COMMENTARY: Congressional shooting not about ‘lax gun laws’

It’s so predictable. Progressives think the reason a bunch of Republican congressmen were shot, one nearly fatally, is because of lax gun laws.

Nothing to do with the fact the shooter was a left-wing supporter of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign last year, the shooter a man who thinks President Trump should be dead.

Consider, for a moment, some of the responses by columnists:

“What’s more harmful: Putting millions already on the margins more at-risk via draconian policies or shooting a racist lawmaker in the hip?” – Jesse Benn.

Or this from Newsweek, which used to be a premier weekly news magazine. “Steve Scalise, shot at a congressional baseball game in Alexandria, was an early endorser of President Trump.”

Or this:

Reid K. Beveridge

“If the shooter has a serious health condition, then is taking potshots at the GOP house leadership considered self-defense?” No record that the shooter has any health condition, by the way.

And so it goes.

Then we have some interesting comments that, if made by a Republican, would be considered off the wall. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said 93 million Americans lose their lives every day because of guns. I guess that means we’re all dead in four days.

Or David Frum, an ordinarily respected columnist for the “Atlantic,” who said Virginia has no background checks, no licensing, no registration, no permit required for concealed carry and open carry of long guns. Except for the fact that both Virginia and federal law require background checks, long guns can’t be concealed and the shooter had no concealed carry permit either in Virginia or his home state of Illinois.

The message here, it would appear, is that this incident is all about gun laws and nothing about the man who did the shooting. Perhaps there should be, but there is no law against assault rifles in the United States and hasn’t been for more than a decade — since Congress let the one we did have expire because it didn’t make any difference in how many shootings there were.

So, let’s get back to the man who did the shooting. James Hodgkinson had come to Washington, D.C., two or three months ago to protest the Trump administration. We’re told he had lived in his van during that time — this, even though he had a home and a wife back in Belleville, Ill.

Apparently he met one of the other Republican congressmen in the ball field parking lot before Wednesday morning’s baseball practice. He asked if the team was Republican or Democrat. The congressman replied: Republican. Hodgkinson had two guns, an assault rifle of some kind and a pistol of some kind.

There are sure to be at least two opposing reactions to the shooting. As noted above, progressives will use the situation to advocate for more gun laws, though what laws those might be that would have made any difference in this situation is unclear. They will blame the National Rifle Association for sure. The NRA advocates more guns for self-defense.

To which it is fair to point out that had there not been two Capitol Police officers present at the baseball practice, almost surely, many more congressmen would have been shot and probably killed. The gunman had them trapped on a ball field that had only one exit. He had that exit covered.

So, it is ironic that the only reason those two Capitol cops were there at all is because Scalise is part of the Republican leadership, and therefore merits protection. Ordinarily, congressmen do not. No cops with guns, no dead shooter. And in fact, those cops were wounded, but kept on shooting until they killed Hodgkinson.

Conservatives will have a different reaction. Of course, we do not know Hodgkinson’s true mental condition. Until March, he seemed to be an ordinary American who hated Republicans. What we do know is that most of the mass shootings over the past few years have been committed by men who were clearly mentally ill.

This was true of the shooting of then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, D-Ariz., and at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Finally, some of the more serious comments about all this emphasize the rise of such extreme political rhetoric as to suggest violence rather than First Amendment argument. Such rage is hardly new, although it does seem harsher now. In the 1980s, this was rage against President Ronald Reagan. In a somewhat different way, this also was true in the 1930s against President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

And it certainly was true, although less harsh, against President George W. Bush. On the other hand, you never heard any of this against President Obama, perhaps because, first, it would have been considered racist to the extreme, and second, because the Secret Service would have made arrests.

Back in 1970, anti-Vietnam War protesters bombed the U.S. Army Mathematics Research Center at the University of Wisconsin’s Sterling Hall. When the body of a graduate student, Robert Fassnacht, was found in the rubble, one of the bombers, said, “Well, didn’t intend to kill anybody.”

The riots, the vitriol, the extreme politics of the 1960s anti-war movement did a great deal of damage to the United States.

Let’s don’t go there again.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Reid K. Beveridge has covered politics in Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington, D.C. He is now retired at Broadkill Beach.

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