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There But For the Grace of Glock Goes Florida: Arizona’s Vigilante Gun Culture

| January 11, 2011

A Glock 19 similar to the one Jared Loughner used in his Tucson massacre.

A Glock 19 similar to the one Jared Loughner used in his Tucson massacre.

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and more than a dozen of her constituents in Tucson this weekend has sparked criticism of Arizona’s lax gun control laws and renewed calls from some to tighten those restrictions. Six individuals were confirmed dead. Here’s our attempt to briefly break down a few of the issues at play:

Types of weapons available

In the Arizona case, the gun used by accused shooter Jared Lee Loughner was a Glock 19—a semiautomatic weapon with a 33-round magazine. The New York Times reported that this magazine is banned in six states and D.C., but not in Arizona or in Florida. It was also previously illegal under a federal assault weapons ban that expired under the Bush administration in 2004, Salon reported:

Between 1994 and 2004 when the assault weapons ban was in effect, gun manufacturers such as Glock could not market handguns with high-capacity magazines. If the ban were still in effect, it’s less likely that Loughner could have obtained a gun with a high-capacity magazine. Stores could legally only sell used high-capacity magazines at that time, and new magazines could not be manufactured.

President Bush backed the ban, and an amendment to extend it passed in the Senate in 2004 but was never voted on by the House.

(Sen. Bill nelson voted with the 52-47 majority to extend the ban, as did former Sen. Bob Graham.) With his high-capacity weapon, Loughner was able to fire 31 shots before needing to reload. He was stopped while trying to reload.

Who can obtain a gun

The federal government keeps a background-check database to prevent criminals and individuals deemed mentally unfit from gaining access to a weapon. The database, maintained by the FBI, is known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

But as the Christian Science Monitor reports, despite showing signs of mental instability, Loughner was still allowed to purchase a gun legally because he hadn’t been declared mentally unfit by a court or been committed to a mental institution.

And even if Loughner had qualified for inclusion in the database, the burden is still on each state to regularly share its mental health records with the federal database. As this Charlotte Observer editorial highlights, many states—including Arizona—are still slow to do so [7], despite a stronger push for states to do so after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007:

[T]he Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that Arizona has submitted only about 4,400 mental illness records out of an estimated total of 121,700. (North Carolina has submitted only 12,500 out of an estimated 330,000.)

What’s more, some states have tried to assert their sovereignty by finding a way around the background check system. Arizona, for instance, has a law that exempts guns made and kept in Arizona from federal regulations regarding registration and background checks, the Arizona Republic has reported. Similar legislation is being pushed by lawmakers in Kentucky, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported today.

Where people can carry concealed weapons

There’s no federal law regarding permits to carry concealed weapons, but there are three states that don’t require a permit to do so. Last summer, Arizona became one of them, joining Alaska and Vermont.

As the Washington Post reported yesterday, guns are permitted almost everywhere in Arizona—with the exception of doctor’s offices and some private businesses:

The state rifle association lists restaurants that permit concealed weapons. Guns are permissible inside the state Capitol and many other public buildings.

State law permits gun owners to carry a concealed weapon into establishments that serve alcohol as long as the gun owner isn’t imbibing. Concealed guns are permitted on school grounds while picking up or dropping off a child, as long as the weapon is unloaded and the gun owner remains in a vehicle.

The National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest pro-gun lobbying group, posted the following statement on its Web site: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this senseless tragedy, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and their families during this difficult time. We join the rest of the country in praying for the quick recovery of those injured.”

Asked whether the repeal of gun restrictions played a role in the shooting, the group’s spokesman told Politico: “Anything other than prayers for the victims and their families at this time would be inappropriate.”

In Florida

Mayors Against Illegal Guns last September released a report analyzing the influence of states with lax gun control laws on crime and violence in other states. As The Times editorialized then, “More than half the guns recovered in out-of-state crimes last year were supplied by Georgia, Florida, Texas, Virginia and six other states where weak laws make it easy for gun traffickers and other criminals to obtain weapons. Weak gun laws also put a state’s own citizens at risk. There were nearly 60 percent more gun murders in the 10 states where exports were highest than in the states with low export rates — and nearly three times as many fatal shootings of law enforcement officers.”

