Jared Loughner opened fire on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the crowd in Tucson with a 30-round magazine. The carnage was awful, with 20 people shot, six of them fatally. It could have been even worse, but for the quick and heroic actions of bystanders who took the shooter down, at great risk to their own lives.
Fox News gives us their names: Roger Salzgeber and Bill Badger, who put Loughner on the ground; Joseph Zamudio, who pinned his legs; and Patricia Maisch, who grabbed the magazine from Loughner’s weapon. Giffords intern Daniel Hernandez has also received much-deserved praise for using his first-aid training to keep the Congresswoman alive until paramedics could arrive.
Maisch described herself and the others as “common, everyday folk.” Thank God for common, everyday heroes. Security will certainly be enhanced around our representatives in the wake of the Tucson shooting… but who will provide enhanced security for the hundreds, or thousands, of people who show up to hear politicians speak? The tactical situation in that crowd was a nightmare. Giffords could have been protected by Delta Force snipers, or even RoboCop, and it would still have been nearly impossible to pick the crazed gunman off without hitting innocent bystanders.
If there’s one lesson we should have learned since 9/11, it’s that “common, everyday folk” will often be responsible for their own defense. The idea that trained police or soldiers can protect us at all times is a dangerous illusion. There is no way to convert our huge and open society into one immense “hard” target.
Both organized terrorism and random lunacy have been halted by quick-thinking civilians in recent years. In countless incidents of isolated crime, which don’t usually make headlines, armed and trained citizens have saved lives. In other cases, it all comes down to men and women of remarkable alacrity and courage, who put murderers on their backs in the carpeted aisles of airplanes, or the rough asphalt of grocery-store parking lots.
The Tucson atrocity has prompted the usual tedious calls for more gun laws. The distinguishing characteristic of every “gun-free utopia” on earth is a mountain of bullet-riddled corpses. The great wisdom of our Second Amendment is that self-defense is an inalienable right of free men and women. Stripped of that right, they are sheep, whose “protection” consists of endless attempts to outlaw wolves.
The spirit of the Second Amendment ultimately extends beyond firearms, because there are situations where they just won’t do the job. Not even the best civilian marksman can start blasting away inside a pressurized aircraft, or a crowd of terrified people. Self-defense, like every other right, is also a responsibility. The heroes of Tucson discharged that responsibility with distinction.