior by people obsessed with harming (killing) other people. Since it makes not sense at all - it is about crazy.

      January 10, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • NL

      Let Us Prey-
      Let's see, if technology were not valid to demonize then why allow North Korea and Iran to have conventional weapons, but not nuclear? Why allow assault rifles, but not hand grenades, or personal missile launchers?

      Face it, setting limits on the destructive capability we allow in given situations makes prudent sense. Had this guy been limited to standard clips, he would have been tackled 20 or so bullets sooner, right? How many lives might have been saved?

      January 10, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ NL

      Conventional anti-gun rationales.

      "Let's see, if technology were not valid to demonize then why allow North Korea and Iran to have conventional weapons, but not nuclear?"
      Who's 'allowing' them? Do they need permission? Or are they doing it regardless? Whattaya' wanna do, start a war???

      "Why allow assault rifles, but not hand grenades, or personal missile launchers?"
      You need to read up on what Clinton called 'assault rifles.' And I still can't buy a hand grenade or stinger... darn.

      January 10, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ NL

      So who would you like to fault, NL? The manufacturer for making a large-capacity magazine? The federal and state laws for being too "permissive" and, if based on a faulty Consti-tution, is the memory of our founding fathers and our present-day government complicit in all as-sas-sinations? How about the reporting agencies and individuals who either failed to report or under-reported any instances of behavior that would have flagged the shooter during the records check (the Virginia Tech shooter.) How about we blame the victim – that's always an impressive foil. Sure, maybe she should have had at least -some- security measures in place during a public appearance. How about, in lieu of her exercising good judgment, we blame the feds for not having a safety protocol in place for otherwise self-as-sured, altruistic members of congress who insist on risking their exposure to ever-present public threats? The President rates security, but not a lowly congress-person? Let's see... who else... Local law enforcement? Where were they? Reality suggested that we lay this at the feet of the shooter's family and friends who certainly should have seen some indication of his deviant behavior and intent. That makes sense – if there were any signs or they're omniscient...

      Mark's earlier point which you continue to ignore is that the means of delivery is unimportant. Any person driven to commit an act of this order has only to choose from a gun, knife, bomb, powder, poison, etc... to serve their motive. So there you have it... let's ban all guns, knives, bombs, powders, poisons, etc... to ensure they don't have access. Simple. How about fire axes – aren't they easy to find? Cars? We don't want to overlook the chance of vehicular manslaughter, do we?

      *sigh* So what's a reasonable, open society to do, other than put it's faith in it's citizenry. We do. England doesn't. In Great Britain it's illegal to walk the street carrying a 3" table knife.

      January 10, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ NL

      Here's my response to your earlier statement. It got hung up on the h-ooters in sh-ooters (gunmen). Add hoot-ers to the list, I guess.

      "Had this guy been limited to standard clips, he would have been tackled 20 or so bullets sooner, right?"
      The permutations here are too many to even begin discussing. How many clips – how many guns – how many insane gunmen – how many victims – how many heroes – how many police – how many security checkpoints – how many... what?

      January 11, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Bob

      > Davey, the arguments, they just do not work anymore and gun laws are being thrown out. This is because folks are thinking and are realistic on single point. It is that, a criminal is a criminal. The argument that it would make it harder for a criminal to get a gun is laughable when drugs and even human trafficing can not be stopped.

      I take issue with this statement, mainly because the word criminals is so varied that it's effectively useless. It's like sports. Sports can cover things from thai kickboxing to badminton. They're not one and the same. So too criminals are varied. You have hard core killers, you have burglars, you have rapists. And then you have murdering nutters.

      Let me break it down for you by premise.

      A) The more difficult something is, the less people are going to do it.
      B) Given A, making a gun more difficult to get means less people will have firearms.
      C) A percentage of the population are homicidal maniacs.
      D) Given B and C, gun control means less maniacs have firearms.
      E) Given D, firearm control reduces crime.

      The question is by how much? I don't think there is an actual study that directly links crime rate to firearm control, however, I would point out that Canada has a far lower murder rate per capita then the United States. Canada has gun control, the United States doesn't.