The study’s findings about Florida:

  • Florida has the 29th highest rate of crime gun exports
  • Florida exports 14.2 guns per inhabitant per year, slightly above the national average
  • 27.3% of Florida’s guns have a short “time-to-crime,” meaning that Florida is a crime gun trafficking state, also slightly above the nationl average
  • Florida is a net importer of crime guns, importing about 115 more crime guns than exported
  • Florida has a very weak set of laws to battle crime guns, meeting only two of the 10 suggested laws

Florida’s gun laws may be about to get weaker. Florida Senator Greg Evers is sponsoring legislation that would vastly weaken concealed weapons regulations, including allow the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses by students and faculty and wherever they park their car, campus parking lots included. Floridians, currently prohibited from buying guns in other states, would no longer face that restriction.

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15 Responses for “There But For the Grace of Glock Goes Florida: Arizona’s Vigilante Gun Culture”

  1. Attila says:

    Sorry to say but you are so biased and as predictable as the tide. Do you think a law or restrictions on the law abiding citizens would have prevented this? Be honest. What if he had just barreled through in a truck, the results would be similar but no one would be questioning what shape or size truck a person should be allowed to own. Just saying….

  2. I’ll never understand the logic of why anyone NEEDS to have semi-automatic weapons. Even for self-defense, it seems rather excessive to have to shoot someone 31 times.
    Attila – as for restrictions on law abiding citizens, I believe there are some stats quoted in the article you seem to have dismissed as biased that would lead a reasonable person to believe that restrictions do work.

  3. David L Frank DLF says:

    The man should have been locked up prior to the shooting the signs were there, people knew this guy was a nut case.. However, the do gooders would have been against that for a various of liberal reasons. Wait till the trial starts and we hear about his bad up- bringing, how is father beat him and he was picked on in high school. Then the liberals will come to his rescue and all will be blamed on the Ameican way of life, lack of gun control, too much TV and whatever the ACLU can dig up., The blame is with the shooter no one else, how many of us live the same way he did and we are not out shooting people.

  4. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Liberal bias on review and it ain’t pretty.

    The Arizona shooter left a broad swath of lunacy in his wake yet none of the people with whom he came into contact sought to help him or prevent him from hurting himself or others. Why? Apparently his family has some political influence.

    Where is the intrepid media? Why aren’t we being told who his family is and why they boarded up their doors to keep reporters out?

    Guns aren’t the problem any more than hunting knives, chainsaws, baseball bats, crossbows and other things that can do great harm if in the hands the unbalanced, but which normal people can and do handle safely everyday.

    The problem is the left’s obsession with control.

  5. mariodigir says:

    Automatic weapons must be banned. The Federal Government needs to enact very strict gun control laws that all States must abide by. Gun lobbyists must be eliminated from the political arena. No one needs an automatic weapon, or a gun that hold more than 9 rounds. End of conversation.

  6. DLF says:

    Lawabidingcitizen::you hit the target right on, oops according tomariodige we can not have anything he deems we should not have,.Thats a liberal for you , they will take control and tell the rest of us what is safe what we should own, what and who we will listen to, but they will not need to follow these rules.Case in point a couple years ago Rosie ODonnell was against guns, however her body guard could carry one to protect her large ass and her lover, just the start of the conversation.

  7. BILLY says:


  8. some guy says:

    Well to start where in this piece does it say somthing on the title of it “Arizonas vigilante gun culture” Again where do you show that in Arizona Law abiding people go out with their guns and take the LAW into their own hands. mariodigir first this was not an “Aoutomatic wepon” why should you be the judge on what lawabiding people want or “need”Also as you say “lobbyists must be eliminated” look out some might say YOU are calling for the killing of others.

  9. Dorothea says:

    Billy, according to Dr. Phil, for every 1,000 people who exhibit the same symptoms as Laughren, one will act out violently. There is no accurate way to predict who will be that one person. If we were to round up all the people who are angry at the government and have irrational, delusional thinking and force them into psychiatric care, our resources would be quickly exhausted. (Laughren did receive couseling) In fact, some of the commenters on Flaglerlive, with their angry posts and delusional ideas about people and government, would qualify for the round up.

  10. Captain Courageous says:

    From the article:
    “Floridians, currently prohibited from buying guns in other states, would no longer face that restriction”


    Floridians can purchase a handgun or rifle/shotgun in Georgia and Alabama as well.

