PRESS EDITORIAL: Gun control later, hate control now

This is not the time to talk about gun control. It’s the time to talk about hate control.

The killing of 22 people and wounding of dozens in El Paso, Tex., last weekend by a man using a semi-automatic rifle designed for military warfare was a hate crime in its most obvious and evil form.

The 21-year-old man accused of the slaughter announced in advance on an internet site known for white nationalist rants that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Other mass murders have been linked to white supremacist terrorism through the perpetrators’ own words posted on online forums.

President Trump’s first response to the El Paso massacre was a tweet calling for legislation to require more stringent background checks for gun buyers.

That’s a fine idea—a bill to that effect has languished in the Senate for months without support from the White House—but it is not a substitute for action to counter a radical white nationalist ideology that is stoking hatred and fomenting the brand of terrorism that was on such bloody display at an El Paso Walmart store.

Violent white nationalism thrives on the internet in anonymous postings that gloat over mass killings in the U.S., New Zealand, the U.K., Sweden and Italy. The deaths are celebrated and replicas are encouraged.

The threat demands the full attention of federal anti-terrorism resources and the cooperation of Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to limit the means to turn white nationalist ideology into a terrorist movement, much like they did to scour ISIS propaganda from websites.

But it also demands the moral discipline of those in the political sphere to refrain from exploiting the resentments and fears of those who feel threatened by non-white immigrants. Talk of Americans being “replaced” by immigrants has become everyday fear-feeding fodder dispensed by some anti-immigration oracles in the mainstream media.

On Monday, the president delivered a prepared statement that contained words that many Americans surely were waiting to hear: “In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.”

Time will tell if this welcome expression of American ideals is the start of a commitment to moral leadership that challenges Americans to reject intolerance. A good indication would be a repetition of that statement at one of the president’s political rallies, where words condemning white supremacy have never been heard.

Trump frequently talks in his rally performances about an “invasion” by immigrants. At a recent Florida event, he asked his massed followers how the invading immigrants could be stopped. “Shoot them,” yelled a voice from the crowd. The president responded with a quip about the ease of getting away with shooting people in Florida. It drew cheers and laughter from the crowd.

Egged on by the president’s immigration rhetoric, crowds at Trump rallies have chanted, “send them back.” The same words were found in a manifesto posted by the accused El Paso killer.

There will be—and should be—a lot of talk about gun control in the wake of the Texas mass murder and one in Ohio that brought the weekend mass shooting death toll to 31, but barring a revolutionary change in Congress, little or nothing will come of it.

Recall that federal legislators could not manage even the most feeble attempt at restricting access to military type firearms after such weapons were used to gun down first-graders in New England and high school students in Florida.

There may come a day when meaningful gun restrictions can be enacted, but it’s not today.        What can be done today is to recognize that terrorism lurks at the fringes of white nationalism and that it is energized by the drumbeat of demonization of immigrants even when it’s aimed at believers in white nationalist ideology who reject violence.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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