On January 8, a young man in Tucson, Arizona opened fire in the crowd at Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ) “Congress On Your Corner” event. Six people were killed, and 13 others were wounded. Over the past few weeks, the media has spent considerable time covering Rep. Giffords’ recovery process, investigating the shooter Jared Loughner’s background, and fueling the political “blame game.” The media has not, however, suggested any way to improve domestic safety or prevent gun violence from happening again. What it comes down to, quite simply, is the need for the government to improve legislation in three key areas: Health care, education, and gun control.
I am an Arizona native. I am all too familiar with Sheriff Joe, Jan Brewer, and trigger happy second amendment activists. Recently, Arizona has been getting a bad rap for its immigration policies and its inability to protect its citizens from gunfire at local grocery stores. What many do not realize, though, is that Arizona has always been (and will continue to be) an incredibly backwards state.
It has become consensus that Jared Loughner was not mentally stable. The New York Times describes him as “erratic” and his previous school, Pima Community College, describes his behavior as “disruptive.” His youtube videos speak for themselves. So, why didn’t Loughner get any medical attention related to his mental health during high school or college? First, without a steady job, he was probably uninsured, making mental health care incredibly expensive. Second, at public schools, funding falls so short that help for mentally ill students is nearly obsolete. Lastly, there is no communication between schools, health care officials, and the government officials who allow civilians to purchase guns. It is a deadly trio and, unfortunately, no member of the government seems particularly interested in combating it.
Days after the Tucson shooting Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced her plans for the state budget which included cutting Medicaid from about 5,200 mentally ill individuals. Instead of addressing the need for individuals like Loughner to have access to counseling and psychiatric services, Brewer is literally sending many mentally ill individuals to the streets.
When the possibility of gun control and firearm regulation is suggested to the Arizona legislature representatives turn a blind eye. Guns are allowed in bars and at public events, permits are not required for concealed firearms, and guns may soon be allowed on school campuses. My driver’s license would receive more scrutiny if I was trying to buy beer, than trying to buy a semiautomatic pistol.
Education in Arizona is not a priority. Public schools do not have the money to tend to students with special needs. Salaries for school counselors scrape the bottom of the middle class barrel. How can Brewer and the Arizona Legislature look at the state of their schools and the health and safety of their citizens and still refuse to abandon tax loopholes and their anti-big government agenda? Guns should be severely taxed and permits should be expensive. Sin taxes are no longer enough. Big change is necessary in Arizona, or the state will crumble. With no interest in health care, education, or gun control, it is just a matter of time before another Loughner steps up to the plate and fires into a crowd.
Laura Waldron is a sophomore political science major.
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