When Jared Loughner walked to a Tucson supermarket and whipped out his gun, he was able to fire 31 shots before reloading.
Thirty one shots.
Amazingly, Loughner did this with a firearm that he purchased legally, because in the state of Arizona—and in most places in the United States—a person, sans background check, can buy multiple genres of guns that aren’t for hunting or target shooting. They are, literally, for killing people. This has only been the case since 2004, when the assault weapon ban expired and, under the Bush Administration, wasn’t renewed. Among the provisions of the ban was a law against “extended clips”—which is what Loughner possessed.
Of course, we know how this one ends. Talk, talk, talk, talk, a statement from Jim Brady, more talk, more talk—and nothing. Our elected leaders know the power of the NRA; know the money that group puts in their pockets. They’ll talk a good game, rib their chins, express concern—then cower in the corner. Democrats are actually worse than Republicans on this, because we know where Republicans stand. Dems pretend to be against massive gun availability, but don’t step up. Ever.
The same is happening now. Barack Obama won’t take a stand on gun control, because he knows it’s a losing battle.
But—here’s the thing—it isn’t. Most sane Americans of both parties understand nobody needs a 31-shot clip. They understand the majority of assault weapons are best left off the streets. They understand that, while guns will always find their way into the hands of criminals, we might as well make it as hard a transaction as possible.
Bill Hileman, whose wife, Susan, was shot three times, said that when he visited her bedside, she asked him, “What about Christina?” Ms. Hileman had been holding hands outside the supermarket with her 9-year-old neighbor, Christina Greene, when the shots rang out; the girl was also hit and later died of her wounds.
Mr. Hileman said that though his wife had been in a morphine-induced haze, she was clearly devastated when he told her that the girl had died. “We’re going to have that as an ongoing issue that we’ll be dealing with,” Mr. Hileman said about his wife’s feelings of guilt. Ms. Hileman had invited Christina to accompany her to the event at the supermarket that morning because of the girl’s interest in politics .
Am sitting in Starbucks. Just heard a guy say this. Turned to look at him. He’s probably 17, with sportswriter arms and a geeky sweater. I probably wouldn’t knock him out with a punch to the face—but I’m pretty certain I’d get a couple of really good follow-ups in there.
This is, put simply, a guy’s quote. Women never utter this sort of nonsense, because women aren’t nearly as ridiculous as we are. For some reason only God or Jesus or Darwin understands, men feel the need to talk tough, walk tough, look tough. I’m just as guilty as the next guy—I’ve had someone genuinely don’t-mess-with-me moments throughout my life, even though I’m about as threatening as a throw pillow.
By the way, I just say the Peter King, a New York Republican representative and one of the GOPers who seems somewhat sane when it comes to guns, is fighting to make it a serious crime to come within 1,000 feet of a congressman/woman with a gun. Meanwhile, most of King’s follow Repubs are battling to make it perfectly legal to bring firearms on college campuses.
PS: That is one serious knot on the Dog’s forehead.
Drove to Yonkers today to pick up a couple of garage door openers. The place I went was located across the street from an enormous cemetary. It was on one of those industrial roads, with pawn shops and cement companies and key shops and the like. I walked in, and the place was, to cite Hall & Oates, “as worn as the toothbrush hanging in the stand.” Drab, depressing, dank, dark. The man who helped me had pale skin, walked with a grunt, sorta shuffled along, uninspired.
He told me he’d worked there for 25 years. Twenty-five years. Said he was OK with the job, but that it was far from inspiring. He hooked people up with garage doors. And more garage doors. And more. Hard to get too excited, he noted.
I thought about him, and felt sad. People should love their jobs, as I love mine. But most of the time, for one reason or another, it’s just not possible. Whether a person makes $20,000 or $2 million, the idea of working for the weekend is a horrible one to me. My weekdays and my weekends all morph together. I relish writing and reporting. I relish being with my wife and kids. I relish it all, to be honest, and while I have down moments and even down stretches, I consider myself to be as lucky and blessed as any person in America.
I like to have younger writers take their shots here. Today’s offering comes from Stephanie Officer, whose blog, msofficer.com, is original and sharp. I didn’t know the subject until Stephanie sent this in, so if it seems sorta cocky—well, it wasn’t my idea. Plus, since my first book came out seven years ago I’ve spotted all of (drumroll, please) a single person reading something I wrote …
It seems that my perplexing combination of race & sex, i.e.: not male, not white, not Rosie O’Donnell, provokes MTA riders to initiate conversation with me—when toting a Pearlman book on my travels.
Two older white men approached for that very reason.
Let the record show these two encounters took place about a month apart.
The first guy, toothless but veneered, had already been perched next to me aboard the Brooklyn bound 5 train. It was one of those I-don’t-know-if-it’s-summer-or-sinter-maybe-fallish-type-days-but-I’ve-gotta-wear-a-coat-to-be-safe, when “You like baseball”entered my left ear. I replied yes to the man born circa Big Band Swing.
