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Most Mass Shooters Are Legal Gun Owners

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Friday's Movie Theater Massacre

If Jared Lee Loughner's Tucson rampage last year that killed six people, including a US district court judge, and almost killed former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz) didn't give lawmakers the resolve to check the gun lobby, Friday's movie theater massacre certainly won't. Already gun extremists are saying the real reason 70 plus people were shot was that no one shot back. Did they think they were going out for a night at the movies? We need more guns not less!

Even though Tucson's heavily armed citizenry failed to stop Loughner, the gun lobby pushes for the right to carry firearms on college campuses, in state parks, in coffee shops, on trains, in home rule communities that forbid them and of course in the workplace.

Gun Lobby's Horse-Head-In-The-Bed Tactics

Laws that restrict gun owners from taking their weapons everywhere oppress them says the National Rifle Association (NRA) which calls itself a civil rights group. Did James Eagen Holmes, the Batman suspect, feel oppressed too?

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No matter how extreme shooting rampages become--an Alabama shooter killed his mother, grandmother, uncle, two cousins, the wife and daughter of a sheriff's deputy and three more in 2009; an Illinois shooter killed a pastor in church through the Bible he was holding the same year--they're not as extreme as the idea of limiting gun sales, says the gun lobby. And politicians, intimidated by the gun lobby's horse-head-in-the-bed tactics, agree and leave laws on the books that exclude no one.

Is there anyone who can't buy a firearm?

Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, Stephen Phillip Kazmierczak, the Northern Illinois University killer, Sulejman Talovic, the Salt Lake City's Trolley Square mall shooter and Vincent J. Dortch, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard shooter were all legal gun owners. Talovic was a Bosnian immigrant, legally required to show a second piece of identification, but bought the murder weapon at Sportsman's Fastcash, a pawnshop chain in Utah, with just one, say investigators.

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Jiverly Voong, who killed 13 in Binghamton, NY and Richard Poplawski, who killed three Pittsburgh police officers, both in 2009, were legal gun owners. So was Bruce Pardo, one of two shooters dressed as Santa Claus in recent years, who bought at least five firearms within five months from a single weapons dealer before killing nine on Christmas Eve in Covina, CA.

Latina Williams, the Louisiana Technical College killer who was living in her car, paranoid and delusional and giving her possessions away in suicidal gestures, walked right into a New Orleans pawn shop and bought a .357 revolver and a box of ammunition the day before the shootings. Hey, she had rights. Jennifer Sanmarco, the Goleta postal facility killer was also a legal gun owner. So were Terry Ratzmann, the Milwaukee church service killer, Chai Vang the Wisconsin hunter killer and Bart Ross, who killed a Chicago Federal judge's husband and mother. Is there anyone who can't buy a firearm?

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Criminals Should Have Gun Rights?

Even criminals should have gun rights says the gun lobby. When three major Florida law enforcement groups sought to tighten laws after the Sun Sentinel reported concealed weapon licenses issued to 1,400 probable felons (including a man who shot his girlfriend as she cooked breakfast, a pizza deliveryman wanted for fatally shooting a 15-year-old over a stolen order of chicken wings and six registered sex offenders), NRA lobbyist Marion P. Hammer said, "When you begin taking away the rights of people that you don't like, that's the slippery slope."

Of course when you leave laws on the books that let mental cases go on rampages and amass arsenals, there is another slippery slope--lawmakers and government officials themselves become victims. In recent years a US district court judge, another US district court judge's mother and husband, the mayor, public works director and two city council members of Kirkwood, MO and Panama City school board officials have all been shooting victims.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health Read more stories by Martha Rosenberg.

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