Grandstanding on gun rights: What exactly is state representative Tony Cornish pushing in aftermath of Arizona?


Bluestem readers know that I favor gun rights, and my position might not be the most popular one in America right now, especially among my friends on the left. So be it.

That being said, an article in the Mankato Free Press has left me scratching my head. What is state representative Tony Cornish, who chairs the Public safety committee in the Minnesota House, really asking for in Cornish: What if somebody had been at shooting and returned fire?

Cornish talked to the MFP’s political reporter Mark Fischenich:

State Rep. Tony Cornish has been doing numerous media interviews since the Saturday shooting of a federal lawmaker in Arizona.

The rural Good Thunder Republican is chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, but he’s also the Lake Crystal police chief and one of only a handful of Minnesota legislators who carries a handgun while at work in the state Capitol.

Cornish is suggesting no major changes in the way security is provided for state lawmakers. But his take on the Arizona assassination attempt of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, which killed six people and wounded 13, matches previous opinions he’s offered after shooting sprees: He wishes someone in the crowd had a weapon and had been ready to respond.

I can see the grandstanding on guns. I can see the pandering to those of us who support gun rights. It’s politically astute, and Cornish is as polished a politician as ever had a Good Thunder post office box as a mailing address.

What I can’t see is the logic, given the set of facts at the scene of the spree murder in Arizona. Slate reports in Gabrielle Giffords and the perils of guns: How an armed hero nearly shot the wrong man:

The new poster boy for this agenda is Joe Zamudio, a hero in the Tucson incident. Zamudio was in a nearby drug store when the shooting began, and he was armed. He ran to the scene and helped subdue the killer. Television interviewers are celebrating his courage, and pro-gun blogs are touting his equipment. “Bystander Says Carrying Gun Prompted Him to Help,” says the headline in the Wall Street Journal.

But before we embrace Zamudio’s brave intervention as proof of the value of being armed, let’s hear the whole story. “I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready,” he explained on Fox and Friends. “I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this.” Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. “And that’s who I at first thought was the shooter,” Zamudio recalled. “I told him to ‘Drop it, drop it!’ “

But the man with the gun wasn’t the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. “Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess,” the interviewer pointed out.

Zamudio agreed:

I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.

When Zamudio was asked what kind of weapons training he’d had, he answered: “My father raised me around guns … so I’m really comfortable with them. But I’ve never been in the military or had any professional training. I just reacted.”

The Arizona Daily Star, based on its interview with Zamudio, adds two details to the story. First, upon seeing the man with the gun, Zamudio “grabbed his arm and shoved him into a wall” before realizing he wasn’t the shooter. And second, one reason why Zamudio didn’t pull out his own weapon was that “he didn’t want to be confused as a second gunman.”

This is a much more dangerous picture than has generally been reported. Zamudio had released his safety and was poised to fire when he saw what he thought was the killer still holding his weapon. Zamudio had a split second to decide whether to shoot. He was sufficiently convinced of the killer’s identity to shove the man into a wall. But Zamudio didn’t use his gun. That’s how close he came to killing an innocent man. He was, as he acknowledges, “very lucky.” . . .

. . .We’re enormously lucky that Zamudio, without formal training, made the right split-second decisions. We can’t count on that the next time some nut job starts shooting.  . .

According to those commies at the Wall Street Journal, Zamudio believes gun laws should be tightened. He also wonders what would have happened had he gotten there earlier.

Would he have capped the young killer? Or would Loughner had have the advantage of a drawn gun? According to a friend interviewed by the New York Times, Loughner is handy with a gun:

Mr. Gutierrez said one of their favorite activities was to shoot cans in the desert. “He was a damn great shot,” he said, adding: “If he had a gun pointed at me, there is nothing I could do because he would make it count. He was quick with a gun.”

One thing Zamudio didn’t have was the training required of every carry permit holder in Minnesota, and under Arizona’s laws, there’s no telling how effective a random good citizen can have been in the situation. Certainly, Loughner, who had purchased his Glock legally, was aware of the fact that anyone in the crowd or nearby (like Zamudio) could be carrying. He was not deterred.

Cornish suggests that more people start carrying at the Capitol; it’s legal, and there’s nothing stopping a law-abiding citizen who follows the rule for the premises to do so. But his concerns about the state capitol’s design and the nature of the foot traffic inside make me wonder whether counting on an attacker being a “coward” in the face of returned fire is much defense at all.

Especially if that “coward” is a “damn great shot.”  Perhaps Cornish should turn his attention figuring out ways to fund mental health programs and community college counseling offices so the Loughners of this world get the help they so evidently need–before they reach for a gun.