Dupnik was right about Arizona being a "mecca" for bigotry. The ongoing nativist war against the undocumented, the battle over Senate Bill 1070, and the looming fight over the effort to undermine the birthright citizenship clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment offer ample evidence to support this characterization.

But to amend a mantra of the pro-gun crowd, words don't kill people. Bullets do.

And one thing Arizona has plenty of is bullets and guns. In fact, just about the only thing standing between the next Jared Lee Loughner and the power to cut down a crowd of people — say, at the Legislature — with a semiautomatic handgun, or worse, is the "instant" FBI background check mandated by federal law for gun buyers (which didn't block Loughner from purchasing his Glock).

Some states require that your gun be registered with the local cops. Some have waiting periods. And some restrict high-capacity clips, such as the one that facilitated Saturday's rampage.

Yet to even suggest that it would be prudent to make firearms a little more difficult to obtain is considered high treason in the Grand Canyon State.

Would a waiting period have stopped Loughner? Maybe not. He bought his widow-maker at a Sportsman's Warehouse on November 30, more than a month before the killings.

But Daniel Vice, a senior attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, points out that tighter state and federal gun laws might have prevented the violence in Tucson.

"Even though he had been turned down by the military," Vice said, "even though he had been kicked out of school because he was dangerous, he was able to walk into a gun shop, immediately buy a semiautomatic handgun with a high-capacity ammunition magazine. That let him fire more than 30 rounds without reloading.

"In other states, that's limited to a standard 10-round magazine," he added. "Many lives could have been saved if [Loughner] had to stop shooting at 10 rounds."

Vice also pointed out that the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons prohibited the manufacture and sale of new high-capacity magazines. But that ban expired in 2004 and was not renewed by Congress.

Hard-core gun enthusiasts will no doubt counter that even when the ban was in effect, older high-capacity magazines were grandfathered in. But Vice insisted that, by now, those would have been more difficult for a Jared Lee Loughner to obtain, if the ban on assault weapons had been renewed.

"It would have been 16 years later now [since the ban's implementation]," noted Vice. "It would've been harder to get those. Where the shooter here was able to just walk in and was easily able to buy them."

Sure, a determined individual can buy a handgun illegally. But that's not the issue. Rather, the issue is placing a few common-sense hurdles in the way so that a nutcase cannot acquire a semiautomatic weapon with a 31-round clip over the counter like it was a bag of Halloween candy.

Second Amendment rights are sacred in Arizona, and, yes, Western states have a tradition of gun ownership that dates back to frontier days. Moreover, Giffords herself has been an advocate of Second Amendment rights. She even joined an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case challenging the District of Columbia's gun ban, which the high court ultimately ruled unconstitutional in District of Columbia vs. Heller.

Giffords has identified herself as a gun owner and called gun ownership "a tradition which every law-abiding citizen should be able to enjoy."

No one is talking about an outright ban on handguns, or taking them away from owners, as some on the far right would have you believe.

What should be discussed is making guns less prevalent, less commonplace, with a few restrictions in place. Instead, Arizona seems hell-bent on doing the opposite by practically handing them out on every street corner.

Take the proposal to allow guns to be brought onto college campuses, which probably will be raised again during this legislative session.

Imagine someone like Jared Loughner, glowering in the corner of the Pima Community College class he was ultimately booted from, armed with his Glock 19, and there's not a damn thing you, the teacher, or your fellow students can do about it.

A human time bomb could have the gun on his person or in his backpack even if a campus moratorium remains in place. But if someone noticed it on him, he could be reported and arrested.

And before Pearce and his allies altered the law so that those concealing don't have to obtain a permit, some gun-toting aggro or schizo student could've been arrested by police under state statute.

The Brady Campaign, named after Jim Brady, the White House aide debilitated for life after he was wounded in would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr.'s failed 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan's life, ranks states in accordance with the permissiveness of their gun laws.

Right now, only Utah beats out Arizona as more lax in this area. But the Vice says if Arizona passes a guns-on-campus free-for-all law, Utah will take a back seat and Arizona will be the gun-friendliest state in the nation.

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