There’s a temptation in American politics to jump to conclusions before all the facts are in and for activists and politicians use tragedies to push for policies that they already support. Even—or perhaps especially—in the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history and the worst terrorist attack since 9/11, the politicization of cold-blooded murder started just about as soon as the initial news reports came in.
This counterproductive reaction is born out of an understandable desire to solve problems but also—less helpfully—by a human tendency to classify things and be blinded by our biases. When a person with a particular political bias hears about an attack, their first response is to think, “Who was the perpetrator? Was he a Christian? Was he a Muslim? He must have been a member of the group that I oppose!”
Even after the perpetrator in this case was found to be a Muslim who had been investigated by the FBI before on suspicions of harboring pro-terrorism sympathies, an ACLU attorney still tried to link it to Christian conservatives simply by virtue of the fact that Christian conservatives oppose gay rights.
“The Christian Right has introduced 200 anti-LGBT bills in the last six months and people blaming Islam for this. No,” Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with ACLU’s LGBT and AIDS Project, tweeted.
This response to immediately try to blame parties that weren’t involved is the same response of some on the left after the Charlie Hebdo attack. What about the Spanish Inquisition?, some asked, and it is just as stupid, as I wrote it was then in this article for The Federalist: “Let’s Blame Christianity For Everything, And Islam For Nothing.”
Needless to say, restrictions on gay marriage can be a form of discrimination and a bad idea on their own merits, but they aren’t the same as murder. And you don’t have to talk about hypothetical Christian terrorism in order to condemn Christian terrorism; earlier this year a Christian terrorist motivated by intense opposition to abortion shot up a Planned Parenthood in Colorado.
Of course, one single incident doesn’t necessarily say anything about the kinds of strategies that should be taken. Only large scale considerations will allow us to arrive at the right solutions. But, nonetheless, if people on both the left and right want to look from this terrible tragedy for solutions to try to decrease the likelihood of similar attacks from happening again, then let us find some answers first as to whether the proposed policies would actually make an impact.