The recent tragedy in Tucson, Ariz., in which Jared Lee Loughner shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others – killing six – has added fuel to the fire for critics of the Arizona gun law. Specifically, critics point to Gov. Jan Brewer’s signing of Arizona Senate Bill 1108, which eliminated the need for a concealed carry permit. While some believe that Arizona’s current gun laws are appropriate, others think the concealed carry loophole makes the law too lax – and dangerous.
Arizona gun law and the wild west
The Glock-19 Jared Lee Loughner reportedly used for the Arizona shooting is a perfect example of Arizona’s concealed carry system at work. Arizona gun owners can carry their guns in vehicles, in restaurants and other public places. Critics argue that in the case of individuals like Jared Lee Loughner, the practice of concealed carry without a permit places weapons into the hands of the mentally unstable.
Gun control activists believe that only tighter federal controls via tougher background checks and bans on assault weapons can protect people from gun violence. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who is involved in the Jared Lee Loughner investigation, also believes that the concealed carry law contributed to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others. Dupnik believes that if Arizona wants to be viewed as the wild west, the state is well on its way.
“We’re the ‘Tombstone’ of the United States of America,” Dupnik told the Los Angeles Times.
Are current background checks effective?
Gun rights supporters – the NRA included – point out that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System already includes criminal and mental health records. Yet Jared Lee Loughner’s run-ins with Pima Community College campus police would not have shown up in the background check, because mental health clearance – the condition of his potential return to school – was never obtained.
The right to defend oneself, politely
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants individuals the right to bear arms. The debate over the effectiveness of background checks will continue to rage on, and the tragedy in Tucson may play a role in change — that is, if the NRA doesn’t convince Washington to politely leave things as they are. As science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein once wrote, “An armed society is a polite society.”