Last Wednesday a lone gunman walked into the Family Research Council's DC office, pulled a gun and shot the security guard. Thankfully, the gunman was not a very good shot - he only wounded the guard who then subdued and held the gunman for police. The media coverage of the shooting was swiftly buried. Ironically, the media was not the only group to not notice the event. The Brady Campaign was conspicuously silent. I am on their email list and EVERY TIME there is any kind of a shooting (with - of course- the daily murder of African American children in Chicago) that makes the news, I get an email from them with the standard boilerplate about how "this is just another example of why we need more gun control".
However, more gun control is not the answer - nor is the answer to censor groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center. Neither guns, nor words caused this shooting - as Charles C. W. Cooke pointed out on National Review Online.
When a lunatic goes on a shooting rampage, we are quick to blame everything and everyone except the shooter himself. Among myriad other things, we blame the law, access to guns, political rhetoric, Hollywood, spending cuts, and talk radio; all while the person who actually fired the gun and planned the crime is relegated to being a helpless agent of whichever external forces seem most to vex the author. So often, more column inches are spent fretting over those with a cameo role than over the star of the show. This is rather grotesque.
By way of example: In 2010, an unhinged ex-felon named Byron Williams put on body armor; loaded a 9 mm handgun, a shotgun, and a rifle into his car and set out to shoot up the Tides Foundation or the ACLU — possibly both. Mercifully, he was arrested before he could do anyone any harm. Discussing the incident in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank pointed the finger not at Williams but at Glenn Beck, of whom Williams was an obsessive fan....
...Likewise, when Jared Loughner killed six people and injured 14 in Arizona in 2011, Milbank and a host of others were quick to blame Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh for the violence. Most incredibly, Pima County sheriff Clarence Dupnik explicitly linked the outrage to Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle and condemned their “totally irresponsible” statements.
People are quick to decry the coarsening of public discourse, however, this is NOT a new phenomenon....
Tempting as such first-instinct answers are, the notion that our political discourse is to blame for to these incidents is wrongheaded, highly selective, and depressingly ahistorical. During the presidential election of 1800, a newspaper friendly to John Adams attacked his opponent thus:
If Thomas Jefferson wins, murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced. The air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes. Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames, female chastity violated, and children writhing on a pike?
If this didn’t “encourage” violence — and it didn’t — then what will? Presumably somebody truly convinced that Jefferson’s election would actually lead to “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest” would want to do something about it? Are we truly to believe that there were no crazy people in 1800 around whom political types should have tiptoed? Or were there no guns? After all, Thomas Jefferson was easily found: As both vice president and president, he used to walk around Philadelphia and Washington without any form of protection. What accounts for his being left alone after such a vile attack on his character?
Perhaps martial metaphors are to blame? In the wake of the shooting of Gabby Giffords, Sarah Palin was lambasted by progressives for using images of crosshairs on a page of her website that showed which Democrats she wished to see defeated. Despite crosshairs’ being routinely used by Democrats as well, Palin’s application was widely reported as if it was uniquely beyond the pale. But martial language and imagery are mainstays of American politics and have been for over two centuries. Think of the words routinely used to describe the current presidential race. The candidates “launch attacks,” “demolish arguments,” and “unleash broadsides.” They “campaign.” In his 2012 State of the Union, Obama went as far as to say that Americans should be more like Navy SEALS, “marching into battle” and ready to “rise and fall as one unit.”
So if not harsh political language does not incite the shooters, then what does?
Dana Milbank — and his ilk — are fond of writing sentences such as, “It’s not fair to blame Beck for violence committed by people who watch his show” and then of adding an insidious “and yet . . . ” immediately afterwards. There is no “yet.” The social compact does not allow room for violence against those with whom one disagrees, regardless of how worked up talk-radio hosts may get about a particular topic. In America, killers and would-be killers are responsible for their own actions, and they should be held accountable for them. After all, words don’t pull triggers: People do.
It's that simple.