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Chance Shootings

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My, but it’s been a busy couple of weeks in the life of gunland Utah, has it not? The incidents swerve all over the map of chance, fate, accident and intention.

In Ogden, a man becomes so upset over the Spanish grade of his girlfriend’s daughter that he pulls a handgun out from under his car seat, unloads 12 rounds into the girl, then turns the gun on himself. In Layton, an Air Force staff sergeant, .40-caliber handgun in hand, shoots a fellow airman dead, critically wounds a woman, then turns the gun on himself. In downtown Salt Lake City, a man points his handgun at the back of the head of a woman he’s never met before and fires twice. She dies. He turns the gun on himself. Finally, at Totally Awesome Guns and Range, a man and woman are busy at target practice when a piece of hot brass discharges from the gun, only to lodge in her blouse. Rattled by the intrusion of artillery discharge into her bosom, she accidentally fires into the thigh of her shooting companion. He takes a helicopter flight to the University Hospital. Is this Baghdad, or Utah?

& ull; But before you launch into another letter to the editor dissecting every last syllable of the Second Amendment, no one’s blaming guns themselves. No, it’s the people who use them: flawed, crazy, anger-driven, accident-prone or otherwise. The firepower, range or other technological aspects of guns will always change. The flawed nature of people won’t. We’re also flawed in our delusion that more guns in the hands of more people make a safer society. “If only that poor girl downtown had had her own handgun!” the Second Amendment brigade would no doubt say. Talk about blaming the victim.

& ull; Meanwhile in New Mexico, state lawmakers are out to prove they have a sense of bizarre fun. Last March, Rep. Dan Foley proposed that New Mexico designate an Extraterrestrial Culture Day to “enhance relationships among all the citizens of the cosmos, known and unknown.” Foley, of course, hails from Roswell, the mecca of all UFO and extraterrestrial buffs, where true believers hold that an alien craft crash-landed in 1947. He ought to open an investigation into the possibility that our own Legislature is packed with aliens intent on taking over.

& ull; In an eye-opening April 28 piece in Forbes, reporter Daniel Fisher details how international oil companies like ExxonMobil courted dictators in Chad and Angola with money and gifts. Chad and Angola haven’t been designated by our president as “evil” (yet), but does it strike anyone as a double standard that corporations get a looser rein in dealing with dubious figures, while individuals suspected of aiding terrorism can be held without charge? In Oregon, a software engineer of Arabic descent, Maher Hawash, can be held two weeks in solitary confinement, while an oil company can deal directly with oppressive regimes. Ponder that the next time Sen. Orrin Hatch talks about making the Patriot Act permanent: What do we value most, oil or civil liberties?

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