On Wednesday, a lone gunman walked into the Washington, D.C. office of the Family Research Council, a Christian-affiliated organization that advocates traditional family values, reportedly decried that organization, and then shot a security guard. The guard was hit in the arm and is expected to make a full recovery, but he nevertheless tackled and subdued (with the help of bystanders) the gunman until police arrived. The gunman is in custody and, at last report, is facing only a charge of assault with a deadly weapon (that’s unbelievable — it ought to be attempted murder, and I fully hope and expect that additional and more severe charges will be forthcoming).
This was potentially another Wisconsin-temple-type of tragedy averted by 1) the heroism of the guard, and 2) the apparent disorganization of the shooter relative to the Wisconsin temple (and certainly relative to the Colorado movie theater) shooter. By disorganization, I do not mean insanity. What I mean is just that he appears to have been somewhat more emotional and impulsive and less calm and calculated (i.e. not as well-planned, prepared, and practiced) relative to shooters who successfully carried out those other mass murders. (And by the way, D.C. has some of the strictest gun-control laws in the nation, so as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, those aren’t the solution to these crimes — as you can see here, a guy who was prepared to commit murder was not going to be deterred by the illegality of walking around D.C. with a loaded gun).
But there’s another aspect of this particular shooting that I think is important to note. The shooter reportedly had been working for an organization that advocates the interests of gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans, and he reportedly had characterized the Family Research Council as a bigoted organization. If that latter part proves accurate, then this shooting appears to be, once again, motivated by hatred of Americans who are different from the shooter and an attempt by the shooter to intimidate those who advocate public policy with which the shooter disagrees (and the latter part of that could qualify as “terrorism”). It also illustrates, once again, the narcissistic, antisocial sense of entitlement at the core of these crimes — the idea that the shooter is entitled to effectuate and/or avenge and/or publicize his view of how others should think and act at the expense of innocent people’s lives.
Now, this shooter may not think that people who work for the Family Research Council are “innocent,” but I can virtually guarantee you that he knows it’s against the law to go around administering your own “death penalty” to people whom you believe are guilty of something, perhaps “bigotry” in this shooter’s case (as evidenced in part by the fact that he reportedly used a ruse to get past the first line of security in the building). That’s the narcissistic, antisocial aspect — these shooters think that they know better than the society at large how the society should be and that they are therefore entitled to ignore society’s laws and make up their own. That decision to indulge themselves at society’s expense is also why it’s not only appropriate but essential to hold them accountable under society’s laws, even if they happen to have co-occurring mental problems.
While this shooter’s actions are certainly not representative of the intentions of the vast majority of people who share his ideology with respect to our nation’s values, his actions do provide an extreme illustration of another point that I’ve often made: that the loudest demands for “tolerance” often come from some of the least “tolerant” people in our national discourse. For example, the person who demands, in the name of tolerance, that a male employee be allowed to sell suits at a men’s suit store while wearing dresses and to use the store’s women’s restroom if he so prefers is, all too often, the very same person who intolerantly demands that a restaurant chain and all of its employees be run out of town if its owner voices an opposing view of gay marriage.
Thankfully, the vast majority of Americans are not “haters,” but hatred nevertheless exists in all quarters (i.e. it’s not confined to one end or the other of the political spectrum), and I think we can all agree that the kind of hate-fueled violence that we’ve witnessed all too frequently of late is equally intolerable regardless of the “basis” for the hatred. Tolerance of one another’s lawful expressions of our differences is a two-way street.
(P.S. Speaking of shootings and hatred, court-martial proceedings in the Ft. Hood shooting case are on hold because that shooter refuses to shave his beard as required by military courtroom decorum. Apparently, he’s saying that the beard is a compulsory religious practice for him, but that doesn’t really hold water if he shaved regularly while serving in the military prior to the shootings. An appeals court is determining what the procedural consequences of his refusal should be. Stay tuned.)