Nobody knows what inspired Jared Loughner to allegedly do it: Inflammatory political campaigning, marijuana, punk rock, mental illness? But we do know that access to weapons didn't appear hinder a suspect who authorities said opened fire at a Tucson supermarket Saturday, killing six and wounding 14 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Barbara Boxer is using the moment to call for stricter gun-control laws.
At an event in Riverside Tuesday, the senator from California said:
... We should look at sensible gun laws...the kind we have here in California that give people their gun-ownership rights while also preventing the sale of guns to criminals, people with serious mental illnesses and people who abuse a spouse or partner.
I am particularly interested in California's concealed weapons law, which requires someone who wants to carry a concealed weapon to first receive a permit from their local sheriff or police chief.
In California, you need to be at least 21 years old, show good cause for carrying and show good moral character to carry a concealed weapon. There is a check - an important check - on who is carrying a concealed weapon.
We need to address the application of the federal law banning people with serious mental illnesses from owning guns. The law needs to be implemented better so that those with mental illness get into the FBI database and do not get guns.
Boxer also wants Congress to take another shot at banning assault-type weapons altogether. That law, she says, could have prevented the suspect from allegedly using an expanded-round clip that allowed more than 10 shots in a row to go off.
She touted California's own stricter weapons laws as a model:
"I am not saying that these sensible gun laws would have stopped this killer but I do know this: It should not be easy for a killer to obtain a weapon that can kill or wound 20 people in just a few heartbeats--and stop those heartbeats. In California, the killer would not have been able to purchase that 30-capacity magazine."
Gun laws are a slippery slope for us. Does anyone believe the founding fathers had our current milieu in mind? The idea behind the right to bear arms was that we be willing to defend our democracy from tyrants on the inside. Does anyone believe that's still a viable scenario?
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On the other hand, plenty of gun laws exist in plenty of places. California and L.A. are supertough. But, in reality, the effect of the laws here is that good people are afraid to have guns for fear of getting busted (having one on your car seat could cause a lot of pain if you're stopped by police).
So what happens?
Mostly just the bad guys have guns, and they're as easy to get as medical marijuana. Would the suspect in the Tucson case have had any trouble getting a weapon if he had to do so illegally?