Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Guest Blogger
I was struck by a news story earlier this week, not only because of its importance, but because of how little air time it received in the mass media. Earlier this week, the victims of the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona had a chance to speak to the man responsible for those hideous acts. One statement was especially powerful and it was from the husband of Gabby Giffords, now a former Congresswoman from Arizona. I apologize for the length of the following quotations, but I think it is important to read most of what Gabby’s husband said to Mr. Jared Loughner, who perpetrated the crime.
“Mr. Loughner, for the first and last time, you are going to hear directly from Gabby and me about what you took away on January 8th, 2011 and, just as important, what you did not. So pay attention. That bright and chilly Saturday morning, you killed six innocent people. Daughters and sons. Mothers and fathers. Grandparents and friends. They were devoted to their families, their communities, their places of worship.
Gabby would trade her own life to bring back any one of those you savagely murdered on that day. Especially young Christina-Taylor Green, whose high-minded ideas about service and democracy deserved a full life committed to advancing them. Especially 30-year old Gabe Zimmerman, whom Gabby knew well and cherished, and whose love for his family and his fiancee and service to his country were as deep as his loss is tragic. Especially Judge John Roll whom Gabby was honored to call a colleague and friend and from whose interminable dedication to our community and country she gained enormous inspiration. Gabby would give anything to take away the grief you visited upon the Morrises, the Schnecks, and the Stoddards – anything to heal the bodies and psyches of your other victims.
And then there is what you took from Gabby. Her life has been forever changed. Plans she had for our family and her career have been immeasurably altered. Every day is a continuous struggle to do those things she was once so very good at. Gabby is a people person: she exudes kindness, creativity, and compassion. If she were not born with the name – “Gabby” – someone would have given it to her. Now she struggles to deliver each and every sentence. Her gift for language can now only be seen in Internet videos from a more innocent time.
Gabby was an outdoor enthusiast. She was often seen rollerblading with her friend Raoul in Reed Park, hiking in Sabino Canyon, or careening down Rillito Wash Trail on her bike, as she was the night before you tried and failed to murder her. She hasn’t been to any of those places since, and I don’t know when she’ll return. There’s more. Gabby struggles to walk. Her right arm is paralyzed. She is partially blind. Gabby works harder in one minute of an hour – fighting to make each individual moment count for something – than most of us work in an entire day.
Mr. Loughner, by making death and producing tragedy, you sought to extinguish the beauty of life. To diminish potential. To strain love. And to cancel ideas. You tried to create for all of us a world as dark and evil as your own. But know this, and remember it always: You failed. Your decision to commit cold-blooded mass murder also begs of us to look in the mirror. This horrific act warns us to hold our leaders and ourselves responsible for coming up short when we do, for not having the courage to act when it’s hard, even for possessing the wrong values.” CNN
It was hard for me to read the full statement without shedding a tear. Not just for Giffords and her husband, but for all of the families who suffered at the hands of a man who should not have been able to obtain the weapons and the ammunition that he had that fateful day. I am not advocating the rescinding of our Second Amendment rights, but I am pleading for common sense in how we turn a blind eye to the damage guns do, without ever caring about what we need to do to prevent these kinds of weapons and the size of the magazines that allow a mentally disturbed individual like a Jared Loughner, to kill and maim so many innocents.
Mr. Mark Kelly, the former Astronaut who is Gabrielle Gifford’s husband, did not stop with the perpetrator of the violence, he also took all of us to task for allowing our society and our politicians to ignore the violence and death that are brought every day to this country by people carrying guns. “Your decision to commit cold-blooded mass murder also begs of us to look in the mirror. This horrific act warns us to hold our leaders and ourselves responsible for coming up short when we do, for not having the courage to act when it’s hard, even for possessing the wrong values. We are a people who can watch a young man like you spiral into murderous rampage without choosing to intervene before it is too late.
We have a political class that is afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws and how they are being enforced. We have representatives who look at gun violence, not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore. As a nation we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address this issue. After Columbine; after Virginia Tech; after Tucson and after Aurora we have done nothing.
In this state we have elected officials so feckless in their leadership that they would say, as in the case of Governor Jan Brewer, “I don’t think it has anything to do with the size of the magazine or the caliber of the gun.” She went on and said, “Even if the shooter’s weapon had held fewer bullets, he’d have another gun, maybe. He could have three guns in his pocket” – she said this just one week after a high capacity magazine allowed you to kill six and wound 19 others, before being wrestled to the ground while attempting to reload. Or a state legislature that thought it appropriate to busy itself naming an official Arizona state gun just weeks after this tragedy occurred, instead of doing the work it was elected to do: encourage economic growth, help our returning veterans and fix our education system.” CNN
The idea that any politician of any stripe could downplay the destructive magnitude of these high-capacity magazines and the weapons they feed is disgusting and sad. Without all of us taking a stand against allowing people with mental disorders from owning guns and without all of us saying it is not necessary in our society to allow these high-capacity magazines, how will the violence ever end?
Is it necessary to our Freedom as a society to allow unfettered access to guns and ammunition that is only meant to be used against innocents? Can’t common sense restrictions be put into place without the NRA and politicians crying foul? Recently in Cook County, Illinois which has seen more than its share of gun violence, the President of the County Board recently attempted to stem the gun violence by advocating a tax on bullets. It may not be the best idea, but it was an attempt to find a way to stop our youth from killing each other and her efforts were met with derision and she had to drop her ammo tax idea. Chicago Tribune
It is far past time for our society to wake up and agree that not everyone should have access to guns and high-capacity magazines, isn’t it? How many more killings will our country have to endure before We decide to put an end to it. The NRA and gun manufacturers have made a great living demonizing anyone who might suggest that common sense restrictions on gun ownership are necessary and they have made sure that guns sales are going through the roof. Will it take gun violence impacting our own families before we do anything? What can be done to stem the tide of violence with guns? It is a debate that we must have! Isn’t it? Don’t we owe it to the victims and the victim’s families to finally do something to stop the killings?
Tomorrow may be too late!