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Yesterday the man accused of killing three people and wounding nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado made a court appearance via closed circuit T-V. He’s being held on a first degree murder charge and will be formally charged later this month. The gunman’s motives are not yet known. Justice Department officials have reportedly joined the investigation suggesting the federal government could bring terrorism or civil rights charges or both: Join us to discuss an update on the crime and related political battles over its relevance to gun control, domestic terrorism and mental illness treatment.
- William Braniff Executive director, national consortium for the study of terrorism and responses to terrorism (START), University of Maryland
- Adam Winkler Law professor at UCLA and author of "Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America."
- Louise Radnofsky Health policy reporter, The Wall Street Journal
- Congressman Tim Murphy Member, U.S. House of Representatives (R-PA, 18th District)
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The gunman accused of killing three and wounding nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs faces first degree murder charges. Why he attacked the women's health clinic remains unclear. Here to talk about the attack and why how we label it matters, William Braniff of the University of Maryland, Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd joining us by phone from Los Angeles, Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA. I do invite you to be part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Thank you all for being here.
MS. LOUISE RADNOFSKYThank you for having us.
MR. BILL BRANIFFThank you for having us.
MR. ADAM WINKLERThank you.
REHMLouise, if you'll give us an update on yesterday's court appearance.
RADNOFSKYWell, it was a brief court appearance. Formal charges will come December 9. What we don't know from the court appearance still is anything about motive or a little bit more than we already know from our reporting about Mr. Dear. What we do know is that when he was apprehended, he appeared to make a statement to law enforcement authorities to the effect of, no more baby parts, that some people have taken as a sign of anti-abortion sentiment motivating him.
RADNOFSKYThe mayor of Colorado Springs has also noted the target being a Planned Parenthood clinic and thought that that may have formed part of the assumptions that are being made.
REHMWhy did they do it that way? Why the closed circuit appearance?
RADNOFSKYIt's primarily a state law issue at this point. What we will find out when the formal charges are brought December 9 is what kind of charges are being brought potentially in addition to the first degree murder charge. There are state level murder issues obviously involved, but there is also federal law potentially affecting abortion clinic access.
REHMSo at this point, it's not clear what his motives were or are people making assumptions?
RADNOFSKYIt's not -- nothing more is known than what was known over the weekend. People, as you probably heard and saw, did begin drawing some inferences from those over the weekend and people indeed were drawing inferences from the first day.
REHMBill Braniff, I think there are lots of questions in people's minds as to what, in fact, constitutes terrorism in this country. We've seen individuals shoot at school children. We've seen individuals move into movies theaters and it's been labeled, for the most part, mental illness. Where does the line between mental illness and terrorism come in?
BRANIFFWell, it's a really complex question, actually, and the way you answer it largely depends on where you sit. If you're an academic, you have the luxury of being as objective as possible, establishing very closely articulated inclusion criteria for what you consider an act of terrorism. A non state actor who uses violence or the threat of violence to advance some kind of ideological goal, typically against non combatant targets, by that academic definition, if the assumptions that are currently being made about the motivation of this perpetrator are correct, this would fit in our terrorism database.
BRANIFFBut if you're the law enforcement community, the criminal justice system, you're most interested in the most expedient set of charges to optimize your desired outcome, which, in this case, is a long prison sentence or something like it. And there are instances where you want to invoke the terrorism enhancement in sentencing because that's going to maximize the number of years in prison. But in other instances where you don't need to use the terrorism enhancement where the violence itself is significant enough that you can get the sentence you want without using the word terrorism, you're not going to choose to touch that really politicized issue with a ten-foot pole.
BRANIFFSo it's an expedience question. It doesn't actually dictate whether or not the act was terrorism or wasn't terrorism. It's about what they're going to charge in court.
REHMDoes the terrorism designation automatically bring in federal officials?
BRANIFFIt depends on the nature of the crime. There are certain crimes that immediately do bring federal charges, but there are state level prosecutions as well and states have different sets of laws across the country.
REHMAdam Winkler, President Obama, when he spoke about this crime and in the past has talked about easy access to guns and the gun reform legislation right now, at least, is so far away from us, how do you view this kind of crime? Do you, in your own both academically and legally, make the distinction between, say, a shooting rampage and an act of terrorism?
