GOP baseball practice shooting: Just another day in America
What’s the correct response to the shooting of a group of Republicans practicing for the annual charity baseball game between congressional Republicans and Democrats? Damned if I know.
The shock has yet to wear off: A Democrat, a Bernie Sanders supporter with a history of attacking Donald Trump on social media and of criminal domestic violence in his personal life, took advantage of the easy access to guns and used an assault rifle to try to mow down GOP members of Congress and their aides while they were practicing for a feel-good game involving America’s pastime. The only reason the attack didn’t turn into a bloodbath was the quick and heroic action of Capitol police, injured themselves, who took out the shooter.
All of those descriptors are there for a reason. They’re all true, and they’re all examples of what’s wrong with today’s America.
The 2016 election gave us a president who regularly called for his supporters to attack protestors at his rallies and bragged how he could shoot someone on the street and he still wouldn’t lose support. He and other Republicans often tout “Second Amendment solutions” in case of political losses. Many in the GOP run campaign ads of candidates shooting guns, or putting their political opponents in cross hairs.
Trump’s win so enraged the left that the Democratic part of the political spectrum, often described as ineffectual because they don’t fight as hard as the GOP, rose to the ugly challenge. People attending congressional town halls are standing up and demanding that their representatives listen to how repealing the Affordable Care Act will ruin their lives — often loudly and not politely. Otherwise mild-mannered friends publish regular rants against Trump on social media.
But very few of those people will pick up an assault rifle and shoot at congressmen. Unfortunately, we’ve had too many examples of Trump supporters making threats or committing acts of violence against minorities (the Southern Poverty Law Center calls it the “Trump Effect”). The SPLC reports that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups has tripled since 2015, and FBI numbers show that the number of hate crimes has risen by 67 percent since then.
Eighty percent [of U.S. educators] described heightened anxiety and fear among students, particularly immigrants, Muslims and African Americans. Numerous teachers reported the use of slurs, derogatory language and extremist symbols in their classrooms.
Those who actually pick up that rifle often have something else in common: a criminal history of domestic violence. Before he opened fire on the baseball practice, James Hodgkinson had multiple arrests for criminal assault, against his daughter and other women, yet he still had a legal license to own firearms. And he’s not the only one, according to Slate:
By now, news consumers are used to hearing in the wake of a public shooting that the perpetrator has been charged with domestic abuse or committed violence against women before. The shootings at the Fort Lauderdale airport; Virginia Tech; Isla Vista, California; Orlando’s Pulse nightclub; and San Bernardino — all were committed by men who had histories of abusing women. It would be more accurate to assume that any random mass shooter is a domestic abuser than to assume he’s not: The average mass shooter in America, defined as someone whose attack killed four people not including himself, has committed domestic abuse. A recent Everytown for Gun Safety analysis of crime records between 2009 and 2016 found that 54 percent of U.S. mass shootings in that time period involved the murder of a family member or intimate partner.
Some on the political right were quick to blame the left’s heated political rhetoric for the shooting. Many blamed a recent production of Julius Caesar at New York’s Public Theater that portrayed Caesar in a Trump wig and a long red tie (ignoring the 2012 Minneapolis production of the Shakespeare classic using Barack Obama as a Caesar model).
I’m sorry, but when your Republican president ran a campaign calling for violence and openly threatens people on his Twitter account, when his son complains that “Democrats aren’t even people,” when two Democratic candidates are forced to drop out of political races because of death threats, you’ve got nothing to say.
We’re used to seeing gunshot victims in movies and on TV either die or recover quickly. With few exceptions, we don’t see the blood or the aftermath of the injuries. Reports said Rep. Steve Scalise, the GOP majority whip who is still in critical but stable condition after surgery, was hit in the hip. But the bullet that hit him broke multiple bones and damaged internal organs. He’s going to be in recovery for a long time, and probably will never regain the full use of much of his lower body.
Ask Gabby Giffords. The former Democratic congresswoman was shot in the head during a “meet your constituents” type of event in Arizona, an event in which six people died. She went through months and months of recovery and therapy before she could talk or walk again. Even then, her speech is halting and her movements are limited.
Hours after the shooting in Alexandria, Va., there was another mass shooting in San Francisco, where a man dressed in a UPS uniform shot up a UPS facility, killing three before he turned the gun on himself. Shootings are so commonplace that we just move on. Only in America.
The other common factor, of course, is easy access to guns. All 50 states allow concealed and/or open carry. Many states, including Virginia, have few limits on gun purchases.
In 2004, the GOP-led Congress let the assault-weapons ban expire. In February, Congress blocked a rule restricting gun sales to people with a history of mental impairment. A bipartisan effort after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., to pass some restrictions failed, despite the fact that those restrictions were favored even by members of the National Rifle Association.
After every mass shooting, public support for some kind of common-sense gun laws rises, according to the Pew Research Center. There is continued bipartisan support for expanded background checks at gun shows and for private sales. Yet each time such an attempt is made for legislation, either at the state or national level, the NRA revs up its lobbying machine to put pressure on lawmakers, who are only too happy to trot out the line that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” True only if they’re trained police, like the two heroes who averted disaster at that baseball practice.
If the murder of 20 innocent school children wasn’t enough for Congress to strengthen gun laws, I don’t know what is. Once again, I’ll be damned if I know how to respond to this shooting.
I hope you heal, Steve Scalise, and maybe you’ll think twice about the words on your own congressional website:
A strong supporter of the Second Amendment, Scalise has sponsored and cosponsored legislation protecting citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. In the 112th Congress, Scalise introduced H.R. 58, the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, which improves law-abiding citizens’ ability to purchase firearms. The bills Scalise has recently cosponsored include H.R.645, a bill to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia and the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, H.R.822, which would ensure national reciprocity for concealed carry permit holders. Congressman Scalise’s pro-gun stance has earned him an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.