      I understand it's a correlation, however, when you look at other countries like Germany, Australia, Sweden (among others) who have gun control and a lower murder rate, I think the comparison gains a little more traction.

      January 11, 2011 at 9:19 am |
    • Bob

      > *sigh* So what's a reasonable, open society to do, other than put it's faith in it's citizenry. We do. England doesn't. In Great Britain it's illegal to walk the street carrying a 3" table knife.

      Except that Great Britian has a lower gun crime rate per capita then the US? Ooops?

      January 11, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • NL

      Let Us Prey-
      Iran and North Korea are seen as dangerous now, but is there any doubt that they would be even more dangerous with nuclear weapons? The leaders of some tiny nations throughout the world could be just as volatile, but nobody really cares about them because their bark is much worse than any bite they have to offer, right? In this case, the type of weapon does matter. Would we start a war? I'm not advocating an attack, but if we had an opportunity to stop North Korea from developing weapons might we not take it? Would the Israelis not attack Iran before they could develop nuclear weapons?

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating any drastic increase in gun control laws. The genie has escaped that bottle long ago, but there are still some limits that may come up in the debate soon. The shooter in this case appears to have exhibited some classic signs of mental disorder. Would we be prudent in increasing efforts to identify folks like him, get them the treatment they need before they become a danger to themselves and others, and limiting the amount of access they have to buying guns?

      Do you doubt that there are people who would like to buy grenades, or missiles? Do you believe that there is a police agency in the entire union that would actually be surprised to find these types of weapons in anyone's home or car? Do you think that police would support people's right to bear these arms? Does the second amendment really distinguish what kinds of arms a citizen militia be limited to? If not, why do we have this 'understanding' that it is just limited to guns?

      You say that "the means of delivery is unimportant", and you are right that a crazed person will lash out with whatever is at hand, but all I argue that 'whatever is at hand' is a variable factor that greatly determines how many victims any given crazy can kill before being stopped. Would this gunman likely have been stopped earlier had he not had the high capacity mag, yes or no? Are we lucky that he did not also have a bomb, yes or no? The debate on what your answer implies we do can occur later.

      "put it's faith in it's citizenry"
      Do we put enough faith in our citizenry to not check for weapons on flights anymore? How about in courthouses? Do we have enough 'faith' in our citizens to put the metal detector industry out of business? Sure, we can take all the precautions we know how to and still not catch everyone, but nobody advocates just giving up altogether because our efforts do prevent some situations from reaching fruition. Nobody, for example, thinks that the FBI should stop monitoring volatile armed groups, the sale of explosive materials, or folks who make direct threats to officials. Nobody seriously defends the right of mental patients to own guns for the same reason why their driving and parenting skills can be called into doubt. If this guy was able to just buy a weapon in this state where the screening process may have preventing him from doing so in another is still a very legitimate question, wouldn't you say?

      January 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ Bob

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196941/The-violent-country-Europe-Britain-worse-South-Africa-U-S.html

      "Ooops"

      Do some damned research before you shoot off your presumptuous blowhole. Read Dave Kopel, economist John Lott, learn how the 'statistics' differ and are misreported. Understand the intent of gun bans being sold as "protections" to the citizens of other nations. Understand that gun bans do not work. My challenge stands. Show me an independent, verifiable piece of research that directly correlates the effectiveness of gun control to the reduction of violent crime.

      and btw, Bob... any criminal worth his measure can have his choice of guns with a phone call. Believe it.

      I'll be interested in reading your responses to Mark.

      January 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ NL

      Let all the nations have nukes. Every single one – to build power plants and with the understanding that other nuclear powers have had for decades.... that no one actually has any interest in a global nuclear exchange. Anyone that thinks otherwise is insane. If Iran or N. Korea actually does launch one it, will essentially seal the fate of their country – initially by a possible response to quell further threat, followed by international economic censure. To actually use a first-strike nuke in this global economic age is tantamount to accepting the resultant marginalization or elimination of your country. In short, your comparison fails. Nukes are not handguns. A mugger is not North Korea. Let's move on...

      "... but there are still some limits that may come up in the debate soon. The shooter in this case appears to have exhibited some classic signs of mental disorder."
      To who? Who was the psychiatrist making the assessment? Did he have a treatment history that wasn't reported? Or are we back to blaming the parents, friends, or gun store clerk? On any given day any of us can exhibit "classic signs of mental disorder..." Presumptions abound.