WINKLERWell, it might not matter for purposes of gun control, particularly, but it does matter for how we think about the incident, perhaps how we charge the incident and how we think about what kinds of reforms might be put in place to try to stop such incidents from happening again. It's not clear how the Planned Parenthood shooter obtained his firearms so we don't know if he got them because he was able to pass a background check or it doesn't appear, despite some history of violence in his past and some charges that have been leveled against him before, it doesn't appear that there have been any convictions of any felonies.
WINKLERIt doesn't appear that he's been adjudicated mentally ill. So one thing that we have to remember. Our background check system is designed to stop people with felony convictions and with adjudicated mental illness from getting guns. That means they have to be adjudicated by some court of some administrative agency to be incapable of caring for themselves or to be a threat to others. It doesn't appear that the shooter has had that.
WINKLERAnd in terms of reform legislation, we are far away from reform legislation at the congressional level. Things have clearly stalled there. But we should recognized there's been very active reform at the state level and we've seen, since Newtown, a lot of states make their gun laws more restrictive, trying to do more to keep guns out of the hands of people like the Planned Parenthood shooter.
REHMLouise, what's going on on the Hill?
RADNOFSKYWell, even before the shooting, there was an active debate about abortion, even beyond the active debate about abortion that's been going on in the United States for 40 years. Congress was actively considering whether to defund Planned Parenthood, by which they mean cutting off federal funding for some of the services that the clinics provide in terms of contraception. Federal funding already is barred from being used for most abortions. So the House was due to decide how aggressively to push this.
RADNOFSKYThey have another spending deadline coming up December 11. Right now, what we've seen from the House leadership is an inclination to focus more on national security and less on defunding Planned Parenthood and that's just come out in the last day.
REHMAnd hasn't there been a set-aside for Planned Parenthood clinics? Hasn't there been some kind of added protection level for Planned Parenthood clinics given what's happened in the past?
RADNOFSKYSome state -- some local law enforcement agencies have been on particular alert in recent days to protect clinics. There are federal laws in place designed to criminalize behavior specifically that occurs -- that's aimed at harassing abortion providers or people using those clinics. And they've been in play -- they haven't been used very much in recent years, partly because there's been a relative lull in violence against clinics in recent years.
RADNOFSKYWhat we've heard from the clinics in the last few days, particularly, is they had already seen an uptick in threats and property violence before the shooting on Friday in the wake of the summer video campaign we were discussing earlier.
REHMSo Bill Braniff, as you look at what happened at the Planned Parenthood and the comments made afterwards by the shooter, how do you work out in your own mind, both as an academic and viewing if from a legal perspective, how do you identify it?
BRANIFFI think it's really important to understand that terrorism is largely an individual behavior or set of behaviors by individuals, perhaps individuals that participate as part of a group and there is a relationship with the broader political commentary. There's most definitely a relationship, especially with wedge issues in our society, terrorist organizations, terrorist individuals seek to drive those wedge issues further into our society, to polarize society, to make people line up on one side of these issues or the other as if there were no middle.
BRANIFFBut that relationship is not the same as a causation, right? To say that the political discourse is causing these acts of individual violence or small group violence, I think, is certainly empirically correct. But to say that there's a relationship between broader political issues, the perceived social legitimacy of certain kinds of violence, I think, is accurate. And that's what makes this such a politicized topic. If we talk about this individual, people very quickly accuse us of making a broader political statement on the issue, which is not the case.
BRANIFFWe're trying to talk about the individual acts of one person, not necessarily the political dynamic and who's right or who's wrong on that broader issue. So this is why it's so hard to have an intelligent conversation.
REHMBut how does it change the conversation if we view something as an act of terrorism rather than someone who is on his own, acting to shoot and kill? On that question, we're going to take a short break. I hope you'll join us. Questions, comments, I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the recent shooting in Colorado Springs at a Planned Parenthood clinic where three people were killed, nine wounded. Here in the studio, Bill Braniff. He's with the University of Maryland. He is executive director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Louise Radnofsky is health policy reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Adam Winkler is on the line with us from UCLA where he is professor of law and author of the book titled, "Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America."