  11. What? says:

    There is another subject entirely we need to be discussing here. These random shootings can happen anywhere. Professors and students in Loughner’s college class knew something was wrong. I had the same experience attending Daytona State College several years ago. I was terrified to attend one particular class with a student exactly like Loughner. This student would argue with any of the students that didn’t agree with him to the point of threatening to hurt one student after class. The worst day was when we were taking a test the professor stepped out of class for a moment and in a few minutes he screams out, “I hear all of you talking about me, I will hurt you”! (Even though the class was completely silent). Some of the young students laughed and I immediately stopped them. I really thought we are dead! He must be carrying a gun. He then walked out of the class and I could hardly finish my test for keeping an eye on the classroom door. After class, I immediately approached the professor about this situation and informed her of what had taken place in her absence. She did speak directly to him (I am sure with kid gloves) and her boss about the student. The student finished the course online and didn’t attend the last week of class. Thank God!!
    I made a promise to myself if he was in another class I would switch classes. So, if you think these people are not every where among us you are kidding yourselves! Be observant and get other people involved don’t let it go! We need to have something in place for colleges to have more power concerning the mentally ill student. This is the very reason for the murders at VA Tech.

  12. JustMyOpinion says:

    Yes, this is a very slanted opinion and, unfortunately, the author fails to acknowlege that we just can’t legislate mental illness or basic stupidity/irresponsibility.

    In defense of gun owners and Concealed Carry Permit holders (yes, I’ve had one for years from FL as well as other states), these Permits are not just handed out on a fee-paid basis. There are mandatory classes involving state laws as well as proficiency testing that are strictly adhered to, fingerprinting and a federal level background check. If a non CCP resident wishes to purchase a firearm, there is a 3-day waiting period AND a federal background check prior to taking possession of same.

    Please don’t quote random facts (the “facts” change from source to source) as a basis for your argument. I do know that Florida was having serious crime problems at their rest areas all over the state (even with “armed” security present after dark) in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s but, after passing the CCP laws, the rate of crime in FL dramatically decreased. Wish I had the “facts” on that but would have to do some research.

    We are guaranteed the right to bear arms and need to keep that right because, as they say, nobody ever managed to overthrow an armed country.

  13. Liana G says:

    I don’t care for guns but I do believe that citizens should have the right to bear arms. However, I have to say that I don’t see the need for citizens to have “a semiautomatic weapon with a 33-round magazine”. That is overkill – no pun intended – but we see the results.

    On New Years Day, a very well respected MIT professor was on tv and he said something that made me ponder over for a long time. But it made me realize that armed citizens help in preventing a total police state. This being said, I prefer the America we have, scars and all, as oppose to the alternative. Over time the hate will recede as we continue to move forward.

    Dorothea: “with their angry posts and delusional ideas about people and government, would qualify for the round up.” I hear you. Some migh categorize me as such a person :)

  14. Ken Dodge says:

    From the report:

    The study’s findings about Florida:
    ■ Florida has the 29th highest rate of CRIME GUN exports
    ■ Florida exports 14.2 guns per inhabitant per year, slightly above the national average
    ■ 27.3% of Florida’s guns have a short “time-to-crime,” meaning that Florida is a CRIME GUN trafficking state, also slightly above the nationl average
    ■ Florida is a net importer of CRIME GUNS, importing about 115 more crime guns than exported
    ■ Florida has a very weak set of laws to battle CRIME GUNS, meeting only two of the 10 suggested laws.

    Could some one please provide a definition of a CRIME GUN? Or is that just another statistical invention, like JOBS SAVED OR CREATED?

  15. palmcoaster says:

    The 32 bullet magazines should be ban again. Our daily news is stained with blood after some nuts or outlaws shoots and kills score of innocent citizens and law enforcement all over our country. These free guns to all need to stop and restrict guns to law enforcement, soldiers in service and responsible in depth background strictly searched individuals including mental/psychology evaluation. This gun created hysteria has to stop. Does anyone read the sad news every day? If so and we have some compassion for our fellow citizens, we should lobby for better gun control and guns banned from political assembly, our government buildings, schools, universities, hospitals and any peaceful and righteous public gathering. Why now the TSA have us all going “thru strict screening at the airports” and is enforce upon us all, but anyone can buy a gun or semiautomatic weapon with “no screening at all”. The NRA should be openly supporting more gun control as they bare some of the responsibility too.

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