Conservative media figure Erick Erickson is having a bad week. He is usually one of the swashbuckling right wing keyboard warriors ready to grab his gun and threaten any tin-horned agent of tyranny who looks at him sideways (He once even threatened to shoot any federal census worker who came on his property.) But in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks he forgot himself and admitted that he was too afraid to attend the opening week-end of the new Star Wars movie. His quote was:
I’m really glad I didn’t get tickets on opening day to see Star Wars. Seriously.
I have no confidence in this Administration to keep us all safe, particularly in light of President Obama’s statement today that there’s really no way to stop this stuff.
There are no metal detectors at American theaters.
I think I’ll wait till Star Wars is less a threat scenario.
This quote was captured all over the internet, but Erickson has since removed the passage about "metal detectors." This is because real right wingers don't need no stinking "metal detectors" -- they pack heat wherever they go and stand ready to shoot the gun out of the hand of any lily-livered coward before they can even pull the trigger. This is, after all, the standard line we hear every day in the wake of America's ongoing death and mayhem by gunfire.
Erickson got caught with his pants wet and has had to backtrack. He now says that he is not afraid to go to the movies because he will be carrying a gun and assumes that others will too. If that's true, a lot of people should rethink their plans to attend Star Wars. With theaters full of armed men who are quivering in fear and ready to fire at the first loud noise, does seem wise to avoid that situation. Those fellows are dangerous even when they aren't on edge from terrorist attacks that happened on other continents.
We are all aware of the horrifying mass shooting in the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, and the equally horrifying mass shooting in the movie theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana, earlier this year. And I'm sure many people recall the shooting over someone texting in a theatre in Florida in 2014. Then there was a mass shooting in a movie theatre in Antioch, Tennessee and this shooting in a Philadelphia movie theatre over someone laughing too loud. And there are likely other incidents of gunfire in movie theaters we haven't heard about, such as this one from last month, which luckily didn't kill anyone:
The Salina Journal reports the theater was evacuated Friday after the handgun went off in the man's pocket, hitting him in the upper leg. Tim Coleman says he was sitting nearby when he heard a pop, smelled gunpowder and the man said "Oh my God! I shot myself."
It's fair to say that we are already taking our life into our hands when we go to the movies. We live with this danger every single day in America.
Erickson is not frightened, however:
After the "Dark Knight Rises" shooting, I was perfectly happy going on to the theater opening weekend. It was one nutter in Aurora, CO. But now we’re dealing not with crazy people, but with zealots who want jihad. There’s a big difference.
Actually, there's no difference at all to the dead people. I doubt it makes any difference to their families and loved ones either. Dead is dead. And in America, we have a yearly body count of over 30,000 people dying from gunfire. They are killed everywhere -- in their homes, in their workplaces, at movie theaters, in their cars, at school, in grocery stores, in church and just walking down the street. And not one of those dead people are any less dead because they weren't shot by a jihadi terrorist.
This argument that we might be allowing some secret jihadis into the country so they can shoot Americans in movie theaters would just be another absurd comment if it didn't feed the irrationality that suffuses our politics and distorts our policies in ways that really do make us less safe. The terrorists did not take over our government and put us all in Sharia reeducation camps when they flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They didn't overthrow the government of Spain when they killed hundreds in the Madrid bombings in 2004 or the London Subway bombings in 2005. India's government did not become a fundamentalist Islamic state after the terrorism in Mumbai. France will not become part of the caliphate as a result of the Paris attacks last week. These terrorist attacks, even the truly sophisticated ones like 9/11, are terrifying acts of violence but they are not existential threats.
The American people show every day that they have an amazing ability to carry on with their lives even in the face of random daily gun violence that can come out of nowhere and kill them in the most mundane of human activities. They put up with yahoos who insist that the "freedom" to own a gun is more important than their freedom not to be killed by random gunfire. One of the leading Republican candidates for president, Dr. Ben Carson, recently said so explicitly:
"I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away."
If we want to get some perspective on this issue in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, we can follow President Obama's advice after the last large mass shooting in October and compare some numbers:
If what we are concerned about is public safety it would seem that our priorities are somewhat skewed.
But then the right is irrational in a number of ways in this debate. While they are fulminating about the threat of widows and three year old Syrian refugees coming to kill us in our beds, they are so rigid and dogmatic about their right to own guns that they not only believe the slightest restriction would be more devastating than a body riddled with bullet holes, they insist that even terrorist suspects must be allowed to own guns. We can torture them, imprison them indefinitely and kill them with no due process but by God, no one shall infringe a terrorist's constitutional right to bear arms.
The result is that, as the Government Accounting Office has reported, over 2,000 people on the terrorist watch list have successfully bought guns since 2004. It's perfectly legal for them to do it, and that's because the NRA and their Republican stooges in the Congress refuse to close the loophole that allows it. Proposed legislation to fix this problem, with civil liberties safeguards, has never even made it out of committee. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Justice Department under John Ashcroft would not allow the FBI access to background check records to determine if any terrorist suspects had purchased a firearm. As the New York Times reported at the time, law enforcement was intensely frustrated: "Even as the department is instituting tough new measures to detain individuals suspected of links to terrorism, they say, it is being unusually solicitous of foreigners' gun rights."
Today we have a full-fledged panic building among right wingers, with loose talk about shutting down Mosques, deportation and even internment. But while most of that is likely just the typical irrational panic so many of our armchair warriors display under pressure, you have to shake your head in wonder at this one:
A Texas state legislator wants the U.S. to stop allowing Syrian refugees into the country. His reasoning: They might be able to buy guns in his state.
Rep. Tony Dale (R) made this argument in a television interview on Monday and in letters to Texas’ U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz (R) and U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul and John Carter (R).
“While the Paris attackers used suicide vests and grenades,” Dale wrote, “it is clear that firearms also killed a large number of innocent victims. Can you imagine a scenario were [sic] a refugees [sic] is admitted to the United States, is provided with federal cash payments and other assistance, obtains a drivers license and purchases a weapon and executes an attack?” He urged the lawmakers to “do whatever you can to stop the [Syrian refugee] program.”
I doubt that fellow has the slightest knowledge of how ridiculous that sounds. But then we have leading presidential candidates literally saying they're going to "bomb the shit" out of somebody and others practically challenging the president to a fist fight so ridiculous is now standard behavior among GOP politicians. You cannot make this stuff up.