REHMHere's our first email. This is a fascinating question for you, Adam Winkler. It's from Steven. He says, if the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooter was Muslim, would there be a question in your show about the nomenclature of this crime? Adam.
WINKLERWell, it's a very good question and there's a lot of people out there who are suspecting that we're very quick to call any criminal activity by someone who is an adherent to Islam to be terrorism. But if it's a white Christian guy engaging in violence, we tend to think of it as an isolated mental illness issue. But I think, when it comes to the Planned Parenthood attacks, we have to put this attack in the context of a history of attacks against Planned Parenthood. And I think that helps to illuminate how it could be terrorism when we find out more about this particular shooter's motives.
WINKLERYou know, just since July, we've had four arson attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics. Over the -- if we look broader to the last, you know, 30 years or so and the debate over Roe versus Wade, there have been 17 attempted murders, there have been 8 successful murders of abortion doctors or clinic staff, there have been 42 bombings, 186 incidents of arson and thousands of incidents of vandalism. When we see this, we see that there is -- this one shooter is part of an uncoordinated, informal move to try to bring violence to Planned Parenthood. And we've seen this over and over and over again.
WINKLERAnd I think, frankly, if we saw Muslims do this against, say, Christian targets, we would be very easy to say it's terrorism. And I think that maybe we're too easy in that case but we should be a little bit easier saying it's terrorism here, in light of this pattern and practice of violence against Planned Parenthood clinics.
BRANIFFI agree. If just we look at some global terrorism data from one of our data sets, we see 258 attacks dating back to 1970 against abortion clinics or abortion providers, 10 fatalities, 28 individuals wounded. The vast majority of those, however, were 75 percent were facility or infrastructure attacks. Only 3 percent were armed assaults. Another 2 percent were assassinations of specific care providers. So this incident, while fitting in a larger trend of violence against facilities like Planned Parenthood is somewhat rare in the nature of -- the tactic that was used by this individual. But it is part of a, you know, a trajectory or history of violence against this target in the United States.
REHMThe question becomes, what difference does the language make? How much does the -- calling it a mental health issue or calling it terrorism, how does that affect the thinking of not only legal authorities but the population in general? Louise.
RADNOFSKYWell, specifically, in this instance, calling it an act of violence against an abortion provider carries more weight perhaps than calling it an act of domestic terrorism. Because acts of violence against abortion providers are subject to enhanced penalties under the federal law. They're also subject to specific federal law enforcement activities. What we've heard from abortion providers in recent days is that they want to see stepped-up enforcement. They're going to be making some specific calls soon.
RADNOFSKYAnd they may also want to see new laws introduced to further criminalize this type of behavior that would be criminal under any circumstances but they want to see additionally criminalized when it occurs in such a context as to essentially intimidate people who want to go to an abortion provider.
BRANIFFAnd to answer the general question, I think it matters for two reasons. The first is pragmatic and programmatic. How various threats are defined can directly impact how Congress allocates resources across the interagency. And then within a given agency -- like the FBI for example -- how resources, including personnel, are allocated different kinds of threats. So let me just give you one quick example. We have an individual level dataset on radicalization in the United States. It looks across ideologies and back in time for cases where individuals have engaged in some kind of ideologically motivated crime.
BRANIFFAnd what we've found is that 61 percent of those individuals inspired by a violent Islamist ideology, like that of al-Qaida, have been arrested during the earliest phase of the crime -- the conspiracy phase where the plot is just being hatched. But by comparison, only about 20 percent of violent right-wing perpetrators were arrested at this point in their plot, leading over 60 percent of those perpetrators to go on to injure or kill someone. So what we see is we have an enhanced level of attention to violent Islamist cases. And of course this makes sense to some degree -- 9/11 casts a very long shadow and I don't mean do diminish that.
BRANIFFBut there's a cost to allocating more resources towards undermining plots. And from that ideological milieu, it means you have less resources to allocate toward the other threat groups.
BRANIFFAnd therefore, that's a, you know, a result.
