Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords survived the assassination attempt that killed six others, but the political fall-out has just begun. In the US’s strange post-modern politics, President Obama’s speech is the most popular thing he’s done, while Sarah Palin screwed up by defending the herself and the Tea Party. Meanwhile, guns like the one used in the shooting are flying off the shelves and Arizona is relaxing gun laws further.
Obama’s approval rating has bounced up 5% since the shooting and his speech. The speech itself seems to be the major reason for the turn-around with 78% approving of it and an 8% increase in the number of Americans who say he “understands the problems of people like you.”
But, it’s just words, eh? I mean a competent writer, a savvy political adviser, and a good orator are all that takes and it doesn’t actually change anything.
This is the guy who has brought in (basically) universal health-care – dragging the US kicking and screaming into the 1930s. That’s a goal that Democrat Presidents have aimed for and failed to achieve for decades. And it’s a speech that makes him more popular.
Palin, however, has drastically mis-stepped in her speech. After days of silence, she sat herself in a presidential setting (American flag behind her shoulder). In the speech, she made the issue all about herself and said who blame the violent rhetoric she and the Tea Party practice of inciting anti-Democrat violence where committing a ‘blood libel’ (insulting the Jewish population to boot). Again, in that bizarre post-modern way, it’s not the violent rhetoric she’s in trouble for or defending it, it’s the language she used in defending her use of violent rhetoric. Only 30% of Americans approved of her speech and there is talk that it could be the end of her presidential run.
The political debate in that country is so many levels removed from reality it’s astounding. Words matter more than actions; the signifier divorced from the signified.
Meanwhile, back in reality, those rednecks are behaving very oddly. The gun used to shoot Giffords and 16 others was purchased legally and had an extended magazine (also legal). There is no use for handguns with extended magazines other than shooting a lot of people very quickly at close range. You would think that people wouldn’t want people carrying weapons like that around anymore. But, since the shooting, sales of them in Arizona are through the roof.
Well, people have got to be able to protect themselves (with a 30-round magazine) when a mad-man starts shooting, eh? The thing is, two other people were armed when Laughner started shooting. One helped tackled him without drawing his weapon. The other drew his weapon and nearly shot someone else who had taken Laughner’s gun off him.
As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted:
“To be clear, everybody who’s reacted to this shooting by saying, they wish there had been someone other than the killer with a gun at the scene. There was someone other than the killer with a gun at the scene. And the person he almost shot was one of the heroes who had just disarmed the killer.
I understand there are a lot of fantasies about guns and about heroism and about heroism involving guns. The fantasy that an armed responsible gun owner is all that would have been needed to have prevented this tragedy, that is disproved by what actually did happen.
When you talk about the fantasy of there being a responsible gun owner at that shooting on Saturday, it is not a hypothetical, that really happened. And it did not work out…
A panel of criminology and statistics experts with the National Research Council the National Academies published a study in 2004 that found no reduced crime in states with right-to-carry (RTC) laws.
A 2010 study from Stanford Law School found that “the most consistent, albeit not uniform, finding to emerge from the array of models is that aggravated assault rises when RTC laws are adopted.”
In Arizona, the Republicans are in charge. And they have already passing laws further weakening restrictions on guns:
Bills already introduced this year in Arizona in the Republican-controlled Legislature include barring landlords and homeowner groups from restricting the right to bear arms in self defense, and expanding the current law that allows gun owners to display a weapon in self defense. And John Wentling, a leader of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, a gun owners advocacy group, said his group’s priority bill, which he wouldn’t discuss, hasn’t been unveiled yet.
“I don’t think it really changes anything,” Republican state Sen. Ron Gould said of the mass shooting. “I don’t see how gun control could have prevented that shooting unless you take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.”
Of course, Laughner bought his weapon legally and fitted Gould’s definition of ‘law-abiding citizen’ – until he shot 17 people.