Terrifying: Gun Sales Surge in Arizona After Shooting

News & Politics

Saturday's horrific shooting in Tucson has predictably prompted criticism of the lax gun laws that allowed a guy with documented mental problems to buy a semiautomatic weapon. So, naturally the state's gun lovers are frantically arming themselves to the teeth, in case stricter gun control (like not letting the mentally ill own assault weapons) is imposed.

Bloomberg reporter Michael Riley talked to an Arizona gun store owner who reported that gun sales surged after Saturday's shooting. The most popular item? The model of Glock that allowed Jared Loughner to spray 31 bullets into the crowd before being disarmed. FBI data shows gun sales in Arizona jumped 60 percent on January 10 compared to that day last year, and 5 percent nationally.

The store owner foresaw the uptick in business, telling his employees to expect a stampede of customers following the massacre. Apparently the same thing happened after Virginia Tech.

In a review of mass shootings over the past 20 years, the Violence Policy Center found that many of the most notorious large-scale killings involved weapons with ammunition magazines that hold up to 100 rounds. In a press release VPC legislative director Kristen Rand pointed out, "The Arizona attack joins a long list of mass shootings made possible by the easy availability of ammunition magazines that can hold up to 100 rounds: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Luby’s, Wedgewood Baptist Church, Stockton, and all too many others.”

Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy are currently working on legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition clips. "The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market," Lautenberg said.

A federal law banning assault weapons expired in 2004, leaving it up to states to impose restrictions on the manufacture and sale of the weapons.

Arizona, obviously, opted not to. The state currently has some of the most lenient gun laws in the country, according to University of Arizona law professor and gun law expert Gabriel Chin, interviewed on NPR. Chin said Arizona is "a state where the idea is that everyone who is an adult and a citizen or a lawful permanent resident is entitled to carry guns and own firearms." The state has no restrictions on assault weapons and a state permit is not required to purchase a gun.

Thanks to legislation signed by the state's notoriously right-wing Governor Jan Brewer, it's also legal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Brewer also pushed a law allowing loaded weapons into bars. And in an interesting interpretation of property rights, the governor made it illegal for property owners to ban weapons from parking areas (as long as they're locked in vehicles).

Since the massacre, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has earned national praise (as well as the enmity of the country's shock jocks) for pointing out how right-wing rhetoric has created a climate of hate that encourages violent impulses. In an interview with Amy Goodman Sunday, Dupnik also denounced Arizona's extreme gun culture, calling the state the "Tombstone" of America.

"I think [Arizona] is victimized by the gun lobby. Our legislators don’t seem capable of doing anything reasonable when it comes to weapons in this state," he told Goodman.

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