WINKLERWell, I think there is a -- excuse me -- a big effect in terms of our psyche and our, sort of, our cultural response to these incidents. You know, when a hundred people are attacked and killed in Paris, there is a huge outcry. There's -- candidates, presidential candidates calling for extensive new surveillance powers, the ability to stop people from exercising, say, fundamental rights. We respond very, very vigorously to acts of terrorism. And we're willing to make big sacrifices in our own society to try to combat terrorism.
WINKLERWhen we think of this as an isolated, say, gun incident, well then it gets defined as something that we really can't do anything about and that there's really not much to do. And so we throw up our hands and say, oh, it's just another one of the 13,000 people who will be killed by gun violence in a given year. I think there's a huge difference. And when we see it as terrorism, we're willing to take it more seriously than when we define it as just sort of a one-off or a gun incident, rather than understanding the political motivations behind it.
REHMBut, Adam, putting -- just for a moment, putting Planned Parenthood aside, think about the number of young children who've been killed in Oklahoma, in Connecticut, at facilities where one individual plans either a bombing or a mass shooting. Should that -- again, that question -- should that be attributed to terrorism or simply an unhinged white man?
WINKLERWell, I guess it depends on the facts and circumstance of the particular case. It's not clear that, say, the shooter that went into Newtown had any political or ideological motivation rather than just a desire to kill a lot of people. And that generally is one of the key definitions of terrorism, is you have to have an ideological motive. So when you go into Planned Parenthood and you shoot it up, it sounds more like terrorism. When you go into a church and you shoot it up, it sounds more like terrorism because we understand there's likely an ideological motivation.
WINKLERIn fact, I think most of us would be pretty surprised if, at the end of the day, this shooter just happened to go into a Planned Parenthood clinic because it was the nearest building by...
WINKLER...rather than going into a bank. I think most of us are saying, well we don't know what the shooter's motive is because we don't have a lot of hard evidence. But the circumstances are pretty clear. He went into a Planned Parenthood clinic. These are the subject of a lot of violence. It's likely that this was ideologically motivated and that really does distinguish between other kinds of gun incidents.
REHMI do wonder about the accusations created by that so-called video that has been proven to be illegitimate that shows Planned Parenthood somehow negotiating for body parts and talking about costs and the like. To what extent might that, indeed, be a motivating factor for someone who believes that children's body parts should not be sold? Louise.
RADNOFSKYWell, the video campaign certainly invigorated a discussion nationally about the use of fetal tissue in medical research, with a number of people expressing strong concerns over it. There's a dispute over the extent to which the videos accurately reflect the practices of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing and has said that it will stop taking cost reimbursement for providing tissue, as a way, essentially, of making clear that it is not selling baby body parts. But we certainly heard the phrase baby body parts a lot in discussion around the videos.
RADNOFSKYThe videos revived congressional efforts to both investigate Planned Parenthood and also to focus on defunding them again. So there's been a lot of discussion sparked by them and a lot of strong opinion on both sides.
REHMAnd Democrats have really taken on the issue of gun control, in countering somehow the focus on Planned Parenthood and the idea that mental illness was behind many of these shootings. At first, wasn't there some support, Bill Braniff, for the idea of making sure that gun control was at the center? And now this is shifting.
BRANIFFSo, there's a lot of issues overlaid, you know, with one another here. I do want to get back to this idea of mental illness and I hope tie it to the question you've just asked. In recent years, we have seen a large uptick in the relative percentage of lone actors engaging in terrorism in the United States as opposed to people participating in a group or a cell. And among lone actors, we see a much higher level of mental issues as well as histories of abuse of various kinds -- whether that's alcohol, drug abuse or child abuse, these kinds of things. So within the lone-actor community, there's a statistically significant greater likelihood that they do have one of these -- a mental health issue or some of these -- this pattern, you know, in their background.
BRANIFFSo tying mental health to this kind of lone-actor violence, whether it's terrorism or school shooters, it does make sense empirically, but it's not to say that the mental health issues are causing the attacks or that they're the only characteristic. It's just one more opportunity to potentially do an intervention or to prevent that eventual outcome.
REHMAnd joining us now by phone from Capitol Hill, Congressman Tim Murphy. He represents the 18th District in Pennsylvania. Welcome, Congressman Murphy.