      "Would we be prudent in increasing efforts to identify folks like him, get them the treatment they need before they become a danger to themselves and others, and limiting the amount of access they have to buying guns?"
      We already limit access based on treatment history, criminal record, etc. Would you like to implement a national 'ferret out the nutters' program which mandates ALL citizens are subjected to a battery of psychological examinations? Don't go all 1984 on us, NL.

      Your paragraph beginning with "Do you doubt that there are people" – and ending with – "limited to guns?" reflects a poor understanding of the judicial authority and legislated policy involved. Maybe some research is in order... Criticizing the same 'standard' applied to buying a .38spl to fringe groups who want to acquire a Viet Nam-era mortar is nonsense.

      Any reasonably intelligent person can make a bomb... without a permit! So what? Were we "lucky" it wasn't a pipe bomb? Those kind of presumptions lead us back to the immateriality of the 'means of delivery' argument.

      "If this guy was able to just buy a weapon in this state where the screening process may have preventing him from doing so in another is still a very legitimate question"
      It is against most state law to sell firearms to non-state residents.

      "...put the metal detector industry out of business?"
      Or let a TSA agent feel me up or irradiate me? There are limits, and we are quickly reaching them. Read up on how Israel manages this problem. I'll get you the cite if you can't find it. The Israeli security agency director referred to the U.S. measures as 'futile.'

      January 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • NL

      Let Us Prey-
      "Let all the nations have nukes."
      OoooKey... I wonder what Vatican City would do with nukes?

      "Who was the psychiatrist making the assessment?"
      Guess you didn't catch CNN this morning. They had a doctor say that the guy exhibits classic signs of schizophrenia. You don't have to go 'all 1984' by educating the public of what signs to watch for in potential threats, for example. People with unidentified mental disorders aren't any more 'evil' than pilots with undiagnosed heart disease dying in mid-flight, taking their plane down with them. If this guy was actually secretly suffering from something like schizophrenia, and was unaware of it himself, can he be blamed for this action?

      Wow, you certainly have some, ... strong feelings about gun control. Frankly, I am neither in the mood for, or personally inclined to take up the 'pro' side. Better luck drawing somebody else in.

      January 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ NL

      " They had a doctor say that the guy exhibits classic signs of schizophrenia."
      So easy to make an after-the-fact diagnosis... The guy should write a book.

      " You don't have to go 'all 1984' by educating the public of what signs to watch for in potential threats"
      Take a moment and think about what you're proposing there... If we all 'reported' everyone we though was nuts..

      " People with unidentified mental disorders aren't any more 'evil' than pilots with undiagnosed heart disease dying in mid-flight, taking their plane down with them."
      Don't convolute your own argument. And btw, pilots have to go through annual flight physicals.

      " If this guy was actually secretly suffering from something like schizophrenia, and was unaware of it himself, can he be blamed for this action?"
      Unless he was trained and licensed to recognize his own symptoms (?) we can't expect he would be 'aware', thus, the loony bin awaits as it seems we have armchair and tv shrinks all lined up ready to exonerate his actions due to 'illness.' Great. I wonder how many have even spoken to him. MSM bull sh!t.

      "Wow, you certainly have some, ... strong feelings about gun control. Frankly, I am neither in the mood for, or personally inclined to take up the 'pro' side. Better luck drawing somebody else in."

      Yep, debate can be difficult when the facts get in the way...

      January 11, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Chris

      You're in a bad place Mark. If you believe that wherever you go, you're under attack then you will always be at war. Your actions will reflect your thoughts. You'll find yourself attacking people either verbally or physically for reasons only apparent to yourself.
      I wish you peace and understanding, and I hope that you will be able to see the good in those around you. Just to let you know, I wish the same for myself and everybody else.

      January 12, 2011 at 4:37 am |
  13. David Taylor

    CNN paid a lot of attention to the congressman but very little to the other people injured. It is a mistake not to keep us informed more on all the shooting victims.

