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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/12/22

When Do We Start Calling These Mass Shootings What They Really Are: Politically Inspired Terrorism

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Within hours of the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, IL, a Facebook friend posted this: "I feel like it's only a matter of time before Adam or me or both of us will be victims of or impacted by a mass shooting. It's just literally a matter of time. Basic statistics." There followed dozens of comments, most of them sadly agreeing with the prediction. A few dissented, arguing that, despite the mounting numbers of mass shootings"-now at the rate of one a day-- the odds of being caught in one are still very low.

Most of us keep thinking in terms of a New York Times headline for a column by liberal Gail Collins and conservative Bret Stephens in early June: "There has to be a tipping point on guns, right?"

But what if we're asking the wrong question. What if not everyone in a position of responsibility is focused on what seems obvious to rational law-abiding citizens"-that we need to come up with laws and practices to limit weapons availability way beyond the recent bipartisan gun legislation that mainly expands background checks for gun buyers under age 21? What if the increasingly radicalized and anti-democratic Republican Party is coming to view these mass shootings as part and parcel of an expanding political opportunity, and isn't nearly as concerned as the majority of Americans, who indicate in polls that they want sensible controls on firearms, such as banning of assault weapons and expanded background checks for all purchasers?

As the number and pace of mass shootings accumulate over time, a disheartening reality is taking hold: that hardening resistance to any serious actions to reduce the mayhem amounts to tacit approval, even encouragement. If that's the case, we're not dealing with "mass shootings" as much as terrorism sanctioned by the Republican party. Indeed, former president Donald Trump gave weight to that view in his speech before the National Rifle Association shortly after the massacre at Uvalde, TX, (that killed 19 children and two teachers) when he accused President Biden of "shamefully suggesting that Republicans are somehow okay with letting school shootings happen-- I've searched around, and am unable to find evidence that President Biden ever made such a suggestion; indeed, he backed the bipartisan effort that produced the very limited legislation he just signed into law. Of course, it's not the first time Trump has accused his opponents of reprehensible motives that he was guilty of.

Why would Republicans want to encourage ongoing mass gun violence? For the same reason the political forces intent on gaining autocratic power often resort to sanctioning civil unrest and terrorism: These phenomena can create enough fear and confusion that the body politic eventually welcomes, even demands, the extremist solutions of authoritarians. Trump offered such potential solutions in his NRA speech, calling for "a top to bottom security overhaul at schools all across our country. Every building should have a single point of entry. There should be strong exterior fencing, metal detectors, and the use of new technology to make sure that no unauthorized individual can ever enter the school with a weapon".every school in America should have a police officer or an armed resource officer on duty at all times."

Gun-promoting Republicans understand that most Americans don't want their children in mini-prisons. Shortly after the murders in Uvalde, the conservative magazine The Federalist, came out with an article entitled, "Tragedies like the Texas Shooting Make a Somber Case for Home Schooling." It reads something like a friendly advisory a mobster might offer a business owner being shaken down: "It is clear now from the long list of school shootings in recent years that families can't trust government schools, in particular, to bring their children or teachers home safely at the end of the day. The same institutions that punish students for 'misgendering ' people and hide curriculum from parents are simply not equipped to safeguard your children from harm."

The power of politically motivated random violence to influence modern-day politics was pioneered by the Nazis back in the late 1920s. Their version of mass shootings consisted of Nazi storm troopers engaged to turn peaceful political assemblies into violent altercations. Here is how biographer Robert Payne in his 1973 book, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, described one Nazi gathering in 1927: --.there were scuffles and skirmishes almost from the beginning, heads were broken and blood flowed, and some of the storm troopers were wounded. (Joseph) Goebbels ordered the wounded storm troopers to the platform where everyone could see them. He had learned, as Hitler had learned long before, that the sight of a man covered with blood is a powerful political weapon. A young storm trooper called Albert Thonak was carried onto the platform. He was writhing in agony, and Goebbels addressed him as though he were dying and his soul would soon be rising out of his body to inhabit a National Socialist heaven"Sometimes a storm trooper was killed, and Goebbels presided over the obsequies of the martyr. He rejoiced when there were martyrs, for they provided good headlines."

By 1933, the power brokers of Germany did call on Hitler to save the country from the growing chaos. We are beginning to see some of that same appeal to base emotion from Republican quarters, such as when Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie tweeted as a Christmas card a photo of himself and his wife and five children outfitted with assault rifles, with the tag line: "Santa, please bring ammo." By late June, the political theater had become even more lurid, with Missouri Republican Senate candidate Eric Greitens running an ad promoting "RINO hunting," replete with video of American storm troopers bursting into the home of a presumed Republican traitor. (The ad has been removed from most media platforms, but it remains up on YouTube.)

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David E. Gumpert is author of "Gouster Girl," a historical novel about white flight in 1960s Chicago, told through the eyes of a white teenager involved in an interracial romance. He is co-author of "Inge: A Girl's Journey Through Nazi Europe," (more...)
 

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