REP. TIM MURPHYIt's great to be with you.
REHMThank you. First, people with mental health issues are no more likely and in fact less likely than those in the general population to have violent tendencies. Isn't that correct?
MURPHYNot actually. It depends on the type. If you look at the 60 million Americans who in any given year may have some diagnosable mental health issues -- from the very mild and transient difficulties to the very severe -- then the results wash out, just as any other large part of the population. If, however, you look at those with serious mental illness -- such as schizophrenia or bipolar, serious depression -- out of the group, if you divide that group into those who are in treatment versus those who are not in treatment, the people who are not in treatment are 15 times more likely than the people who are in treatment to be involved in some act of violence.
REHMAnd tell me how difficult or easily one can obtain treatment.
MURPHYAnd that is the most important question. The federal government and state governments have put many barriers up for treatment. When all those institutions were closed down in the '80s and '90s and into this century, from when we have 550,000 psychiatric hospital beds in the 1950s, where we used to just warehouse people under deplorable conditions, to now we have less than 40,000 beds, despite the fact that the population in the United States has gone from 150 million to well over 300 million. We simply do not have enough places for people in the midst of a crisis to go and to get compassionate, stabilized care and a wide range of services.
MURPHYSo, we leave them on the street in many cases, to be homeless, to go to jail, to be in emergency rooms. And that's not proper care.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So, Congressman, you've introduced a bill to attend to mental health issues. What would it do?
MURPHYWell, this is the most comprehensive reform for mental health system that really we've seen in half a century or so -- not since President Kennedy was around. It does several things. It raises the level of the federal agencies involved with this to create an office at the assistant secretary of mental health and substance abuse. That person's task will be take about 112 federal agencies that deal with mental health, coordinate them together, help make some determination of which ones are working, which ones are not. Where there's redundancy, let's merge those programs and make sure the money, instead of being eaten up in Washington, D.C., goes out to communities where it's needed.
MURPHYWe would require evidence-based care. We would put more care in what is called secondary and tertiary prevention. Primary prevention is what you tell everybody to be aware of, secondary is you now identify higher risk groups and, tertiary, people who have symptoms.
REHMAnd where would the money come from?
MURPHYA lot of this money, Diane, comes from existing programs. We spend a lot of money on some pretty frivolous things in the area of mental health: workshops on making collages, on interpretive dancing, on getting in touch with your inner animal. And according to the General Accounting Office, they said a lot of the grants that are given out in the areas of mental health have no accountability, no requirements to report results. And we feel that there should be requirements to report results...
MURPHY...use scientific standards. So there's a lot of money in the $3.6 billion we spend per year in just the mental -- in the substance abuse area, mental health substance abuse, that we can retool that.
REHMSo, initially, you had a fair amount of Democratic support. But now many Democrats are backing away. Why is that?
MURPHYWell, that's not true. We have 160-plus co-sponsors, 45 of them are Democrats. And I have had -- today was my 37th meeting attempt to work with a number of them. There's a couple of areas which I think are basic misunderstandings. One is that what -- some people say we're pushing for coercive care. We are not.
MURPHYWe do say that, for states, it has something called assisted outpatient treatment. For those individuals who have a history of violence, of hospitalizations, et cetera, that states, instead of just saying, well, just go back on the street and then when you commit another crime, we'll put you back in jail that -- but you're not serious enough to be left in an institution or hospital -- that a judge, who's there to protect their rights and review the case, can say, you will stay in outpatient treatment, stay on your medication, continue to see your counselor, work with your peer-support personnel.
MURPHYSo we provide some increase in funding for states to actually do those programs, because we know -- a study done in the New York State system said you reduced incarcerations by over 80 percent and have reduced rehospitalizations and reduce homelessness by over 70 percent. Those are important things to do. We think it's much more compassionate to support that.
REHMAll right. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we'll take your calls, your comments. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. We have many callers, lots of emails. I'll try to get to as many of you as I can. First let's go to Max in Indianapolis, you're on the air.
MAXHi Diane, thank you for taking my call.