    January 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  14. Ben

    The great thing about writing an article on the prevalence of empty-headed kneejerk rhetoric is the overwhelming willingness of people to provide their own examples in the comments thread.

    January 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  15. Frogist

    I think Mr Prothero is correct about the power of words and ideas. Not to mention the power of suggestion. And while people will distance themselves from their awful rhetoric by invoking "freedom of speech". They do so and forget that actions have reactions. And if your idea of freedom of speech is just to get people angry, then it might be worth it to acknowledge the role you had in the reaction. There has been a whole lot of talk lately about things like "second ammendment solutions" and secession and upheaval of the gov't by any means. Did some of that rub off on the shooter?
    I don't blame Sarah Palin just for some map she had on her website even if it is a disturbing connection. A picture is just a picture. But if there is a connection between Loughner's motives and an anti-gov't movement, it wasn't in a vacuum. And Ms Palin and her tea party have certainly contributed to the environment in which that act took place.

    January 10, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • HotAirAce

      You are 100% correct!

      January 10, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • NL

      Yes, there is nothing peaceable about any "second ammendment solutions". The inference is, when the country votes counter to your position not to accept the results, and to take the country back by force. Revolution.

      January 10, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Nonimus

      Weren't some of comments on the newscasts this weekend about not one party or the other, but the willingness of both sides to demonize the other?
      "And Ms Palin and her tea party have certainly contributed to the [anti-government] environment in which that act took place."

      January 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Nonimus

      Much like the various religions, the Dems and the GOP will close ranks against the common enemy so that the basic truth is not attacked. In the case of religion, they cannot all be true, except when the very foundations of their beliefs (existence of god) are attacked, in which case they are all wonderful. Same here – the Dems and GOP are speaking with one voice 'cause they are all guilty of creating divisions and making statements that "fringe" persons might take seriously and act upon.

      While there is no (not yet?) direct link between Palin, and Tea Baggers such as Glenn Beck, and the Arizona attack, I think anyone would be hard pressed to find others with a louder and more consistent "take back our country/const-ituion" message. And of course, and yes in hindsight, Palin's gunsight poster probably crossed the line of responsible rhetoric.

      January 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Nominus:
      From what I've seen it's more a "conservative" trait. But I'd love it if you can give me some liberal crackpot quotes to help enlighten my position. I'm sure there are some cuz quite frankly there's more than enough crazy to go around these days.

      January 10, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      You cannot have it both ways. If you want to be free there are risks. (actually there are more risks if you live in a totalitarian state). You have a right to freedom to speak (and some things you say may incite somebody - yes the pen is more powerful than the sword). You are free to believe and worship and somebody may not like your faith or your practice of it. You are free to assemble and someone may not like your gathering. You are free to travel and you could get lost. You are free to start a business and you could fail. You are free to drive a car and it could kill you. You are free (if you wish) to smoke (and you know it will kill you) and to sky-dive and to scuba dive and to own a racing car or to sail across the ocean (a 17 year old girl recently sailed around the world alone). Al freedoms involve risks .. big risks and include life and death risks. Freedom is not for the weak and the timorous.

      January 10, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
  16. Michelle

    This country would survive a conservative presidency, sure. Our last president was the worst president in US history and it will take decades to recover from that. Sarah Palin is as intellectually gifted as a mushroom and if she became president this country would be set back several more decades in terms of economy, healthcare, environment, etc.

    January 10, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • ScottK

      Good point, many of our troops have "survived" IED's but that doesnt mean we should go play kick ball in a mine field.

      And to those out there that don't think the media rhetoric had anything to do with this, the "He's just crazy" people who are trying to defend their hate filled ideologies by saying "he's not one of us!", you are fooling yourselves. If you knew there were crazy people who believed aliens had body sna tched the pres and thought his doppleganger was in power you don't think going on the radio or TV and making comments like "Well if he isn't an alien, why doesnt he just show us his birth certificate and submit to DNA testing..." wouldn't be essentially drawing crosshairs on him? People are stupid, thats why even when there is a fire, emergency personel arent supposed to run into crowded places and scream "Fire!!!" The cattle will stampede causing more harm than the fire.

