Just before noon on the Friday after Thanksgiving 2015 another possibly mentally ill individual went to a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado Springs, CO and shot several people, killing a police officer and two civilians before surrendering to police after an hours-long standoff.
As of this writing, there is no authoritative knowledge as to his motives, how he obtained the rifle he used, what type of rifle it was and whether he was a “legal gun owner” or not.
Unfortunately, before the perpetrator (I will not use his name) was even in handcuffs, indeed even before the crime scene had been stabilized, the Left was out in full force politicizing this incident and calling it “domestic terrorism” (which it may well be, depending on how that is defined), an attack on “women’s health” and “abortion rights” and accusing Colorado Republican elected officials of inciting hatred and violence. President Obama made his usual statement calling for more gun control, despite clear evidence that gun control laws don’t work.
I deplore the violence and the loss of life that occurred on Friday November 27. I do not condone or support incitement to violence by anyone. Nobody has the right to further their religious or political views through violence or the threat of violence. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their loved ones, and the Colorado Springs community. I join with my friends on the Center/Right and my political opponents on the Left in condemning this crime and its perpetrator.
The Perfect Storm
Of all the political battles being fought in America today, none are more laden with emotion, anger and hatred than the battle over abortion. In the years since Roe v. Wade, no other issue has divided Americans more bitterly than this one. Despite being “settled law” activists on both sides of the issue are waging a battle to outlaw this medical procedure on the one hand and to enlarge and secure taxpayer funding for it on the other. For many people, their support for or opposition to abortion is their one defining issue and they will not compromise or allow for other points of view on the issue. It precludes discussion of other more important issues, like national security or the crippling national debt, the proper scope and role of government, immigration policy and others.
In my view, this dynamic hurts the Right and helps the Left, because the Left is uniformly supportive of abortion rights, providers of abortion services and taxpayer funding of abortions; whereas the Right is not so uniform. Many Center/Right people, including me, are pro-choice. Unfortunately, this divide often leads to Democratic victories, thanks to pro-life voters staying home in elections rather than voting for a conservative candidate who is “pro-choice”. It is these social issues that I believe divide the Right and empower the Left, to our detriment.
Running a close second is the issue of gun control, which is almost as hotly contested by partisans on both sides of the issue. One side calls for ever more restrictions on guns, culminating in the eventual civilian disarmament they openly desire; while the other side fights not only to protect the right to keep and bear arms but to prevent further infringement of those rights. Lost in the entire debate is the fact that virtually all mass shooters have mental illness problems; that prescription drugs may be contributing factors, and that the shooters almost always target gun free zones and venues where there are a lot of unarmed people.
The incident on Black Friday is the “perfect storm” of events. The Left will now have another middle aged white man to excoriate as a “gun nut” who shot up a bunch of people and call for more gun control laws. Further, they will use this to further criticize those who feel that the disturbing videos about fetal organ and tissue harvesting done by Planned Parenthood are valid criticisms of that organization and question its taxpayer funding.
Overheated Rhetoric and Political Posturing
As an avid Twitter user, I followed the events as they happened in real time on Twitter. I mostly live in the #copolitics (Colorado politics) hashtag, and followed the conversation as events unfolded.
Before the gunman was even in custody or the situation under control, #copolitics lefties were attacking Republican elected officials for “inciting violence”. While the situation was ongoing, the Left was jumping to the conclusion (which may well be vindicated) that this was an attack on “women’s health” (as if Planned Parenthood is the only provider of health services to women, and that abortion is the totality of medical care that women receive), and of course, attacking anti-abortion activists and Second Amendment supporters.
Indeed, in one exchange, two left-leaning Twitter users discuss the merits of politicizing the debate while “there’s still a shooter out there…lives still at risk.” One, to his credit, was telling the other to tone it down.
Scrolling through other Twitter feeds, one can find other tweets from partisans on both sides of the abortion debate that are inflammatory, derisive and accusatory. Without any solid information whatsoever, the shooter was being called a “right-wing”, “pro-life”, “Christian”, “terrorist”. Others on the anti-abortion side were saying things equally stupid and hateful. One Colorado Democratic state representative ended up deleting his Twitter account that evening, most likely due to this incident.
It has been my view for some time now that the anger and hate filled rhetoric emanating from both sides of these issues contributes to an overall cultural malaise that manifests itself when those with mental impairment choose to act out via gun violence. I believe that each mass shooting plants the seed for the next, because individuals with a propensity for violence see this as a way to validate their worldviews or “add value” to their lives or gives them a way to gain recognition for their otherwise un-noteworthy lives. In his excellent post A Bloody Mosaic my friend James Viser expands upon this theme.
As the incident was ongoing, those on the Left were clearly trying to make it into a case of “domestic terrorism” against “heroic women’s health providers” based on “hateful lies” promoted by the Center for Medical Progress in their videos released earlier this year. Those on the Right were, for the most part, saying “Hold on! We don’t know yet what his motives were” and holding out the possibility it could be a bank robbery or whatever.
