By Melvyn Kohn
January 11, 2011
This weekend was marred by the shooting of 20 people, among them a Jewish US Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. Six are dead, many are in hospital; Gifford's brain was pierced by a bullet from a Glock 19. She is expected to recover but how much we do not yet know. She is responsive to the medical team.
This has occasioned miles of column inches; in today's New York Daily News it is on the first seven pages.
The president will visit her state, Arizona, and scores of FBI men and an army of journalists has descended upon the crime scene. Mass immigration; which seems to have been a factor in the shooting - Giffords, while admitting that mass immigration of the illegal kind was a problem, had the temerity to stand up to the far right, in including the Tea Party; whose flamboyant figurehead and former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, had targeted in a way with rhetoric and an image of a cross hairs on her site.
Debate now rages about whether Palin was partly to blame; the left has seized upon this and Palin has taken it off her site. Richard Cohen, writing on one of the aforementioned seven pages in the NYDN - in a column titled: "America's insanity:Handguns for all" argues that she is not to blame. He insists the use of the cross hairs is not that menacing. I disagree; both the symbol, and what Palin said about reloading - is as inflammatory as a page in Mein Kampf. Neither Hitler nor Palin exhorted murder per se. It just happened. Stuff happens, and happens a bit too often in the land where the 2nd Ammendment - the right to bear arms - is interpreted to mean we sell guns with more than the usual six bullets in the chamber to any nutter who comes along. Used to be that we could only sell weapons that held 10 to any nutter that came along, but that law expired in 2004 and the GOP saw fit to let it lapse; thank you very much indeed from the bottom of our hearts; now any nutter who wants to shoot up a shoolyard can walk into Walmart and load up; and reload, as Palin exhorted.
Cohen notes that Jared Loughner, Gifford's alleged - (OK, it seems everyone knows he did it, but just in case he gets a really good lawyer - and he has - I do not want to be sued - or cause a lawsuit for the JC - so...) shooter - is crazy; he adds: "If he is crazy then so are we." Present company excepted I hope...I'm sure Cohen did not mean me...but anyway, someone in a society that sells guns to locos sold a Glock 19 with a chamber that holds 13 bullets to a loco. And that loco shot 20 people and would have shot more had he the brains to carry out Palin's exhortation to "reload." Good job he wasn't smart enough to do that. He got jumped on by one of his victims and others expressing their profound disapproval of his reloading technique and handed over to the cops; but not until he had turned the parking lot into a disater zone.
Why? That is the main question. There seem to be some theories that he was inspired by Mein Kampf, a book he listed along with other books, some of a rather left wing nature - as his favourites; or that he had ties to American Renaissance - they have denied any involvement with him. Or that the heated issue of immigration in Arizona had turned most of its citizens into trigger-happy vigilantes.
Interestingly, the National Socialist Movement had recently staged rallies in Arizona - which is one of their key states. Check out their site at www.nsm88.org and there are videos of these rallies on the front page. The NSM by the way is the largest white supremacist group in the US. Oddly, I would say it is the most peaceful - though they promote DVDs with songs like "Juden Raus" and "I Hate Niggers." Most peaceful is a relative phrase, as in, not as bad as the KKK, or Aryan Nation, where a man, usually a prisoner, "kills to get in and dies to get out."
But as bad as these groups are, it is guns that kill. And that is what must be addressed. Or we will have more of these shootings. Whether the gunman (or to be PC, gunperson) is influenced by the NSM or AN or the KKK or just a plain nutter is a moot point; he or she had a gun. Take that away and you leave them in a room alone reading Mein Kampf if that is their favourite tome, or going on anti-government sites or just ranting to themselves about conspiracies; these options are a lot less harmful than 'reloading'.