We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric in the last couple of months after the Newtown tragedy to the effect that the National Rifle Association was responsible for the murder of the children killed in that atrocity and other mass shootings. Whatever one might think of the NRA’s stand in opposition to any change in the gun laws, this sort of over-the-top attempt to delegitimize advocates of a point of view did nothing to help us understand that or similar crimes. But there has been at least one instance in which a national advocacy organization did directly incite and abet a crime involving gun violence.
As the Washington Examiner reports, the person charged with an attack on the Family Research Council in which a security guard was shot last summer did so after he read an entry on the Southern Poverty Law Center website designating the conservative organization as a “hate group” because it opposed gay marriage and helped him find its offices.
Floyd Corkins II plead guilty yesterday to a federal firearms charge and D.C. terrorism and assault charges. His intention had been to slaughter as many employees of the FRC as possible. As an added indication of the political intent of this crime, his plan had been to smear the faces of his victims with Chick-fil-A sandwiches because the head of that company opposes gay marriage.
But it was only because the SPLC had inappropriately labeled the FRC a “hate group” did the shooter launch his unsuccessful attempt to murder people that he thought opposed his views on the issue of gay marriage.
It is true that the SPLC did not participate directly in the crime nor did Corkins act at their behest. But its intemperate rhetoric and lack of respect for opposing views did inspire his violent action in the sense that a reasonable person could infer from their website that the FRC was, in a very real sense, outside the law, much as the Ku Klux Klan, militias or a terrorist group might be. Referring to the FRC in that manner was not only inaccurate; it was a textbook example of how liberal incivility toward conservatives has consequences.
Needless to say, this outrageous conduct on the part of the Law Center did not inspire angry denunciations from the New York Times or the rest of the liberal media. Nor did it cause the president to use this incident to rally the country behind efforts to tighten laws concerning the possession of firearms.
But the shooter’s plea ought to remind those who have been so quick to label Americans who have misgivings about the efficacy or the wisdom of more gun control laws about something important. There is an organization that is guilty of incitement to violence; it is not the NRA, but rather an iconic group that is a favorite of liberal fundraising appeals. This incident has not gained a fraction of the coverage that other crimes have gotten but it should be imprinted on the memories of liberal journalists and activists who have done their best to falsely associate violence with conservatives.