This Wednesday, the Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee voted 9-4 to proceed with a bill to declare a state gun. In a surprise move, the state legislature passed over the popular Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol, the weapon of choice for political assassination and mass murder in an outdoor venue, choosing instead to honour a Colt army revolver from the 19th Century.
Currently there is no similar mechanism for the US to declare a national dangerous loony zone, but the message from Arizona, particularly in these post-massacre weeks, is clear. If you’re planning a visit to the Grand Canyon State, come armed. Since the January 8th attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords in which six people were killed and 13 wounded, the state has taken strong action on gun laws – moving to make them more lax.
Arizona is not well-known for excessive restrictions on gun use. Last year it became the third state to allow concealed weapons without a permit. When Jarred Loughner bought the Glock he used in the Phoenix massacre he underwent an instant security check, and walked out of the store armed, despite considerable evidence of his mental instability. Firearms are permitted in all state buildings, including school grounds.
But there is still important legislative work to be done to see that Arizona is properly armed. One new law is in the works that would make it illegal to restrict guns from any public building unless it is provided with metal detectors and secure gun storage. The president of the state senate has declared it is now acceptable to carry firearms in the senate chamber. Strangest of all is the proposal to make murder confessions given during a 911 call inadmissible as evidence in court.
Sponsored by Alan Korwin, a writer who advocates for public safety through the proliferation of handguns, the purpose of the bill is to protect the rights of those who kill in self-defense. Supported by defense attorneys, the bill has drawn scorn from police and prosecutors. A representative of the Maricopa County Attorney’s office said, ” …this statute will provide safe harbour for calculated murderers.”
No worries. In the brave new Arizona, calculated murderers don’t stand a chance. A properly armed citizenry will be fully equipped to defend itself against attack. Just try to pull a pistol on an innocent Arizonian and you will die in a hail of vigilante bullets. And since gun training will be universal – though not required by law, heaven forbid such a violation of the constitutional right to bear arms – there will be no such thing as collateral damage.
Take for instance the man in Scottsdale who called 911 and admitted to placing his two sons, five years old and 15 months old, face down on the bed, covering them with a pillow and a blanket, and shooting them both in the head. If those boys had been properly armed and trained in self-defense, and had successfully averted the crime, how tragic if they’d said the wrong thing on the phone and got themselves in trouble.
Thirty-two children died as a result of firearms injuries in Arizona in 2009. One of these deaths is listed as an accident, one other as undetermined. Twenty-one were murders, presumably of children who were neither armed themselves nor out in public where an armed populous could have protected them. The nine suicides, conversely, were all armed. No figures were available on how many armed children successfully defended themselves against attack.
The US has, by far, the highest rate of death by firearms in the developed world, with Arizona ranking fourth among the states. Decades of the world’s least restrictive gun laws have failed to reduce gun crime, so clearly the laws are still too restrictive. Seen in this light, it is not only a legal right but a moral obligation for a citizen of Arizona to carry a firearm.
There are however a few things to consider if you’re planning to join the armed-citizenry movement. First, learn to reach for your gun in an unobtrusive manner. If you’re in a parking lot and someone is blazing away, making a spectacle of yourself by trying to wrestle that commemorative state revolver out of its holster is liable to move you up the priority victim list.
Next, before you produce your gun, take a quick look round and make sure everybody knows who the original shooter is. If you respond too quickly some of your fellow responsible citizens will take you for the villain, again increasing the odds that you will end up on the receiving end of someone’s Second Amendment rights.
Finally, mark the original shooter well before you slap iron. Things can move fast in a mass-self-defense-against-mass-murder situation, and if you fail to establish a clear visual on the bad guy, you might find yourself shooting at another public defender. Should this happen, and should you survive to report the incident, watch what you say during that 911 call, at least until they get the laws sorted out.
Even in Arizona, you can still get in trouble for shooting someone, if you say the wrong thing afterwards.
Al Pope won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon in 2010 and 2002. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores.