U.S. political extremism leads to violence

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Anyone who follows the news knows that last month U.S. Congress Woman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tucson. Those who follow a lot of news also know that this incident has generated a lot of finger pointing and other reactions (some might say overreactions) from both sides of the political spectrum. Given the degree of polarization and lack of civil dialogue in the U.S. at the moment, none of this is surprising.

Before the smoke had even cleared in the shopping mall blame was being laid on the Tea Party and their ilk for creating a poisonous atmosphere in the country that led to this sort of violence. Of course the TP types struck back with all sorts of rationalizations as to why they were in no way to blame for something like this. That, of course, is a fantasy.

It is plain to all but the most naive that the course of political discourse in the U.S. over the past few years was going to lead to something insane like this shooting, and may still lead to even more. What can be expected when popular radio talk show hosts stir up their listeners with statements like "if ballots don't work, bullets will," and other incendiary rhetoric, and sympathize with the idiots that call in who spew even more vicious and hateful statements about the government and anyone that they do not like? What can be expected when these same sentiments are cheered at public meetings and rallies?

What can be expected when these rallies sport signs like the one that said "If Brown can't stop it, Browning can," referring to the health care bill, Republican Senator Scott Brown, and Browning Firearms. The sign prominently displayed a Browning pistol.

It is not surprising, either, that both the anti-gun and pro-gun crowds grabbed on to the shooting to promote their own views. One could say much to the detriment of a rational discussion on the issue of firearms.

From the anti-gun groupies the blame for the attack was guns, as if guns were responsible for creating the atmosphere that prompted wing nuts to use them rather than the culture that has developed in the U.S. This is not to say that there should not be rules for firearms, but the extremism of the anti-gun crowd does not lead to a workable solution. The pro-gun crowd, on the other hand, does no one any favours with the equally uncompromising and idiotic knee jerk response to responsible gun regulation.

In Michigan legislation was introduced repealing the laws creating no carry zones for firearms, saying there should be nowhere that is gun free. In Nebraska State legislation was introduced to allow the carrying of firearms in schools. In Minnesota there is a bill to eliminate background checks for gun permits. In Wyoming there is a bill to do away with concealed weapons permits altogether, making the carrying of weapons legal without one. The list goes on.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting the issue of large capacity magazines was raised again. The issue of assault rifles and other weapons is also frequently on the table. Regardless of the sensibility of regulation, the anti-gun crowd stands in opposition.

The fall-back position for the gun groupies is the Second Amendment which gives Americans the right to bear arms. What it does not do is say what arms, or under what conditions. And, one has to wonder what the Founding Fathers would have written had they had modern weapons.

There are certainly good reasons for citizens to have access to firearms, but there is also a good reason to protect society from the inappropriate use of those firearms, particularly in a time when the capability of firearms goes far beyond anything that the framers of the Constitution could imagine.

If one considers the Second Amendment in the context of 1789, what the Founding Fathers did was give citizens the right to bear flintlock muzzle loaders. Beyond that some prudent regulation is common sense.

Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada's West Coast.

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