James Shott / June 24, 2015

The U.S. in the 21st Century: Compassion Takes a Back Seat to Politics

The ink was barely dry on newspapers reporting the murder of nine people attending a Bible study Wednesday night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, when it started.

Amid the understandable outrage and feelings of grief and compassion, there arose the clatter of political demagoguery, as the vehicles were gassed up and engines were started to rush and join the forming parade.

Since the participants of this parade formed it not to provide aid and comfort to those in need, but to avail themselves of a convenient opportunity — as former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel advised, “Never let a good crisis go to waste” — reason and honesty were banned from the event.

Thursday morning Faheem Younus, who identifies himself as “Muslimerican,” and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland, posted on Twitter: “This terrorist #CharlestonShooting is predictably White, called a ‘gunman’ by the media and has no mention of his faith.” It was most important to him to imply that had the murderer been a Muslim, that point would have been made abundantly clear.

And no leftist demagogic rant would be complete without taking a shot at Fox News. “The ideology of racism promoted by the @FoxNewsandCo. breeds the terrorists who commit #CharlestonShooting,” he tweeted.

At least in the midst of his mis-focused, cheap-shot tweets, the learned professor did brush up against the main truth: This attack was a racist act.

On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton used the shooting to advantage in her self-promotion. First, she suggested that “inflammatory things about Mexicans,” uttered by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, may have “triggered” the incident, and then turned to liberalism’s favorite boogeyman, gun control.

But at least President Barack Obama started out on the right path: “We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others gathered in prayer and fellowship, was murdered last night,” he said. “And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.”

But then: “We do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” he continued, finally getting to his main point.

No one argues that some people should not have guns. The argument begins with the method people like Mr. Obama prefer. The same people who use guns for violence would also use knives, TNT, poison, an automobile, hijacked air liners, or whatever tool they could find to commit violence against others, a point the anti-gun faction seems immune to understanding.

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries … with this kind of frequency,” Mr. Obama said. “It is in our power to do something about it.”

Mr. Obama must have found some study showing that the U.S. leads the world’s advanced countries in mass shooting casualties. The Rampage Shooting Index, in fact, shows that among 12 countries, from 2009 to 2013, the U.S. had 227 such deaths. Norway had 77, Germany had 25, the UK had 13, and Israel had 11. The US had 38 such incidents and the nations previously mentioned had only 1 to 3.

That is pretty damning evidence. But as usual in these sorts of campaigns, there is more.

The Index clearly shows that when population is taken into account, the results are far different. Per 1 million population Norway had 15.3 fatalities and .19 incidents per 1 million people; Germany - .31 fatalities, .04 incidents; the UK - .019 fatalities, .02 incidents; Israel - 1.38 fatalities, .25 incidents. The U.S. had .72 fatalities in .12 incidents, and fewer fatalities and incidents per 1 million than Norway and Israel. Furthermore, of the five countries discussed, all but the U.S. are said to have “Restrictive” gun policies.

Also, of the 12 nations in this study, when population is a factor the U.S. drops from first in mass shootings to seventh.

Mr. Obama was wrong. Again.

If you feel so strongly that a higher degree of gun control is a viable policy, why use faulty data to try to sell the idea to the people? If your cause is just, you needn’t lie or deceive to gain support.

Laying aside the distasteful efforts to politicize this issue, the real issue is not guns, it is the impulse to harm or kill innocent people, and how to protect against those impulses.

This was a racist act perpetrated by a white guy who used a gun. Dylann Roof had a drug arrest and conviction on his record, and had a recent history of racially charged comments. Reportedly, his father gave him a pistol for his 21st birthday in April.

What gun law would have prevented Dylann Roof from killing those nine people?

When you are caught using faulty data, you tell the world that you really have a goal other than the stated goal in mind.

James Shott is a columnist for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and publishes his columns on several Websites, including his own, Observations.

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