Our culture and laws enabled Colorado’s Planned Parenthood shooter — whatever his motive
The Planned Parenthood shooter had easy access to guns and a movement dedicated to demonizing reproductive choice. Is his motive really a question?
There has been plenty of political demagoguery about the perceived threat of accepting Syrian refugees (the vast majority of whom are women and children) but America’s real enemies wield guns, not visas. We have so much more reason to distrust and fear the American-bred shooters with seemingly unlimited access to weapons one Walmart away than someone fleeing a war.
That became even more apparent on Friday when two civilians and a police officer were shot and killed at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado – one of the central hubs of the evangelical movement – and nine more were injured. It’s the second time this month that innocents have been killed by a man walking around Colorado Springs with a collection of armaments that many people feel he should never have had.
The notion you might get shot by a motivated-but-irrational person with a gun isn’t considered terrorism in America: it’s a fact of life . Obama in a statement early Saturday morning condemned the violence and seemed exasperated with the seeming status quo.
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 our streets to people who have no business wielding them.
Terrorism is violence committed for political ends. We still don’t know whether Friday’s shooting was politically motivated or what the gunman was thinking when he walked into a clinic and decided he should take the lives of the employees, patients and the cops trying to protect them.
We don’t know whether the gunman was an anti-abortion activist, or whether he had seen the undercover videos released this summer that purported to show Planned Parenthood employees selling off fetal tissue for profit (videos that have since been found to be, to put it charitably, misleadingly edited ). We don’t know whether he’d heard Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina claim at a September debate that she’d seen video abortion providers talk about collecting the brains of a delivered fetus – though the footage wasn’t real.
What we do know is that Friday’s shooting was the latest in a long string of violent attacks at facilities where women can access abortion and other reproductive health services, and that there’s been a recent spike in violence at such facilities since the release of the misleadingly edited undercover videos.
We do know that 1985 was dubbed the “Year of Pain and Fear” after anti-abortion extremists firebombed and vandalized a series of family planning clinics. We know that anti-abortion fanatics targeted Planned Parenthood facilities in New York, Michigan and Missouri with violence in 1986. “We do know that an anti-abortion activist killed two people and injured five in two clinic attacks in one day in 1996.” We do know that in 1998 abortion clinics in Alabama and Atlanta were bombed. We do know that George Tiller, a Kansas provider of late-term abortions was shot and killed in his own church in 2009 by a long-time anti-abortion activist, just 16 years after being shot twice by a different activist.
We do know that the worst terrorist attack on American soil before 9/11 was committed by a right-wing extremist: Timothy McVeigh. And we do know that in 2009 the department of Homeland Security tried to warn about the rise of “right-wing extremism”, but that the team responsible for the report was dissolved the following year under intense pressure from Republicans in Congress and conservative activists.
We do know that homegrown terrorists are a much bigger threat than refugees and that there have been 26 deadly terrorism strikes on American soil by domestic perpetrators since 9/11, but no successful attacks by international terror groups. We know that, of the 784,000 refugees taken into the US since 9/11, only three have been arrested on terrorism related charges and none of them were close to executing an attack on American soil, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
We know that it takes up to two years and an intense vetting process to get refugee status, including penetrating background checks, interviews, and legal hoop-jumping.
We also know that it takes five minutes, and sometimes zero background checks, to buy the kinds of weapons apparently used in Colorado Springs (and those used in Aurora, and Newtown, and Columbine). And we know that, even when there are checks in place that should prevent certain people from getting guns, they sometimes fail with deadly consequences, as was the case with this year’s Charleston church shooting.
We know that there is one party dedicated to defunding Planned Parenthood, that there is one party that lists the elimination of the right to an abortion in its platform every four years, and that one party supported employers’ rights to limit their employees’ access to birth control.
That same party is unfailingly committed to keeping guns easy to purchase, even as the tragedies pile up. That same party views refugees as the sole pressing domestic terror threat, that believes those refugees are to be feared and ostracized and barred entry.
Maybe if that party worried a bit more about guns and a bit less about visas and women’s healthcare, we’d see that the enemy is ourselves.
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