Terrorist?

The church shooting in Texas; was it terrorism, what failed, and where we go from here. That’s the topic this episode. We keep coming to these questions after mass shootings, but this particular one has some stark answers.

Mentioned links:

Sutherland Springs church shooting: What we know

Texas church shooter escaped mental health facility in 2012

Eric Rudolph [Wikipedia]

Timothy McVeigh [Wikipedia]

Terry Nichols [Wikipedia]

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Show transcript

While I was taking some time off, a gunman went into a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and killed more than half the small congregation, while wounding most of the rest. Let me describe some of the shooter’s background.

While in the Air Force, he was caught trying to smuggle guns onto his base. He was charged in military court in 2012 on suspicion of assaulting his spouse and their child. He got confinement for 12 months, a bad conduct discharge, and was busted down to E-1, or airman basic. Prior to that conviction, he was involuntarily institutionalized at the Peak Behavioral Health Services Center in Santa Teresa, New Mexico for those assaults, but he escaped at one point.

So yes, this is a mental health issue. No, it’s not because he’s white, or that he’s not Muslim. This is a mental health issue because of the shooter’s actual mental health. Some folks have been trying to label this guy as a “terrorist” in an attempt to drive home their point that not all terrorists are Muslims, and that white guys can be terrorists as well.

Here’s the thing; I don’t think most people would disagree with those assertions. But this incident has no bearing on that. One of my friends on Facebook was asserting that he was a terrorist by quoting the dictionary definition of terrorism, “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.” When I asked him what the shooter’s political purpose was, he had to backtrack and say that since he instilled terror in his victims, then he was a terrorist. OK, well perhaps technically true, but the Global War on Terror was not instituted to combat the instilling of fear; the word there, and the definition of it in common use, is in fact the dictionary definition. Otherwise Homeland Security might be raiding spook houses every Halloween. Given his definition, a mugger could be a terrorist. I never got a good response to that. He had made up his mind that this guy was a terrorist.

I have a video in the show notes of a student having a debate with his teacher about this exact same thing; that this guy was a terrorist because the dictionary is wrong, and (one presumes) so is Homeland Security.

I can name white terrorists that fit the common definition of “terrorist”. How about Eric Robert Rudolf? He was the Olympic Park bomber from the 1996 games in Atlanta. He continued his reign of terror in the name of the Christian Identity movement; he was a white, Christian extremist terrorist.

Then there are Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols; radical anti-government terrorists. They blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

They do exist; nobody is denying that. But if you have to dilute the definition of a terrorist in order to make your point, your argument doesn’t fly. If your definition of “terrorism” includes muggers and bank robbers, you must think that the Global War on Terror is about stopping people from getting your wallet and misusing your credit cards. Homeland Security was not created to keep the FDIC from having to pay out bank insurance claims.

So, if not a “terrorist”, what should we call the guy who committed a mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas? How about a “mass shooter”. Seems apropos, but maybe it’s just me.

Here’s another facet of this shooting. There have been the usual calls for more laws restricting gun ownership and purchasing. And very often, conservatives will ask, “OK, what kind of law would have prevented this?” It’s a legitimate question. The problem in this case is that the laws we needed to prevent this shooting…are already on the books!

This guy passed a federal background check, but he should have failed on multiple counts. If you’ve been in jail for more than a year, you can’t own a gun. If you’ve been involuntarily committed to a mental institution, you can’t own a gun. Most of this failure resulted from the Air Force not getting his conviction into the federal database. The laws that already exist didn’t stop him from getting guns.

Here’s the thing; our government can’t do well enough the things it already is trying to do. The answer is not giving it more things to do. If you have a worker that is making mistakes because he has too much to do, the answer is not giving him more work. You give him less work so that he can concentrate on the important things. Most people would understand that analogy, but so many Democratic politicians are determined not to learn from it.

And let’s not forget, the guy who stopped this shooter from moving on to other targets was an NRA instructor. So once again, a good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy with a gun.

This is not a plea for fewer gun regulations; this is a plea for smaller government in general so that the gun regulations we have can be properly implemented. Only after that happens can we assess the effectiveness of our current laws and decide what, if any, new laws are required.

Y’know, the Second Amendment is coming up on its 226th birthday next month. And it seems like these mass shootings, terrorism or not, are becoming more commonplace. It hasn’t changed, and in the past 10 years the Supreme Court has, in a number of cases, reaffirmed what many of us already thought it meant. It, like all the other parts of the Bill of Rights, are individual rights. So that hasn’t really changed. What has? Perhaps it’s a society that has devalued life, where abortion and euthanasia are celebrated, and hailed as “empowering”. Choices have consequences, often larger than the immediate ones. Hollywood celebrated the sexual revolution and yet was supposedly surprised that its own culture was affected by it. Likewise, when we celebrate death and laugh at morality, why are we surprised that it affects our culture? The law has become more restrictive yet the evil has increased. Christians have been saying that this is a heart issue, not necessarily a legislative one. I think it’s time to take that idea seriously.

Filed under: Gun Control