Immediately after Saturday's shooting in Tucson, it looked as though Congress might be considering stricter gun laws. At six days out, though, a consensus seems to be forming that gun regulation will get no tighter as a result of the shooting--and if anything, it may become more permissive. A common argument is that if more bystanders had been armed at the Tucson Safeway this week, Jared Loughner might have been stopped earlier, and lives might have been saved. Here are some assessments of the political climate at week's end, and a few of the responses:
America Is a Gun Country Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican who's suggested a bill making it illegal to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of a member of Congress, told The New York Times that "this kind of legislation is very difficult." He added that "Congress has not done any gun legislation in years," and that "once you get out of the Northeast, guns are a part of daily life."
Congresspeople Are a Gun-Friendly Bunch The Times notes that "many members of Congress own firearms, which they carry while riding around in farm trucks in their district or concealed behind a jacket in the streets, among constituents." The Times also points out that "Representative Gabrielle Giffords once said that she herself owned a Glock--the same firearm the man accused of shooting her is said to have used." Meanwhile, The Christian Science Monitor reports that "at least two congressmen--Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R) of Utah and Heath Shuler (D) of North Carolina, both licensed gun carriers from staunchly pro-gun parts of their states--announced they'd be carrying weapons during upcoming public events in their districts."
In AZ, Get Ready for Historically Lax Laws, predicts Slate's David Weigel. "The Tucson shooting is likely to lead to Arizona's loose gun-control laws getting even looser--looser than they were when they applied to Wyatt Earp."
Only Fictional Characters Talk About Gun Control, laments Matt Miller at The Washington Post. Miller quotes from a No Safe Place, a 1998 novel by Richard North Patterson, in which a presidential candidate makes an impassioned call for tighter gun laws. "It's crazy that we need to look to fictional heros for leadership on guns, but that's the state of our politics," writes Miller. "How many more well-armed lunatic loners will it take before our real leaders sound like real leaders?"
This Is All As It Should Be, argues the libertarian economist Jeffrey Miron. Writing at Bloomberg, Miron points out that "even if strict controls or prohibition had prevented Loughner from obtaining a gun, he might have still carried out a violent attack ... A determined lunatic has multiple ways to inflict harm." Miron adds that "strict controls and prohibition... don't eliminate guns any more than drug prohibition stops drug trafficking and use," and so "if gun laws follow the path of drug laws, we can expect more violence under gun prohibition than in a society with limited or no controls."
OK, Have Fun With That, America "There is now a cross-party consensus against any steps to tighten America's uniquely lax gun laws," writes Alexander Chancellor at The Guardian. "The more innocent people are killed by guns, the more determined Americans are to possess them. Legislators do not dare challenge this insanity." Chancellor's provocative conclusion? "The trouble with America is that it is too democratic. In Britain, parliament is at least sometimes capable of acting out of principle against the popular will, as it did when it abolished capital punishment, but in the US this is impossible."