Our opinion: Who really is to blame?


Recently, Joe the Plumber (do we really need to remind you who this blockhead is?) said a couple of remarkable things. Following the gun rampage in Isla Vista he told a grieving father "Your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights." As amazingly callous as that sounds, we have pointed out in previous editorials that his statement is basically true: The price Americans are willing to pay for open access to firearms is the death of innocent people, including children.

But Joe the Plumber's verbal diarrhea doesn't end there. He has also claimed that most mass killers are Democrats. He starts with the most recent shooter in Isla Vista, and then proceeds through a checklist of 12 people going all the way back to Lee Harvey Oswald "Socialist, Communist and Democrat -- killed Kennedy ..." wrote Joe).

Keith Darling-Brekhus traces Joe's conclusion to Roger Hedgecock, a (right, you guessed it) right-wing radio show host, who claimed the five worst recent mass shootings were committed by registered Democrats.

"We can categorically reject the notion that any of the shooters in question has been shown to be a registered Democrat on a case by case basis," said Darling-Brekhus.

The Fort Hood and Virginia Tech shooters were residents of states that don't have partisan registration, he noted. The Aurora theater shooter? A Breitbart blogger identified a man with the same name but who was not the actual killer, who was actually not registered to vote.

Then there is the Newtown killer. "Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about a 2-1 ratio in Connecticut. The odds are therefore that the (killer's) family are (sic) Democrats," contended one right winger.

"Even if we were to make the claim that a mass shooter's political affiliation must be the same as the majority of the people in his area, we can debunk this foolish idea by taking this shoddy analysis down to the local level," notes Darling-Brekhus. "Yes, Connecticut voted for Barack Obama, but the city of Newtown voted for Mitt Romney. According to at least one media source, (the killer's mother) was a registered Republican."

According to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, at least 18 people who went on shooting rampages in the past four years were right-wing extremists, neo-Nazis or had sentiments common to the Tea Party.

"These individuals no doubt have a range of relationships to reality, and their ideologies may likewise vary from Tea Party orthodoxy to idiosyncratic conspiracy mania," writes Jim Naureckas for Fairness and Accuracy in Media. "But it's hard to deny that this seems like a remarkable amount of political violence ... This impression is bolstered statistically by reports that the Secret Service has had to deal with a 400 percent increase in threats against the president, that U.S. Marshals are facing double the number of threats against judges and prosecutors, and that Capitol Police found that threats against congressmembers tripled in the first quarter of 2010."

Naureckas traces much of the violence to the heated rhetoric espoused by the hate machine that is talk radio, where pundits can now speculate about "citizen militias in the South and West taking up arms against the U.S.government ..."

"People with regular slots on major networks didn't use to talk this way. Nor did major-party Senate candidates declare that 'people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.'"

And according to James Gilligan, an epidemiologist at NYU, death rates rise to epidemic levels when Republicans are in power and drop to "normal" levels when Democrats are in power.

This is because conservative policies increase inequality and fracture the social safety net. In a world in which it's every person for his or herself, is it any surprise that violence increases? Who espouses might equals right? Libertarians, Republicans, conservatives, neo-Nazis, etc.

In contrast, progressive policies are more egalitarian and place more emphasis on alleviating poverty and caring for people. It should be a no brainer that violence decreases in a world where we take care of each other. Yes, there will always be people who take advantage of generosity, but we would rather have a few more moochers and a few less shooters. If we are going to continue to allow the United States to be an open-air gun market, then maybe we need to have a little more compassion for each other and we need to figure out a way to identify and care for those in our society who feel their last recourse is violence. Do you think the GOP is the party that can implement those policies? Not according to its history.


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