The Rush Limbaugh of The Republic, Doug MacEachern, in his latest right-wing rant takes two diametrically opposed positions to blame the “tone” of protestors for the death of two New York police officers. NYPD murders a failure of leadership:
Leaders are supposed to be the antithesis of opportunistic moral poseurs. They do not assign group responsibility for tragedies to one side of a dispute, or the other. They don’t point fingers. They don’t insist the problem is with the behavior of that other group of citizens.
Wait for it . . .
All of the presumed leaders who have seized on the bare outlines of entirely separate police-related shootings in recent months bear some responsibility for the tragic — and increasingly destructive —direction of these events.
No, not the destruction itself. But of society’s tone. Of the movement of things.
They have bought into the framing of these incidents, collectively, as evidence of a single trend: police violence directed, more or less intentionally, toward Black males. Leaders don’t do that.
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[I]t has led to the shooting deaths of two New York City officers.
Shorter MacEachern: “It’s wrong for political leaders to play the blame game and to point fingers, but for an unaccountable right-wing pundit like me, it’s perfectly fine” — I’m going to play the blame game: “From the mayor of New York City to self-appointed race-activists to the media, we have drawn a stick-figure picture of a complex series of unrelated events. And, now, two cops in New York lie dead as a result.”
It takes a comedian like Jon Stewart of The Daily Show to explain the complexity (above) that I am sure never even entered the fevered mind of Doug MacEachern, who resorts to over-simplification by blaming anyone who acknowledges that race plays a factor in policing.
MacEachern will never acknowledge that minority communities of color — African-American, Latino, and Asian — are subject to different policing tactics and practices than is white America, regardless of whether they have committed a crime or not.
It is a safe bet that an old white man like MacEachern has never been treated as a “suspect” or someone to be watched closely while shopping or while in a “white” neighborhood, simply because of his skin color. He has no concept of how it feels to be singled out this way on a daily basis. Nor does he care.
For white privilege pundits, any discussion of race in policing is simply playing the “racial grievance card.” For them, these guys were “thugs” and “criminals,” they had it coming. The cops were just doing their job. End of story.
But there is even a more basic issue that MacEachern will also never acknowledge: How Did the NYPD Killer Get His Hands on a Gun From Georgia? Because Our Laws Are Insane:
Investigators have traced the gun Ismaaiyl Brinsley used to kill two New York City police officers and wound his ex-girlfriend to a Georgia strip mall 900 miles away. The Arrowhead pawn shop, which bills itself as a “family-owned business dedicated to good prices, good customer service and good vibes,” as of 2010 was the fifth-largest source of guns used in crimes nationally and the number-one source of out-of-state guns seized by the New York Police Department.
What happened between the time the silver Taurus semiautomatic handgun was purchased in 1996 and Brinsley came across it? We don’t know. Brinsley was barred from owning a gun because he had committed multiple felonies; if he had to complete a background check, he would have failed it. But he never had to complete a background check. Police say the Asian man who bought the gun at Arrowhead later gave it to his cousin, and there have been no traceable purchases since, meaning [the gun] exchanged hands in private [sales or] illegal deals.
Weak federal laws and disparate state laws enable a black market where felons and domestic abusers can get their hands on guns. Georgia is among many southern states whose lax gun laws effectively supply firearms for criminal activity in states with stricter laws. Some 90 percent of guns traced in New York City crimes come from out-of-state sources. Compare New York’s laws to a state like Georgia, and it’s easy to see why these southern states are known as the Iron Pipeline.
New York requires all gun sales, including private ones, to pass a background check. Georgia does not. It also has no penalties for straw purchasers who buy firearms legally for someone who can’t. It also doesn’t mandate that gun owners file a police report when their gun goes missing. In 2014, Georgia’s weakened its laws even further, and now gun owners can carry firearms into bars, classrooms, government buildings, and even TSA airport checkpoints. Felons are allowed to invoke the controversial Stand Your Ground defense, meaning they don’t have the obligation to retreat if they feel their life is threatened. Georgia’s own murder rate is 27 percent above the national average, and has the 13th most permissible gun laws in the nation, according to a Daily Beast analysis.
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Federal law is also to blame. Not only is there no universal background check system, but in 2003 Congress passed a law that makes it harder to shut down rogue operations that are enabling the illegal market. Thanks to the Tiahrt Amendment, data on how often gun dealers’ weapons are seized in crimes is shielded from lawsuits and public scrutiny. According to a 1995 study conducted before the amendment passed, just over 1 percent of gun dealers are responsible for nearly 60 percent of the guns seized in crimes. Without oversight, a small number of licensed dealers will continue to supply steady a stream of weapons—an untold number of which will end up in the hands of criminals, including those who kill cops.
On the most basic level, this is really a story about lax gun laws, and how illegal guns can so easily get into the hands of someone like Ismaaiyl Brinsley who had a rap sheet longer than my arm, and who suffered from mental illness, as acknowledged by his own family members. Two New York police officers are dead because of our lax gun laws and inadequate treatment of the mentally ill in this country, not because of the “tone” of protestors or politicians who want to address the legitimate concerns of minority communities about how race factors into policing.
This point has been almost entirely lacking in the media coverage of this story to date.