I found it appalling that ProgressNow Colorado released a statement politicizing this tragedy four minutes after it was announced that the perpetrator had been arrested. They were irresponsibly promoting their political agenda in the absence of any trustworthy information about the shooter and his motives.
When the first details about the shooter were released, it became clear that he is a damaged individual with a minor criminal history, a loner who lived off the grid in North and South Carolina and now in Colorado. Early reports yesterday about his voter record indicated that he had identified as a female, leading to all kinds of speculation about him. (It could have been an accident too!)
In reading about him in the New York Times this morning, it is clear that he was a socially maladjusted individual. What we don’t know at this point are any facts about his religion, his politics (except for one neighbor who said he gave him anti-Obama literature), his motives, his views on abortion, where he obtained his gun(s), or anything else. To paint him as a right-wing Christian anti-abortion terrorist at this time is simply inflammatory and lends nothing to a rational discussion of the issues at hand.
Another disturbing aspect of this story is that the Denver Post reported on the shooter’s motive as being a “political act”, citing an anonymous source (who should be fired for talking to the press like this) saying that the suspect made a comment about “no more baby parts” after his arrest. To further the narrative, the Denver Post “reporters” included a reference to a statement from Planned Parenthood saying that “witnesses said the gunman was motivated by his opposition to abortion…”, more hearsay and completely unreliable evidence.
The damage was done, however, as the Associated Press picked up on that report and this narrative is now part of the national news cycle and being promoted as the truth. While this may end up being true, in my view this is simply an outrageous attempt by the Left and their compliant media to further perpetuate a political agenda. And if it eventually proved untrue, it won’t matter because it is now part of the narrative.
In response to this incident and the prior shooting in Colorado Springs a few weeks ago, I believe that the Colorado and national Democrats are going to renew their push for more gun control laws, despite the fact that sensational gun violence appears to be getting worse despite all the laws recently enacted in Colorado and elsewhere.
It’s no secret that President Obama wants to “do more” about gun control in his final year in office, and several prominent Democrats including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are on record supporting “Australian-style” civilian disarmament including confiscation.
My suspicion is that this perpetrator purchased his gun(s) legally many years ago. None of the 2013 Colorado gun control laws would have prevented this tragedy and won’t prevent another one.
I think the time is come to have a serious national debate about mental health and how to identify, assess, treat and otherwise help those who are mentally ill and may pose threats to themselves or others. Too often, we have warning signs that were obvious in retrospect but were not acted on prior to a crime. It’s time to beef up the system for getting mental health holds and other information into the NICS so that the existing background check system will be more effective.
Furthermore, I think it is time for the hyper-partisans on the Left and on the Right to tone down the rhetoric. Having hysterical, anger and hate filled debates does nothing to address the rational, valid concerns that both sides have surrounding the abortion issue. I was glad to note that Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said the same thing today.
For the Right: Recognize that abortion is legal and the Supreme Court has found a constitutional basis for making it legal.
Questions regarding whether or not organizations like Planned Parenthood should receive taxpayer support are completely appropriate and should be debated in the context of bringing a bill forward in Congress, not in the crisis mentality surrounding the brinksmanship of a government shutdown.
We on the Right should be working to shape the culture so that an abortion is the least beneficial option for a woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy, and find (non-governmental) ways to help her with her dilemma. In the end, the choice of whether or not to have the baby is hers alone.
I recognize that many people have deep-seated religious convictions about this issue. I ask them to recognize that other people have different positions on the issue that are equally as valid and deep-seated to them.
I call upon anti-abortion activists to cease and desist from protesting at abortion clinics and their bald attempts to intimidate and harass providers and patients. Please recognize that you are not helping the situation with your angry rhetoric, and are in fact empowering the Left by validating their “War on Women” theme.
As for the Left: Please recognize that many of your fellow Americans have very deep-seated and legitimate concerns about abortion in general, and the harvesting of fetal tissue and organs and money flows surrounding that practice. Recognize that those questioning these practices have a commendable concern for human life and bioethics. Recognize that they too are acting in what they think are the best interests of society.
Questions regarding fetal tissue and organ harvesting are valid, and Planned Parenthood and other providers should be investigated by appropriate state and federal law enforcement agencies to assess whether or not any crimes have been committed.
Please recognize that you are not helping the situation with your angry rhetoric, and that accusing elected officials and presidential candidates of condoning violence for their principled opposition to abortion and fetal tissue harvesting is not only irresponsible, it contributes to the overcharged atmosphere that can lead to violence.
Finally, I call upon everyone to join me in grieving for the lives lost and damaged, and to work for reconciliation in our state and in our world.
By Richard D. Turnquist
November 29, 2015