Politics of the Assassination Attempt

Politics of the Assassination Attempt January 9, 2011

There are legitimate areas of political debate following the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords of Arizona that I wish to explore.

1.  The counterarguments of mental health and gun ownership tend to obfuscate the amount of uncertainty present.  The tendency is to offer mental illness as a “no tolerance” palliative.  Once we get to specifics, we start excluding people and quite reasonably.  For example, bulimia hardly seems to be a reason to exclude a person from gun ownership.  Moving to the area of universal agreement, psychotic tendencies are reasonable grounds for denying gun ownership.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t fall into the category of observing the sky is blue.  We are always looking at a combination of some people slipping through the cracks and false positives.  Then there is the matter of those suffering mental illness and those known to the mental health community not being coextensive.  This will never be remedied.  I have seen ex post facto claims that the man who committed this act is mentally ill.  Whether in this particular case this is true doesn’t change that there really is no actual remedy of keeping guns away from those who are mentally ill.

2.  The only relevant words in “high capacity semiautomatic gun” are “high capacity.”  This is the weapon that was purchased for use in the attack.  (Wiki)  It uses a 9 mm round, a fairly light duty round in my understanding, but I’ll defer to gun experts on that one.  Finding revolvers with similar and greater stopping power would not be difficult at all, and revolvers are typically not the targets of bans when we are speaking of banning based on style of weapon.  The 33-round magazines are I believe a legitimate area of debate and worthy of regulation.  He was able to fully discharge one magazine and was disarmed while attempting to load a new magazine.  I think we can definitively claim the 33-round magazine capacity wasn’t decisive in his ability to shoot the Congresswoman, but I think we can claim the number of rounds increased the breadth of destruction.

3.  Distinctions need to be made between acting as the head of a group, as a member of a group, and as a sympathizer of a group, particularly when we are speaking about large groups.  Almost always we are speaking of sympathizers, and it is just lazy to blame a group for the acts of a sympathizer.  If the group actually supported the act, they could have explicitly advocated it or done it itself.  More often, the group has already condemned such courses of action and the actor sees the group as part of the enemy because they have gone soft by condemning the course of action.  Such isn’t to claim that no lessons can be learned though.  I’ve been known to say that you can tell a lot about a blog by the fruits and nuts it attracts.  One can of course offer the counter that this is the Internet and anyone can read any blog they please.  Certainly true, but not really responsive.  What distinguishes a fruit or nut is that they feel comfort expressing their fruitiness or nuttiness in your confines.  Often that comfort is the absence of explicit rebuke.  Take for example all of the “orthodox” blogs you could visit and offer a nasty rebuke of Cardinal “Mahoney” and be patted on the back.  People seem to think freedom of speech means an absence of social responsibility.  I’m afraid you won’t find that in the First Amendment.  Those that abuse their social responsibility should be rebuked by society.  That was true before the shooting.

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  • bill bannon

    I’ll just mention on guns that New Jersey has a 15 round limit on gun capacity and remember even that is well beyond the old revolvers that were 6 bullets. And it is a five year prison penalty to exceed that in NJ…..which means Glocks in Nj have to have the lower round option or they are illegal. But if more rural states have no such limit, the Glock pistols take sometimes 15 sometimes 17 rounds and more but there are also extended magazines as in this case which carry e.g. 30 rounds.
    The 9mm is what police use…often the glock while state police might use the Sig Sauer which Navy Seals use….though the latter may use a .357 Sig. But suffice it to say…the 9
    mm is not a light round and is also in the drug dealers Mac 10 submachine gun I believe.
    Submachine guns are often 9mm. Too powerful rounds like the 44 magnum or.50 caliber can go through a person and into someone behind them besides losing accuracy from recoil.
    In short, this man was using what many police use…9mm. NJ restricts to 15 shots precisely to decrease the chances of a number of bad outcomes coming from bad participants. Others may follow their lead after this. But….a maniac who carries 5 15 round magazines….still has 75 bullets….even if he does not have the extended magazine.
    One problem here was this person’s accuracy despite recoil. A friend of mine in the NY harbor area two years ago ran from a thug who tried to kill him through the back but the recoil moved the bullet…9mm…. to go through his right arm instead and he lived to tell
    about it.

  • bill bannon

    I’ll just mention on guns that New Jersey has a 15 round limit on gun capacity and remember even that is well beyond the old revolvers that were 6 bullets. And it is a five year prison penalty to exceed that in NJ…..which means Glocks in Nj have to have the lower round option or they are illegal. But if more rural states have no such limit, the Glock pistols take sometimes 15 sometimes 17 rounds and more but there are also extended magazines as in this case which carry e.g. 30 rounds.
    The 9mm is what police use…often the glock while state police might use the Sig Sauer which Navy Seals use….though the latter may use a .357 Sig. But suffice it to say…the 9
    mm is not a light round and is also in the drug dealers Mac 10 submachine gun I believe.
    Submachine guns are often 9mm. Too powerful rounds like the 44 magnum or.50 caliber can go through a person and into someone behind them besides losing accuracy from recoil.
    In short, this man was using what many police use…9mm. NJ restricts to 15 shots precisely to decrease the chances of a number of bad outcomes coming from bad participants. Others may follow their lead after this. But….a maniac who carries 5 15 round magazines….still has 75 bullets….even if he does not have the extended magazine.
    One problem here was this person’s accuracy despite recoil. A friend of mine in the NY harbor area two years ago ran from a thug who tried to kill him through the back but the recoil moved the bullet…9mm…. to go through his right arm instead and he lived to tell
    about it.

