Well, the right wing is scrambling for cover, that’s for sure, what with a Democratic congresswoman having been gunned down by a guy who allegedly declared in a video, “No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold or silver,” which is one of the regular cries of the more fervent brethren of the right.
Don’t blame us, they say. It wasn’t us, it was a lone crackpot.
Same with the gun freaks, by which I mean those who take gun ownership as the single most important right and even the single most important obligation of American citizens.
Don’t blame us. Even with strict gun-control laws, this guy still could have gotten hold of a Glock police-style pistol, and even if the magazine had held only 10 bullets, as used to be required by law, he still could have reloaded quickly enough to work his mayhem.
And so on.
Fox News, or Fox Propaganda, as I sometimes call it, dug up an old campaign map used by Democrats, with bull’s eyes over states that they were targeting, to counteract the embarrassing effect of Sarah Palin’s famous map with cross hairs over 20 congressional districts, including, alas, the Arizona district represented by Gabrielle Giffords.
Sarah meant no harm with that map. The cross hairs, according to an aide, were merely something “like you’d see on a map.”
That’s what she said to a Tea Partying talk-show host, Tammy Bruce, who helpfully suggested it was a “surveyor’s symbol.” And the aide agreed. Yes, that’s it, a surveyor’s symbol. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?
As for the fundraiser held last June by Rep. Giffords’ Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly, which invited supporters to “Get on target for victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly,” for a contribution of $50, well, the less said about that the better.
Who knows if any of this gun freakery of which Republicans are so proud and any of this belligerence had any effect on young Jared Loughner, the accused shooter? Certainly I don’t know. Just as I don’t know if the more radical statements of environmental groups had any effect on the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, 20 years ago.
I do know that at a debate last week among the five candidates for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, one of the two co-moderators was Grover Norquist, prominent conservative and member of the board of directors of the National Rifle Association, and one question he asked of the candidates was, “How many guns do you own?”
Yes, how many guns do you own? As a sort of litmus test of Republicanism, which tells you a good deal about what has become of the Republican Party. (The winning answer came from Ann Wagner of Missouri: “about 16,” including a Glock.)
Rush Limbaugh of course had a conniption over the renewed scrutiny of right-wing wackiness, of which he is such a radiant example. He ascribed it, no surprise, to “the sick, desperate American left.”
He spends three hours a day praising guns and prayer and villifying liberals, socialists, progressives and Democrats, and then — whoops! — a Democratic congresswoman and 19 bystanders get shot by a guy who might have had a right-wing virus in his brain, and of course he has to fight back.
As for the others, like the NRA and Jesse Kelly of the $50 bang-bang, they just posted prayers for Rep. Giffords on their websites, which was nice, since I’ve noticed that the people who are big on guns are often big on prayer too.
In response to these observations of mine you are of course welcome to write letters to the editor like the one we printed last week from a reader in Pattersonville enthusing over gun ownership.
He quoted an article that appeared in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology in 1995, saying, “Every year, people in the United States use guns to defend themselves against criminals an estimated 2.5 million times — more than 6,500 people a day — or once every 13 seconds,” making it sound like private gun ownership is absolutely essential to a safe society.
But he failed to mention the article that appeared two years later in the same journal, debunking the first one, which anyone could see was ridiculous anyway, even without doing a statistical analysis. More than six thousand people a day brandishing guns to ward off criminals! Once every 13 seconds!
And he served up the story beloved of gun freaks that after the Atlanta suburb of Kennesaw passed a law in 1982 requiring heads of household to own guns, burglaries dropped 89 percent. Two academic studies have since shown there was no long-term effect on burglaries, but I guess he missed those studies. Gun freaks pick their studies the way Christians pick their Bible quotes.
He must have missed this one too: The American Journal of Epidemiology, in 2004, reported that “regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home,” which was more to the point, since the reader was responding to the recent shooting death of a 12-year-old boy in Wilton.
If you have a gun in your house you are more likely to get killed by a gun than if you don’t, plain and simple. Defending hearth and home against a crazed intruder is a gun-owner fantasy more than anything else.
But never mind. Here we had a guy in Arizona — if the charges against him are valid — who was severely mentally disturbed but who was nevertheless legally able to buy a gun in a sporting goods store capable of packing 33 rounds of ammunition and who then fired it at a congresswoman, a judge and others, killing 6 people and wounding 14.
Bad timing, coming just as aspiring Republican chairmen are trying to outdo each other in the number of guns they own and the winner actually owns the same type that was used in Arizona. And bad timing, too, you could say, at the crescendo of the right-wing hate campaign against all things Democrat and all things liberal.
So they’re momentarily on the defensive — Limbaugh, Fox Propaganda, the NRA and the rest of them.
For my part, I don’t need the freak event in Arizona to give me reservations about the right’s hate campaign or about the primacy of gun ownership as a measure of good citizenship. I have those reservations anyway.
Jared Loughner might have been caught up in the right’s gun fantasies and gold-standard fantasies, or he might have been heeding his own private devils. I have no way of knowing.