      January 11, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  17. Apostle Eric vonAnderseck

    It’s very easy to dehumanize,” Stewart said, before giving voice to the fear many on the left have of a right-wing takeover of America. “We think of it as, ‘Oh, my God, I’m so scared if they take over,’” he said, referring to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. “And you know what, we will be fine.”
    Apostle Eric says; Yes, that is the result of false knowledge where those that build with it in the imagination will cause inequities in the heart which begets fanaticism. Grace and truth bring equity in the heart and faith, but Satan’s kingdom rules through the imagination where the soul will seek peace and security through violence. http://apostlestoday.net/

    January 10, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Apostle Eric vonAnderseck

      Apostle Eric says: "Satan’s kingdom rules through the imagination where the soul will seek peace and security through violence. "

      All the gods, good and evil, rule through the imagination. They are all imaginary. LOL.

      Cheers!

      January 10, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Chris

      Wow!, Nice quote David. Shared delusion can seem very real, but the truth needs no explanation or defense. It requires only acceptance without separation.

      January 12, 2011 at 4:23 am |
  18. Ko I

    "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" is not rational? You honestly believe a tool acts, not the tool user? You believe that if you take a gun out of the hands of a homicidal maniac, he'd suddenly become peaceful and kind?
    And, no, guns are not as easy to get as cigarettes. There are no background checks for purchasing cigarettes. While it's the same agency that regulates both trades, I've never heard of a single shop that sells cigarettes tell me that the ATF was always looking for a reason to shut them down, even for things as slight as a misplaced decimal point.

    January 10, 2011 at 8:04 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Ko I

      You said: "You believe that if you take a gun out of the hands of a homicidal maniac, he'd suddenly become peaceful and kind?"

      Nope, but if the homicidal maniac had to throw rocks at his victims, I believe we'd have a lot fewer deaths to mourn.

      January 10, 2011 at 8:52 am |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ DJ

      Don't sell homicidal maniacs short on creativity.

      January 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Bob

      > Nope, but if the homicidal maniac had to throw rocks at his victims, I believe we'd have a lot fewer deaths to mourn.

      Agreed, level of weaponry does impact how many get killed in a public situation. However, there are also many serial murderers who didn't use guns.... 🙂

      January 11, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  19. Reality

    Once a day WARNING for new commentators:

    • The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

    • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

    Sum Dude routinely updates the list of forbidden words/fragments.

    Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".

    January 10, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  20. Mike Akeidge

    Wow... another anti-gun nut... great job, blame the eas of gettign a gun on this travesty...
    Did you know that no cop in Arizona has ever been killed by a concealed weapons permit holder?
    How far left do you lean? You must be a true Obama supporter right? Get rid of all guns... the problem with that arguement is that only criminals will have them... If you want to post facts post the facts that show places with concealed weapons permits have much less violent crime, I wonder why?
    Mike A!
    Land O Lakes, FL

    January 10, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • David Johnson

      I live in Arizona. If I had my way, guns would be illegal.

      The main reason criminals have guns, is because of all the guns. They are easy to get by theft, no background checks required.

      I voted for Obama. I will vote for him again in 2012.

      Guns are not needed, Mike. They should be melted down for the war effort.

      Cheers!

      January 10, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Frogist

      @David Johnson: I recently heard an interesting interview with someone investigating gun violence across the border in Mexico. And his findings were that the guns used in that violence comes from American gun shops and dealers. And the tracing of these guns is near impossible, because we are prevented from sharing information via computer about where they came from. A gun registry is absolutely opposed by the NRA. Meanwhile, the violence is crossing our borders. It seems we can't have our eyes closed about how violent gun crime can and is affecting our lives. Would Loughner be able to harm as many people as he did if all he had was a knife? Probably not.

      January 10, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • NL

      You're right, guns don't kill people, but they are tools that make killing far easier and more efficient. Remember, it was only possible to stop the gunman because he had to reload. As it was, he had a 30 round clip, I believe. A more efficient gun, or one with a larger mag, would have allowed him to kill more before being stopped. Fewer people with a less efficient one. A musket, a knife or bare hands fewer still. A bomb, dramatically more. The type of weapon, the efficiency of it and how concealable it is are all factors that contribute to the number of deaths that a person can accomplish before being stopped. Don't make it overly simplistic be inferring that it's an issue of 'guns yes, or guns no.' The debate in other countries isn't so much about ownership of any guns, but ownership of the more efficient ones and of concealment.

