Every time some nutcase like Jared Loughner takes his frustrations out by spraying bullets at innocent people, it seems appropriate to ask the following question:
Are these mass-slayings just a fact of life in America?
The answer, unfortunately, seems to be "yes."
Because although it's technically true that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," it's also true that it's much easier for people to kill people if they use guns.
Obviously, with 300+ million people in this country, we're not going to stop some people from going nuts. And given the depth of the American commitment to the right to own guns, we're also apparently not going to stop having guns available at Walmart -- or at the neighborhood sports store, which is where Loughner got his Glock.
So that means that nutbags slaughtering innocent men, women, and children with guns is just something that we have to accept in America.
I mean, how could it not be that we just accept it? People have been going crazy since the dawn of time. And Americans overwhelmingly support the right to buy guns. Combine those two things, and you're just always going to have wackos going postal and shooting other people.
Yes, some are saying that this is a political shooting -- an assassination -- and rushing to blame the violent political rhetoric of the past few years. But this shooting isn't "political" any more than all those other garden variety school -- and workplace -- shootings are political. Sure, Loughner babbled about favorite right-wing pet causes and hallucinated that his "enemies" were Democrats, but if his enemies hadn't been Democrats, they would have been other kids at school, or mean bosses at work, or the IRS or any of the other targets that crazy people tend to obsess about.
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And, try as we might, we're never going to identify and lock up all the budding Jared Loughners before they open fire.
So, should we just accept these slaughterings as a fact of American life? Or should we try to do a better job of finding the crazy people and locking them up before they start shooting? (If the latter, how do you propose that we do this? Lots of people talk and act crazy. Not so many actually start firing.) Or should we finally get serious about restricting access to guns?
If the answer is that we should just accept that these shootings are fact of life in America, we should acknowledge that. Specifically, everyone who thinks that guns should be available at Walmart should also say, "Of course I don't like that crazy people use guns to slaughter people, and I know that they always will, but I'd rather have that than give up the right to bear arms."
Alternatively, we can consider seriously restricting access to guns. (Yes, "criminals" will always get them, and there are enough around that some crazy people will get them, too, but the fact that Jared Loughner just walked into a store two months ago and bought one has got to leave even gun supporters shaking their heads).
There are no easy answers here. With folks like Jared Loughner wandering around, I'm certainly not sure that I want to give up MY right to bear arms (though the idea that each citizen should carry a six-shooter around for protection in today's world is preposterous). But it's still hard to believe that, as a society, we allow guns to be sold in Walmart.