Technology, journalism, social media and social responsibility
As of about mid-January 2013 there is a blog post circulating, mostly among conservatives, that suggests that “The Five Recent/Worst Mass Murderers in the US [With a Gun] Were all Registered Democrats.”
The post reportedly originates with former San Diego mayor and conservative radio talk show host Roger Hedgecock (who by the way was exempted 1-Y and later 4-F from military service due to severe acne and was forced from office after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy in connection with alleged corruption).
Hedgecock (photo, right) makes the claim in this recording of his broadcast on Radio America, a broadcasting affiliate of the ultra-conservative American Studies Center. In the same broadcast, he accused a Democratic congressman from California of supporting gun legislation to make it easier for drug cartels to import illegal drugs to the US.
Still, the claim has been made. The worst mass murderers are Democrats. Is it true?
Let’s take a look at it from the top down.
First, you’re obviously likely to see this argument in connection with gun control conversations, particularly because the most rabid defenders of the Second Amendment appear to be conservatives with a penchant for conspiracy theories and outrageous claims…like Hedgecock’s broadcast, for example. They just can’t help but post it…even though it is wrong.
Second, the claim says that the “five worst/recent mass shootings” were by registered Democrats. It doesn’t say worst OR most recent, but a combination of the two. In effect, this admits that the broadcaster was picking and choosing…but they chose wrong.
Third, there’s always a statistical probability that any random group of five people will include all members of the same political party…but these guys weren’t.
Fourth, there’s reason to believe that a good number of murderers in the US used political affiliation as a means to get access to victims. Several pretended to be cops or government workers, some joined or led youth organizations, some – such as Gabby Gifford’s shooter (not mentioned here, by the way) – attended political rallies just so they could shoot their intended victims. So political affiliation can be as much intentional ruse as anything else…although in this case, that argument simply doesn’t apply.
Notwithstanding all of the above, the claim that “the worst/recent mass shooters in the US were Democrats” is just plain wrong.
The Aurora Theater shooter, James Eagan Holmes, claimed to be politically moderate on his Facebook page. There is no evidence, as claimed in the post (but not the radio show) that he ever worked for the Obama campaign or Occupy Wall Street. Even though he already was seeing a psychiatrist for his mental illness, Holmes was able to legally purchase all of his weapons in Colorado, a state with some of the most liberal gun laws in the nation,
The Virginia Tech Shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, also named in this list, was a Korean national with known mental disorders since he was a child. Like many other spree and serial killers, his parents were strict, conservative and strongly devout (in this case Christian) and he railed against their oppressiveness…an attitude he carried into adulthood. There is no evidence that he was ever politically affiliated. His background check for his weapons purchases would have failed if he had honestly self-disclosed his mental conditions…an obvious flaw in the system enabled through lax state background check requirements. He did threaten the president…in a video that he made concurrent with his preparations to carry out the shooting. I’m sure if Presidents Carter or Clinton had been in office at the time he would have blamed them, too.
The Sandy Hook Shooter, Adam Lanza, also named in this list, was psychologically disturbed from an early age and had no known political affiliation or leanings. He was home schooled by his controlling mother…who also happened to be an active survivalist, stockpiling weapons and provisions and training her sons in semi-automatic weapons use in expectation of a violent future event. There is evidence that the shooting was triggered by his mother’s stated intention to have him institutionalized.
Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood Shooter, also on this list, was a Muslim and a psychiatrist with paranoid delusions who led a heavily conflicted life as an Army psychiatric aid during the Bush war on terrorism. He was suspected by many of his colleagues of being complicit with the enemy. Investigations showed that he frequented mosques in the US where he was likely to have met known terrorists. It’s doubtful that his personal political affiliation, if he had one, would have ever been ‘Republican.’ He had extensive weapons training and ready access to weapons on base.
Finally, the Columbine shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were too young to have political affiliations. Harris was considered a clinical psychopath and Klebold was depressive. Harris’ father was a retired Air Force pilot. Both boys were well documented to have been excessively bullied in school. They extensively planned their killing spree over many months. They acquired weapons through third parties and built some 93 homemade explosive devices.
If there is a consistent thread of association among any of these people, it is that they all felt personally oppressed by some forceful entity in their lives…usually a parent, but also other kids, and they tended to carry that oppression with them, and project it on others in their lives. This is highly consistent with the kind of mental illness that would, and did, provoke their violent outbursts.
There is one other thread consistent with many of these shooters, a very powerful one. That is, there was plenty of readily apparent evidence ahead of the shootings that none of them should ever have possessed a gun.