      January 10, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Nonimus

      Nonimus
      I'm undecided on the gun control issue, but tend to lean toward the liberal side of the 2nd Amendment, i.e. rights should be applied liberally. However, times have definitely changed since that was written. I think some studies point to higher violence in US vs developed countries that ban guns, but not all are conclusive.
      "Martin Killias, in a 1993 study covering 21 countries, found that there were substantial correlations between gun ownership and gun-related suicide and homicide rates."

      "A later 2001 Killias study however, reported ... no significant correlations with total suicide or homicide rates were found, leaving open the question of possible substi.tution effects. ... That is to say it could mean that the easier access to guns lead to more violence, or it could mean that larger amounts of violence lead to a higher level of gun ownership for self defense, or any other independent cause."
      (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics [not that wikipedia is a great source])

      @Frogist could you cite the interview you mentioned?

      For those using the argument that violence would be reduced if criminals only had access to knives or other manual weapons, I would pose the question of what happens if the criminals escalate instead of de-escalating to knives. What if, because of the lack of firearms, more criminals escalate to explosives or IEDs?

      January 10, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ Mike A. & Nominus

      David J, Frogist and NL are holding true to their socialist mindset that our 'government' will provide for their needs and safety, ergo, it is not their right or responsibility to ensure their own safety. This is the same 'led by the nose – please take care of me' nanny-state, thought process taking place in Canada and England. It doesn't work.

      http://www.nraila.org/media/misc/fables.html#FABLE%20IV:

      Read the NRA positions, and then offer us some logical retorts. I used to be a gun-prohibition advocate. I no longer am as it doesn't make sense. The Tucson shootings could probably have been prevented if even cursory screenings / wandings, etc, had been performed given a government official was present. Unfortunately, the venue was completely absent of even basic security precautions, personnel, metal detectors, etc.

      January 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • Frogist

      Hi Nominus:
      The interview was from last week Weds or Thurs on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. It was the interview with James Grimaldi of the Washington Post. You can probably hear it on the NPR website. I wish I could help you out more than that, but I have limited net access right now.
      Actually here's a link to the transcript of the interview:
      http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=132652351
      It is an interesting idea of what if they went up a level instead of down. Are explosives as legal or easily available as guns? I don't know.
      Yes, of course, Let Us Prey. Our aversion to guns absolutely means we are all welfare-borne, irrresponsible, socialists looking for a mommy in our gov't. Just as much as you and your NRA are all hicks holed up in a bunker waiting for Jesus to appear on their white bread with mayo to tell them to stop bangin' their sister and overthrow the gov't.
      BTW Thanks for the link. I doubt anything on the NRA website would actually be anything but pro-gun propaganda. But I'm sure it will be an interesting read nevertheless.

      January 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Brian

      But then we have conservatives who want to blame violent video games and the kids who use them....Really? We want to let a 22 year old crazy person buy a gun and you guys are worried about kids buying video games...interesting....another red neck

      January 10, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
    • Let Us Prey

      @ Frogist

      – I – never mentioned "welfare born" or "irresponsible." But my bunker is very nice, thank you. Regarding the NRA information... I'm sure that's your first (and preferably only) assessment. Here's my challenge: Read it. Attempt to invalidate it. The reassess it.

      And remember – I'm an Independent. I play no ideological favorites. I have no political loyalties.

      January 10, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      Every time something like this happens there is a lot of commotion about guns being available. I say every time because it is not the first time. As someone who spent more than 40 years in law enforcement I can tell you there never was a time that public officials and celebrities did not need a lot of extra security. There are always crazies who would harm them if they could. Crazies because they are not rational. Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, Saran Saran, Mansion's troupe, John WIlkes Booth, the Cermak assassin - they are all nutto to the core. Guns don't make a nut do nutty things .. nor axes or straight razors or garots. The Second Amendment IS a freedom. Don't be so anxious to give away your freedoms - they are not easily won back. Freedom to speak, to worship, to believe, to be secure from search and seizure. Rights to counsel to juries to fair hearings .. not easily won back. More men have been murdered by governments than by other men.

