In Arizona, you can load your Glock 9 mm, strap it to your leg, slip a magazine in your AR-15, toss it over your shoulder and go to town.
Arizona is a "right-to-carry" state. It and Alaska allow you to carry a gun either concealed or in the open without a permit. Forty states according to the National Rifle Association have some sort of system to allow the public to tote a gun. Hawaii is one of the 10 that restrict the ability to legally own a gun.
As we contemplate the Tucson slaughter at a political forum, part of the discussion must be about the ability of crazy people to carry weapons that can kill.
In August 2009, a man in Phoenix, Ariz., walked outside a convention center with his pistol and AR-15 while inside, President Barack Obama addressed the annual meeting of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "Because I can do it," the unidentified man said when asked why he was armed. "In Arizona, I still have some freedoms," The Arizona Republic quoted him as saying.
Also that year in Phoenix, a Baptist pastor gave a sermon entitled "Why I Hate Barack Obama" and went on to say he prays for Obama’s death.
In New Hampshire, while Obama was holding a health care town hall meeting, a man with a pistol strapped to his leg held a sign reading: "It is time to water the tree of liberty." It was a reference to Thomas Jefferson’s quote: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Last year in a national park outside of Washington, D.C., an Atlanta real estate agent, draped with a bandolier of ammunition magazines and a loaded pistol, announced he was protesting "health care reform, climate control, bank bailouts, drug laws and what he sees as President Obama’s insistence on and the Democratic Congress’ capitulation to a ‘totalitarian socialism’ that tramples individual rights," according to The Washington Post.
There are calls to lower the rhetoric. To demilitarize the political metaphors. No longer do we need Sarah Palin saying, "Don’t retreat, reload."
Clarence Dupnik, the Pima County sheriff handling the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, may have said it best:
"The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."
The political extremes in America listen to no rational debate and that is why gun nuts show up at Obama rallies, why the right insists that Obama is a socialist and why they claim health care reform destroys America’s free will.
If you want to take something from the Tucson tragedy, remember yesterday’s words from Giffords’ brother-in-law, Scott Kelly, who, like her husband, is an astronaut:
"These days we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict on one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words.
"We’re better than this. We must do better."
Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at email@example.com