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Guns n' Poses

Why aren't we talking about guns? Seven years ago, the Federal law banning assault weapons was allowed to expire, putting the extended magazine in the hands of Jared Loughler in Tucson. Some of the loosest gun laws in the nation were responsible for the weapon that took six lives and changed many more forever. Just after Thanksgiving, Loughler walked into Sportsman's Warehouse and walked out with a Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun.

The much-admired Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik - a man who recognized his moment and faced it with candor and competence - called his state's gun laws "the height of insanity." He railed against gun legislation under consideration that he said would let “students and teachers” have guns on college campuses. “I have never been a proponent of letting everybody in this state carry weapons under any circumstances wherever they want, and that’s almost where they are,” he said.

Acres of ink has been spilled about the proper use of images of firearms in politics, of armed words. Yet the link between criminally weak gun control and the massacre in Arizona is a helluva lot stronger than the line between a Republican's campaign literature and the gunman's trigger finger.

President Obama said at tonight's memorial rally in Tucson that "what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other." And man, he's right. But we should examine the issue that's literally right there in front of us, locked and loaded.

I don't think we're a gun-free nation. It's not about that. But I think it's about perspective and appropriate scale - about what matters and what doesn't. Digby get to this point:

I'm not against the right to own a gun. I just see no earthly reason why it should be so easy for people to get them or why people should be allowed to carry them anywhere in public that they choose. It just doesn't seem like such a huge sacrifice to have some restrictions on it. Certainly the idea that having everyone armed to the teeth will somehow stop gun violence defies common sense. Unless you think drunk, angry and crazy people who have no judgment don't exist, this is a ridiculous argument on its face.

Yet my instincts are also Robert Stein who tells a story, and puts the right perspective to his experienced shoulder:

During my teens and early twenties, I fired weapons at people, who were often shooting back at me.

It was not a pleasant experience but, after V-E Day in Germany, when most of our food was being sold in British and French black markets, I was persuaded to go deer-hunting not so much for sport as out of hunger. In early morning, sighting a brown hide and preparing to fire, I realized I was about to bag a cow.

That ended my hunting career, but I brought home as a souvenir a pistol I had taken from a German officer. Years later, when my teen-age son found it in a closet, I disassembled the gun and walked a mile in Manhattan dropping parts in trash bins to make sure it would never be put together again.

In the half-century since then, the Second Amendment has been of only academic interest, but a flurry of activity post-Tuscon reawakens the sense of wonder at how bearing arms against targets that don't shoot back has become a sacred right in America.

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