Not all shootings are political

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Colorado police say that shortly after midnight Thursday, James Holmes, armed with a shotgun, a rifle and a pistol, entered a theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora where the new Batman movie was premiering. He shot at random 70 people, killing 12.

"Brian, you've been investigating the background of Jim Holmes here," George Stephanopoulos, anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America" program, said to reporter Brian Ross Friday morning. "You've found something that might be significant."

"There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado on the Colorado Tea Party site as well," Mr. Ross responded. "Talking about him joining the Tea Party last year."

The James Holmes of Aurora who police arrested is a 25-year-old white man. The James Holmes of Aurora who is a Tea Party member is a 52-year-old Hispanic.

To illustrate how vile this is, the Internet humorist David Burge (Iowahawk) tweeted the arrest records of various felons named "Brian Ross."

"Correction: in previous tweets I mistakenly identified ABC News' Brian Ross with a series of arrestees," Iowahawk concluded. "I apologize to the arrestees."

Jared Loughner shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ari, and 17 others in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011. Early coverage and commentary speculated that "Loughner unleashed his rampage because he was incited by the violent rhetoric of the Tea Party, the anti-immigrant movement and Sarah Palin," said New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Bigfoot journalists such as Bob Schieffer of CBS and Matt Lauer of NBC pronounced Ms. Palin guilty because her PAC's website identified Democrats she thought could be defeated with rifle crosshairs.

Mr. Loughner was a paranoid schizophrenic. His murderous rampage had nothing to do with politics.

Mr. Holmes dressed for his shooting spree as Batman's arch enemy.

"It clearly looks like a deranged individual," said NYPD police chief Ray Kelly. "He had his hair painted red. He said he was 'The Joker.'"

Of (at least) 28 mass shootings since 1999, a political motive was apparent in only the Fort Hood massacre in 2009, and the D.C. sniper shootings in 2002. Nearly all the murderers were mentally ill.

Mr. Schieffer, et al, didn't wait for the facts in the Giffords' shooting because they weren't really interested in them, Mr. Brooks said.

Many used the Aurora massacre to beat the drums for gun control. This is an order of magnitude less despicable than what Mr. Ross did, but it's tacky. They shouldn't have rushed to take advantage of a tragedy. While they wait for the facts, they might consider that:

• It takes time to shoot 70 people, especially when your rifle jams. Mr. Holmes' murder spree could have been cut short if someone else in the theater had been armed.

• However vigilant, the police can never arrive in time to stop a massacre.

• Most mass murders take place where firearms are forbidden. Some killers may choose these venues because they know they'll be the only one with a gun.

• More Americans have been shot in Chicago in the last six months than in Afghanistan. Chicago has one of the strictest gun control laws in the nation.

• How likely is it that a government that deliberately sent guns to Mexican drug cartels can keep them out of the hands of lunatics?

• We used to institutionalize the mentally ill who were potentially homicidal. Liberals objected on civil libertarian grounds. By the 1980s, involuntary commitments had pretty much ended. State mental hospitals emptied out. Most mass shootings have taken place since then. This isn't coincidence. The mentally ill constitute 45 percent of federal prisoners, 56 percent of state prisoners, according to a 2007 Justice Department study.

We're more likely to prevent the next Virginia Tech or Aurora if once again we commit the dangerously deranged to state mental institutions, for their protection and for our own.

And we should treat the smear merchants in the media with the contempt they deserve.


Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. He can be reached at or 412-263-1476. This column originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to:


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