Two years ago Patricia Maisch gained first-hand experience of America’s epidemic of gun violence. She was attending a street rally called by Tucson politician Gabby Giffords when shooting erupted, and she helped disarm the gunman by grabbing his second magazine thus preventing him from reloading.
Unharmed in the incident that killed six people and left Giffords with a brain injury, Maisch has grown increasingly angry over the past two years as calls for tougher gun controls have been systematically stymied by the gun lobby. On Wednesday, having listened to President Obama vow to introduce real change, she has an uncompromising message for that gun lobby, and for the members of Congress who she believes are held in its sway.
“The NRA, the gun manufacturers, and most legislators are saturated in the blood of innocent children. It’s unforgivable that they have refused to take action,” she said.
Maisch said she was greatly heartened by measures outlined by Obama that would help prevent guns falling into the hands of mentally unstable people. Jared Lee Loughner, who is serving life in prison with no chance of parole for the Tucson killings, had been suspended from college for bizarre and erratic behaviour and was deemed unfit for military service but was still able to buy a 9mm Glock pistol at a gun store.
Maisch was also glad to see the Obama administration promise an extension of FBI background checks to all gun sales, a subject she has testified on to the US Senate. The reform would require congressional approval, which is why she is so exercised about the resistance to change coming from, in her estimation, most members of Congress.
Shortly after the Tucson shooting on 8 January 2011, Obama wrote an op-ed article in the Arizona Daily Star in which he promised that this would this to at least be “the beginning of a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people … None of us should be willing to remain passive in the face of violence or resigned to watching helplessly as another rampage unfolds on television.”
The survivors of the Tucson tragedy took that as a sign of hope. “We were hoping to hold his feet to the fire, and we have approached him about keeping his promise,” Maisch said.
But time passed and Obama’s promised change didn’t happen. “There were times when I found myself thinking what was it going to take to get things done. If the death of a little child in Tucson wasn’t enough, or a three-month-old baby in a cinema in Aurora, then what would be?
“Unfortunately, what it took was 20 innocent children killed in a school. That’s a terrible shame, that it had to wait for that. But if we can prevent even one more child’s life, then now is the time to act.”
[Glock pistol via Shutterstock]