      This shooting is a tragedy. They all are. They leave you feeling loss and emptiness. We felt stunned when Kennedy was shot. The whole nation. We all loved him so why? We felt stunned when MLK was shot. Bobby - why? John Lennon .. President Reagan. They never make and sense (because they are not rational). maybe it would be better if we COULD explain them (rationally). This lady was simply doing her job (listening to voters), being good, has a good record, an ideal public official. But even one who is not popular ought not to be harmed. We are stunned that she and her group were so horribly attacked. We have children her age. We look at her and see a young woman - a kind and earnest woman. We see a leader and hope and possibility. We are stunned at what happened to her. How could she have been protected? He could have overpowered armed body guards. It is hard to say what measures might have prevented it. There was no reason anyone would want to harm her .. she is good and loved and respected. This is not about guns .. or even about hate or policy or controversy ... this is about nothing other than CRAZY. There is very little that can be done to anticipate INSANE behavior. We can pray for her. We can ask God to help her (and it seems like He is doing that.). We can tone down our one debate (a little) and be more respectful off each other. We can plead with our neighbors and our community to be tolerant and respectful of one another. Above all pray for her, for guidance, for mutual respect, for level headedness. Be aware (perhaps) that because you are sane this will never make sense to you. It was done by a CRAZY person. That's the entire story. (unfortunately)

      January 10, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Charles Notincharge

      I don't take the NRA seriously because they do not support any other civil liberties – they are a one-trick-pony with plenty of double standards.
      They want their guns while supporting unconstltutional laws. They can't have it both ways.
      The NRA needs to become a sub-set of the ACLU instead of being a magnet for rabid anti-government types. Rabid people shouldn't have guns. Ever.
      I like guns. I don't like the people who tend to flock to the NRA. They tend to suck - away my constltutional rights.

      January 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Chris

      Who's more likely to shoot someone, a person with a gun, or a person without a gun? Guns are to violence what a magnet is to steel.

      January 11, 2011 at 6:38 am |
    • Bob

      @LetUsPrey
      > This is the same 'led by the nose – please take care of me' nanny-state, thought process taking place in Canada and England. It doesn't work.

      Murders by 100,00 people:
      United States: 5.5
      Canada: 1.59
      Australia: 1.57

      The numbers disagree with you sir. You are wrong.

      January 11, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Chris

      Ha!. Ha! Ha! Ha!, ant-gun nut, I love it.

      January 13, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Frogist

      I have to thank Let Us Prey for that link. It was very enlightening. And I'm only at the first actually "myth". The Kleck-Gertz survey and Wolfgang's admiration for how studious it is, was very interesting to read.

      I'm not an expert but after having read Wolfgang's "tribute", it seems to prove that people resisting a robbery or burglary in which a gun is used as a threat are more likely by 3 times to be seriously hurt than those involved in a burglary or robbery where the criminal uses a knife or verbal threats. I would think that would be considered problematic to the NRA's adherence to guns not being a factor in elevated violence? And Wolfgang (with whom Kleck and Gertz agree) asserts that burglary is a very different crime than homicide. Kertz and Gleck do not address homicide in their studies. As a matter of fact they stand with Wolfgang who is a gun control advocate.

      I think the one difficulty in Kleck's position is that while he uses his and Gertz survey for determining how many times guns were used as defense, he uses the National Crime Victim Survey for rates on how many times a gun was taken away from a victim, and for the success rates of resisting a burglary. But early on he takes pains to refute the NCVS on being capable of accurately reporting the incidence of gun use for defense. He seems contradictory in that instance which throws doubt on his findings.

      So he says that his survey found the use of guns for defense to be high (somewhere in the 2.5 millions of times per year) but does he prove whether it is successful? Not really. He says the success rate cannot be proven because people would be scared to report they have or used a gun to the police. Or successfully thwarting a robbery would not be reported because, well, it was successful. At no point does he provide numbers of his own which is unfortunate. So it doesn't really prove that owning a gun helps in protecting a regular person from criminal violence. But it does provide an interesting counterpoint.

      I am really enjoying this information. Thanks again, Let Us Prey.

      January 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.