Remember after Sandy Hook when Roy Blunt was adamant that he would not support legislation that might restrict Second Amendment rights? By which he meant the right of citizens to amass stockpiles of just about any type of weapon. Which was, incidentally, the right of the same folks to enrich organizations that sponsor the NRA, which, in turn, offers tangible aid to politicians like Roy Blunt. Instead he sought to blame government for failing to keep those pesky mentally ill folks under control:
Blunt said in an interview that federal funds have been handed to some communities in states that move people from mental institutions, where federal dollars were used to help them, “and put them back into the community without much monitoring whether people are ready to be in the community or not.”
So guess who he blames when a mentally troubled individual shot two policemen in New York? His constituents, Missourians who exercised their 1st amendment rights to free speech in Ferguson this summer. Evidently the 2nd amendment trumps just about every concern, including public safety. First amendment? Not so much – at least when it involves issues that get old white guys, the only constituency that matters to Blunt, all itchy and bothered. God forbid that police should be accountable.
And, of course, there’s the mental health dodge that was trotted out in the wake of Sandy Hook, but not so much in the case of the NYPD shooter. When a NRA-loving, gun enthusiast shoots a school full of little children, we blame the shooting on his mental problems, not his collection of lethal weapons. But when a troubled and violent man, angered by one more miscarriage of justice, goes off the deep end and the innocent suffer, Blunt wants to blame the folks who expose the bigger, original problem and demand that it be addressed. Nice distraction.
If we’re looking under the carpet for underlying causes, things that might prompt a disturbed man to go off the rails and shoot two innocent policemen, we might turn our regard to the type of toxic police community relations that the protesters are trying to get us to take seriously – and fix the real problem rather than trying to suppress free speech. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if we carried through with those mental health spending initiatives that Blunt was pushing in the wake of Sandy Hook, but which are languishing now that the public is becoming jaded by regular episodes of gun violence.
Of course, like Blunt, lots of people don’t get it. They confuse the symptoms with the disease. A recent letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that:
The St. Louis metro area is starting to learn the consequences of the recent violence in our midst. Corporations no longer consider moving here. Organizations are reluctant to hold conventions and meetings here. Tourism is down. Enrollment in local colleges is down. More fallout is almost certain to follow.
None of this bodes well for advertising revenues. Perhaps local news media such as the Post-Dispatch and Channel 5 should have considered this before taking an editorial stance that seems to favor the protests. …
In other words if we could cover up the problems nobody – or at least, the implication is, nobody who matters – will ever know or care. If folks would just shut up, we wouldn’t have any problems at all. Wipe the pus away and you don’t really have gangrene. Didn’t we all learn in Philosophy 101 that if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, it doesn’t really make a sound.
Update: Steve Benen has this to say about what seems to be a GOP stampede to politicize the NYPD shootings (as usual, it seems that Blunt was just following the program laid out by his betters):
There’s no shortage of related examples. Joe Stack flew an airplane into a building, motivated by anti-government sentiment. Dr. George Tiller’s assassin was motivated by his opposition to abortion rights. The Oklahoma City bombers killed 168 people. How much responsibility do mainstream conservative pundits and politicians carry for these crimes? None.
There was also Cliven Bundy’s dangerous conflict with the Bureau of Labor Management – which generated all kinds of support from Republican policymakers and conservative pundits – and which “eventually motivated Jerad and Amanda Miller to kill five people in Las Vegas after participating in the Bundy standoff … declaring, ‘If they’re going to come bring violence to us, well, if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.'”
Under the reasoning espoused by Giuliani, King, Pataki, and others over the weekend, the responsibility for all kinds of violence should apparently be extended to every corner of our political world.
Which is largely why this blame game isn’t worth playing. Tragically, lunatics sometimes commit horrific crimes. When it comes to maintaining a healthy discourse in a free society, let’s not connect their violence to political opinions we may or may not like.
None of which, Roy Blunt, means that we can’t try to get a handle on the tools of violence employed by these folks – making it harder for those with a record of mental illness and violent crime to access guns won’t eradicate criminal violence, but it can help. Same goes for limiting access to weapons designed to serve military needs.