ORLANDO – The tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona that killed six people and critically injured a member of Congress could have been averted if someone in the audience had been carrying a concealed weapon, the president of Gun Owners of America says.
“How sad that in a state that has very friendly gun laws, among the 40 people there to see the congresswoman, none was armed,” said Larry Pratt, national president of Gun Owners of America, a nonprofit organization based in Virginia that’s committed to preserving the Second Amendment and the right to own and bear arms.
This morning, Pratt was a call-in guest on “The Guetzloe Report,” commentator Doug Guetzloe’s daily radio talk show on the PhoenixNetwork.US station.
Guetzloe had invited Pratt and Mike Hammond, the organization’s chief legal counsel, to call in and talk about last Saturday’s shootings at a supermarket in Tucson, where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents. A suspect, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, shot Giffords in the head at point-blank range and killed six other people before two people tackled him and he was arrested.
Giffords is now recovering after brain surgery, while Loughner has been charged with two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and a count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress.
”It has been a real tragedy, and from tragedy comes choas,” Guetzloe said. He noted that supporters of gun control, which Guetzloe opposes, are already exploiting this incident to push for stricter gun laws.
That includes Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, who ran for Congress in 1996, three years after a gunman killed her husband and injured her son in a 1993 shooting on Long Island. Noting that the pistol used in the Tucson attack had an extended magazine that allowed the gunman to take at least 20 shots at the crowd, McCarthy proposed legislation to restrict the use of these magazines.
In a statement posted on her congressional website, McCarthy said, “One of the greatest privileges of being an American is the freedom to peaceably assemble in public. One of the greatest pleasures of being an elected official is meeting with constituents in their communities in order to help them. As someone who’s experienced senseless gun violence firsthand, I’m praying for my colleague Rep. Giffords, the others shot with her and all their families today. This is clearly an illustration of why we must all work together to fight gun violence in America and keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of the wrong people.”
But Guetzloe countered that her proposal would do nothing to make people safer, and would only punish law abiding gun owners.
“We must resist any and all efforts to restrict our freedoms,” he said. “I was trying to remember throughout history the societies and nations that have survived invasions without weapons. They just don’t exist. Our founding fathers recognized we need to have heavily armed civilians in order to maintain order.”
Hammond agreed, noting that laws against murder don’t deter criminals, so gun control laws won’t, either.
“It’s actually against the law to kill people,” he said. “That didn’t seem to have any impact on Jared Loughner.”
Hammond said he expects that as a result of this high profile case, “There’s going to be three anti-gun provisions that are going to be put forward.”
Legislation by McCarthy and U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., he said, would restore a ban on automatic, high capacity clips like the ones Loughner used. He also expects legislation that would require the organizers and operators of gun shows to tell everyone who walks in the door about the restrictions that apply under the Brady Act, which requires that background checks be conducted on individuals before a firearm can be purchased from a federally licensed dealer, manufacturer or importer.
“If even one person gets in without hearing about that, you and every other promoter can be sent to jail for two years,” Hammond said. “The net effect of that is to ban all gun shows.”
Hammond said he also believes some in Congress want to give the Obama administration the ability to expand who gets on a government “Watch List,” including people who belong to gun rights organizations like his and the National Rifle Association.
“You know how these watch lists work,” he said. “They don’t need to tell you why you’re on. It’s almost impossible to get off. Obama could create a new watch list of NRA members.”
Pratt said McCarthy’s proposal to limit the size of gun magazines is misguided because people carrying rifles with long multiple round magazines have made themselves safer in dangerous urban neighborhoods.
“For the anti-gunners to do this is consistent with their philosophy that self-defense is not a good thing and shouldn’t be left to mere citizens,” Pratt said.
The bottom line, Pratt added, is nobody should assume the government can protect them when they’re out in public – unless they take steps to protect themselves.
“That’s just a great tragedy that people just assume, ‘We’re in a nice part of town, nothing can go wrong,’ “ he said. “Abraham Lincoln was in a theater – what can go wrong?”
Pratt urged opponents of gun control to click onto Gunowners.org and sign up for bulletins about what’s happening in Congress.
“You can be a part of the fight, and it’s cheap and easy,” he said. “They (Congress) need to hear from us. They don’t need to slide into a little hermetic cocoon without being reminded of why we voted them in.”
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