As you know by now, three people, including a police officer, were murdered at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs on Friday. After a standoff that last five hours, the gunman surrendered to police. The suspect has been identified as Robert Lewis Dear, a man in his late 50’s who had recently moved to Colorado from South Carolina and has had a number of skirmishes with the law arising from disputes with his ex-wife and various neighbors over the past two decades.
It is not clear that if Dear deliberately targeted Planned Parenthood, a point even Vicki Cowart, the President of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, acknowledges. However, Cowart went on to decry “extremists” who she blamed for “creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country.” Here is Cowart’s statement in full:
We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack. We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.
Cowart doesn’t specifically identify who these extremists are. But I suspect that if Cowart were pressed on the question, she would likely single out Republicans and perhaps the people involved with making the Planned Parenthood videos which allege that PP sold fetal organs and part for profit. It is a only matter of time before we hear officials from Planned Parenthood or Democrat presidential candidates cast these sort of aspersions. If Hillary Clinton has no problem describing Republicans as enemies then she certainly won’t have a problem associating Republicans with murderers.
But until then there is a crisis which cannot go to waste. Let’s begin with the race card. This article written by Peter Holley of The WaPo which actually asks, “Did ‘whiteness’ save the life of the alleged Planned Parenthood shooter?”
Of course, there is also gun control which President Obama wasted no time in raising:
This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal. If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough.
Again, all of this premature. At this point, we don’t know if the suspect obtained his weapons legally or illegally. Chances are there is no law on the books that would have prevented what happened yesterday save for gun confiscation. Even then all you would do is create a vast, black market for guns. The point is there are no easy answers. But this is the currency which politicians trade.
It is true there are a lot people who probably don’t have any business wielding guns. The two gang members in Chicago who lured 9-year old Tyshawn Lee into an alley and executed him come to mind. Yet Obama has no words for Tyshawn Lee. I suspect Obama would have a lot more time for the family of Tyshawn Lee had he died at the hands of a white police officer.
I don’t want to minimize the gravity of what occurred yesterday. Three people were murdered including a police officer. Whatever his motive, Robert Lewis Dear can never walk free again. If he is found fit to stand trial, the only appropriate sanction for this crime is the death penalty. However, I do worry that he won’t be found fit to stand trial. In Colorado, as in many states, if one commits murder but successfully pleads insanity, a stay at a state mental health facility is not an indefinite one. This is simply not in the public interest. Nor is it in the public interest to blame responsible gun owners, pro-life activists or racism for this evil act.
UPDATE: The public interest be damned. A short time ago, Karen Tumulty of The WaPo posted an article within the past hour taking GOP candidates to task for their relative silence on the Planned Parenthood shootings. Tumulty notes that only Ted Cruz and John Kasich have issued statements on the shootings and neither of them mentioned Planned Parenthood. Would it make any difference to liberals if all 14 GOP candidates made statements on the shootings and mentioned Planned Parenthood?
While Bernie Sanders acknowledged that the shooter’s motives remain unknown, it did not stop him from blaming “bitter rhetoric” for the deaths of three people. “While we still do not know the shooter’s motive, what is clear is that Planned Parenthood has been the subject of vicious and unsubstantiated statements attacking an organization that provides critical health care for millions of Americans,” Sanders said. “I strongly support Planned Parenthood and the work it is doing and hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences.”
Well, Bernie Sanders can’t have it both ways. We either know why the shooter did it or we don’t and right now we don’t. As such, it is highly irresponsible for Sanders to conclude that “bitter rhetoric” against Planned Parenthood was the cause of yesterday’s massacre.
UPDATE II: An unnamed Colorado Springs law enforcement official has indicated that Robert Lewis Dear said “no more baby parts” after he was taken into police custody.
These statements haven’t been confirmed. But this isn’t stopping Vicki Cowart of Planned Parenthood from blaming “hateful rhetoric” for the massacre. Whatever restraint she exercised yesterday is gone now. “We’ve seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months,” Cowart said. “That environment breeds acts of violence. Americans reject the hatred and vitriol that fueled this tragedy.”
Of course, we were told that “hateful rhetoric” espoused by the Tea Party was responsible for the Tucson shooting. But if Republicans and those involved with making the Planned Parenthood videos are responsible for what happened yesterday then what of the responsibility of Democrats and the Southern Poverty Law Center for the August 2012 shooting at the headquarters of the Family Research Council?
Even though the shooter in that incident had materials from the SPLC which identified the FRC as a hate group, the SPLC is no more responsible for the actions of Floyd Lee Corkins than the people who made the Planned Parenthood videos are responsible for the actions of Robert Lewis Dear.