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Tucson Shooting Video Reinforces Need for Gun Safety Laws

I don’t think this signals much of anything, because Dick Cheney doesn’t have to vote for anything. But it’s notable that our nation’s most prominent errant shooter acknowledged to NBC that “maybe it’s appropriate” to limit high-capacity gun magazines in the wake of Tucson.

I really hope this video of the shooting doesn’t get leaked, but just the retelling of it reinforces what Cheney leaned toward today. Jared Loughner, a determined individual, ran up and shot dozens of people at close range, and only ended his rampage when he had to reload, providing a moment of opportunity for the victims. Nobody had any chance of stopping him at any other point; the only heroic acts available to them were to shield other bystanders and sacrifice themselves. Loughner’s victims never knew what hit them. “More guns” in this case would have amounted to nothing; in fact, the one person with a gun who came running out to aid in the situation almost wound up shooting an innocent man.

The only way to limit events like this from happening is to end the sale and transfer of equipment designed entirely to kill mass groups of people, and to do a better job preventing psychopathic individuals from legally acquiring guns. Even gun owners support those general goals.

• 90 percent of Americans and 90 percent of gun owners support fixing gaps in government databases that are meant to prevent the mentally ill, drug abusers and others from buying guns.
• 91 percent of Americans and 93 percent of gun owners support requiring federal agencies to share information about suspected dangerous persons or terrorists to prevent them from buying guns.
• 89 percent of Americans and 89 percent of gun owners support full funding of the law a unanimous Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed after the Virginia Tech shootings to put more records in the background-check database.
• 86 percent of Americans and 81 percent of gun owners support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter who they buy it from.
• 89 percent of Americans and 85 percent of gun owners support a law to require background checks for all guns sold at gun shows.

I don’t think a lot of Republican lawmakers will follow Richard Lugar’s lead and call for a renewal of the assault weapons ban. But there is definitely space to come up with a response to Tucson that would have overwhelming support in the country, even among gun owners. If politicians would control their own fear of the NRA, they could get this done.

UPDATE: With Tom Coburn nominally in favor of doing something to stop the mentally ill from getting guns, maybe there’s some potential. But agreeing on principle and agreeing to specifics are far different things.

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David Dayen

David Dayen