The 5 screeches to a halt just before Bowling Green and the conductor announces that this train won’t continue into Brooklyn as previously promised.
[Insert 4-letter expletive here]
Thirty seconds later each passenger is standing on the scorching platform of the last stop in Manhattan. Guess who remains next to me?
Now faced with the dilemma of inducing a heat stroke or revealing the tank top underneath my jacket, the man stands ogling, mouth agape. More veneers peek from his bottom gums. Apparently the tank top was the invitation he’d been waiting for.
“Barry Bonds, eh? You a Giants Fan? I guess you were really happy this series”
“I’m not really a—”
“But you know, I’m more of a Mets guy myself. Do you like the Mets? Can’t stand the guy. You like baseball though? You’re reading it.”
“Yes. I like it. And this is a really good auth—”
“Oh, OK then. That’s just weird I haven’t seen anyone like you who likes baseball and is reading about it.”
He leers. I blink.
“Stay cool. And pretty.” Thank you, God. The monologue is over & he disappears down the platform.
A new 5 train pulls in about 2 minutes after he walks off.
[Insert 4 letter expletive for the MTA here.]
The second encounter was not as To Catch A Predator-y.
This time my companion was The Bad Guys Won. Back on the 5, back to Brooklyn. A larger man with Jonah Hill curls and chin had been reckless eyeballing, but I thought nothing of it. Turn another page, snicker a little more.
The belly approaches.
“You know his books are soooo good. I read that one. I’m a Met fan. Do you like the Mets?”
“Then I’m surprised you’re reading this. I’ve read his other one about the Cowboys. Did you read it?”
“Does he have any others?”
“There’s one about Barry Bonds.” Obviously, this was the most I was going to get to say here.
“Really? Whoa I didn’t even know that. And I’m surprised that you’ve read those. That’s cool though. Thanks.”
The doors slide open at President St. He’s gone—surprisingly enough—into thin air.
Let the record show these two encounters occurred about a month apart.
From this, we can deduce the following:
A. If you see something, say something.
B. Reading is not, indeed, fundamental.
C. Or at the very least, there is always some middle-aged super creep lurking on the 5, eager to start a half ignorant monologue. They profess their man-crush on Jeff, then run away.
Thank You Jeff, for helping me meet my husband. Duly noted.
But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.
If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was a sane idea to put her Congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet.
But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’s 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.
Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is “not suited for hunting or personal protection,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. “What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”
America has a long, terrible history of political assassinations and attempts at political assassination. What we did not have until now is a history of attempted political assassination that took the lives of a large number of innocent bystanders. The difference is not about the Second Amendment. It’s about a technology the founding fathers could never have imagined.
“If this was the modern equivalent of what Sirhan Sirhan used to shoot Robert Kennedy or Arthur Bremer used to shoot George Wallace, you’d be talking about one or two victims,” said Helmke.
In the coming days, the NRA will speak loudly about guns not killing, but people killing. Then the group will continue fighting for the rights of people to bring guns onto college campuses—a very important thing to do because, well, yeah, uh, hmm.
I forgot to mention this the other night, and wanted to.
After the Jets beat the Colts, LaDainian Tomlinson was interviewed by one of the sideline heads. He was very happy, and said something like, “Nobody thought we’d do this.”
Uh … really?
A lot of people thought the Colts would beat the Jets. A lot of people thought the Jets would beat the Colts. This was hardly a monumental upset. But that’s the sort of junk cliche answer athletes resort to, and the sort of junk cliche answer sideline heads nod at, without follow up. Of course people thought you’d do this—you beat a team overwhelmed by injuries that struggled throughout the season. Jets over Colts 2011 was hardly Jets over Colts Super Bowl III.
I don’t know anything about her—her name, her age, her profession. Literally, nothing. But I do know this: When Zimmerman, Gabrielle Giffords’ 30-year-old outreach director, was killed along with five others at a supermarket yesterday, the dreams and goal of his future bride died, too.
That’s the sort of thing that always haunts me about tragedies such as this one. We, as a people, can deal relatively well with the passings of our seniors and, to a certain degree, our long-infirmed. But when someone like Zimmerman—young, energetic, talented—dies suddenly, our systems don’t compute. How can this be? Where’s the sense? No, it’s not possible. Can’t be. No, no, no, no, no, no.
Today, I took my son to the mall. We went to a build-a-robot store, ate at Johnny Rocket’s, rode a ferris wheel (it’s a really good mall). All the while, Giffords’ husband and parents were by her hospital bedside, looking for any inklings of hope. All the while, Dallas Green, the former Major League manager whose granddaughter, 9-year-old Christina Green was killed, was surely wishing it were him, not her. All the while Zimmerman’s fiance was trying to understand. Where is my fiance?