  • As the general level of rhetoric on this topic demonstrates, having a hard-working congresswoman shot through the brain; a nine-year-old girl’s heart blown out of her chest; and more than a dozen others either wounded or murdered, is a small price to pay so that a small, but strident, percentage of our fellow citizens can compensate for their crippling feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing by carrying a gun (in addition to driving a huge SUV.) It’s a free country. So far, anyway…

  • As the general level of rhetoric on this topic demonstrates, having a hard-working congresswoman shot through the brain; a nine-year-old girl’s heart blown out of her chest; and more than a dozen others either wounded or murdered, is a small price to pay so that a small, but strident, percentage of our fellow citizens can compensate for their crippling feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing by carrying a gun (in addition to driving a huge SUV.) It’s a free country. So far, anyway…

  • Cindy

    You know, I am the youngest daughter and a sister to four older brothers. My entire life, my father and brothers hunted, fished and basically did the outdoor recreational things that Pennsylvanians did back in the 70’s and 80’s. So I grew up in a home where we did have a gun cabinet, but it was locked and there were rifles in it for hunting deer. I can remember a time where my own father had an NRA sticker on the window of his car. As time went on, my father distanced himself from that very organization. I asked him why, and he told me that he didnt support their belief that semi-automatic pistols were a good and positive thing in society. My father has said many times, that there is no need for those types of weapons in our society. He felt that they were not a weapon used in hunting and they served no purpose for the sportsman interested in hunting. Maybe that is where I learned my own views from. I happen to agree with my dad though. That being said, I still can’t fathom a politician putting human names in crosshairs to make a political point. It just seems wrong to me. It sends the wrong message, like it or not.

  • Cindy

    You know, I am the youngest daughter and a sister to four older brothers. My entire life, my father and brothers hunted, fished and basically did the outdoor recreational things that Pennsylvanians did back in the 70’s and 80’s. So I grew up in a home where we did have a gun cabinet, but it was locked and there were rifles in it for hunting deer. I can remember a time where my own father had an NRA sticker on the window of his car. As time went on, my father distanced himself from that very organization. I asked him why, and he told me that he didnt support their belief that semi-automatic pistols were a good and positive thing in society. My father has said many times, that there is no need for those types of weapons in our society. He felt that they were not a weapon used in hunting and they served no purpose for the sportsman interested in hunting. Maybe that is where I learned my own views from. I happen to agree with my dad though. That being said, I still can’t fathom a politician putting human names in crosshairs to make a political point. It just seems wrong to me. It sends the wrong message, like it or not.

  • You can assassinate a targeted person using a hunting rifle. But you can’t gun down more than a dozen people in just a few seconds using a rifle designed for hunting deer, or with a shotgun designed for hunting game fowl. Handguns have only one target: human beings. The same is true of any other automatic, or semi-automatic weapons.

    • Cindy

      Rodak,
      That is exactly my father’s sentiments.

    • M.Z.

      Handguns are legitimate weapons to hold for self-defense. The use of the term semi-automatic is an attempt to make a distinction that isn’t really important. In pistols the next step down is a single-shot pistol or a pistol where one mechanically re-chambers without using the trigger. A revolver can be discharged as quickly as a semi-automatic pistol.

      Having been threatened with a handgun in my taxi driving days, I don’t take the topic lightly. I knew many cabbies who were armed and understand the legitimate interests in gun ownership. I don’t really get the gun enthusiasts, but my experience is that they are harmless.

      Addendum: I suppose I should add that my faith in the ability of police to protect me was changed based on my cab driving experience. Police don’t prevent crime. They arrest people and gather evidence of crimes committed. I still don’t own a gun, and I don’t anticipate owning one. Despite claims to the contrary, they aren’t that effective of a form of self defense. Fleeing and cover are the best forms of self-defense. If those aren’t available, than you are looking at close quarters. Keep in mind that the gunman wasn’t stopped with another gun but by a person tackling him.

      • How are handguns simultaneously “legitmate weapons to hold for self-defense” and weapons that “aren’t that effective of a form of self defense.” Given the mischief that can be done with them, that ineffectiveness trumps their legitimacy, in my book.

  • You can assassinate a targeted person using a hunting rifle. But you can’t gun down more than a dozen people in just a few seconds using a rifle designed for hunting deer, or with a shotgun designed for hunting game fowl. Handguns have only one target: human beings. The same is true of any other automatic, or semi-automatic weapons.

    • Cindy

      Rodak,
      That is exactly my father’s sentiments.

    • M.Z.

      Handguns are legitimate weapons to hold for self-defense. The use of the term semi-automatic is an attempt to make a distinction that isn’t really important. In pistols the next step down is a single-shot pistol or a pistol where one mechanically re-chambers without using the trigger. A revolver can be discharged as quickly as a semi-automatic pistol.

      Having been threatened with a handgun in my taxi driving days, I don’t take the topic lightly. I knew many cabbies who were armed and understand the legitimate interests in gun ownership. I don’t really get the gun enthusiasts, but my experience is that they are harmless.

      Addendum: I suppose I should add that my faith in the ability of police to protect me was changed based on my cab driving experience. Police don’t prevent crime. They arrest people and gather evidence of crimes committed. I still don’t own a gun, and I don’t anticipate owning one. Despite claims to the contrary, they aren’t that effective of a form of self defense. Fleeing and cover are the best forms of self-defense. If those aren’t available, than you are looking at close quarters. Keep in mind that the gunman wasn’t stopped with another gun but by a person tackling him.

      • How are handguns simultaneously “legitmate weapons to hold for self-defense” and weapons that “aren’t that effective of a form of self defense.” Given the mischief that can be done with them, that ineffectiveness trumps their legitimacy, in my book.