MAXThere is a Planned Parenthood next to my work, and almost every day when I drive by, there's a big truck with big signs standing there, and I don't know how to engage those people and talk to them. They really scare me. Every time I drive by, I'm afraid that one of them might be violent, has a gun or something. One time I stopped by, starting talking to them, and they told me that they are organized by the church and that they care about life, they are pro-life.
MAXSo I asked a question, what about the children who die in the war, aren't that, you know, life, too? And the guy got really mad at me. So I just walked away. And I wonder, how can we talk to those people, how can we explain to them that really all lives matters, not only the fetus.
REHMAll right, thanks for your call. Adam Winkler, do you want to take that?
WINKLERWell, I think that is a question that's been asked by many people in criticizing what is called the pro-life movement, that it does -- for some people it seems that it's only about the fetus when it's in the womb, and then there's not a lot of attention, or not as much attention, to fetuses when they come out of the womb.
WINKLERYou know, that can be, in some circumstances, an unfair kind of criticism in the sense that we -- people should be able to have political opposition to a practice like abortion, which is controversial, without necessarily having to control, that dictate all of their other policy positions. But it does present an interesting question for those who are pro-life, which is if you want to say you're pro-life, what does that mean for the fetus after the fetus comes out of the womb.
WINKLERAre we still going to provide the kinds of services that are necessary to make a meaningful life? And I think many people are frustrated in America, whether you're an abortion supporter or not an abortion supporter with our health care system, our education system, the way we're trying to -- the way we sort of fail to take care of lives after they're born.
RADNOFSKYI think it's important to remember, as well, that the anti-abortion movement is very diverse. You've got a range of opinions on issues, such as the death penalty, or on social services and sort of the welfare state, which means that they split sometimes politically. There are also tactical differences among the anti-abortion movement. What we've heard in recent days is leading anti-abortion advocates condemn the violence. They say that because they are pro-life consistently, that obviously applies in the circumstance, too, when they've criticized the actions of the shooter, you have a small number of folks who do espouse more direct tactics, and that's been a perennial tension for decades.
REHMHere's an email from Rick, a portion of his email. He says, given the alleged shooter's cry of no more baby parts, I'm amazed at the caution in labeling it an attack on Planned Parenthood itself. Do your guests think that that's just to avoid the higher burden of proof around terrorism? Bill Braniff?
BRANIFFNo, I think that there is so much speculation in the 24-hour news cycle that many people just are really looking for more factual information to come out before they assert the intended motive. But this is an attack on a Planned Parenthood facility. That's an empirical fact. It will remain to be seen whether or not there was a specific reason why specific individuals were targeted by the shooter. Nothing suggests that this was someone seeking revenge against a spouse or some highly personal reason to connect the attack at that facility but instead that the facility itself and what it stands for was the target.
REHMAdam Winkler, would you agree?
WINKLERYeah, generally I would agree. I think people are looking for more evidence so that they know for sure what the political motive is. But I also think we shouldn't necessarily have a presumption that this was an innocent activity. Well, I wouldn't say innocent activity but that it wasn't designed for political purposes. This was an attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic. And I think you have to see it within the broader pattern of these kinds of attacks, and I don't think we should be quite as reluctant to call it terrorism when we are talking about attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics.
REHMCongressman, how do you feel about that?
MURPHYWell, this is a lot of speculation, and I'd rather wait for facts, and here's what the facts are. When someone shot a TV reporter, was that an attack on media? When there are attacks in schools, are those attacks on primary and secondary education? When someone goes into a movie theater, was that an attack on movie theaters?
MURPHYWhat I look at here in the context of mental health, which we still have a lot of questions to respond to, what we know so far about Mr. Dear is he lived some loner life. People said that he oftentimes spoke in ways that people found he jumped from topic to topic, didn't make a lot of sense. So we don't know what his rationale was.
MURPHYBut note what happens in the mind of a person with serious mental illness is they will create links where there are not links. They will make statements. They will say things that some may draw a conclusion of perhaps that was their motive, only to find out that their head was filled with all sorts of scattered thoughts that somehow drew them to that.
RADNOFSKYLook at the person who years ago attacked the U.S. Capitol because he believed there was a red crystal there affecting the universe, he had to save it. Look at the people who recently leapt over the fence at the White House for various reasons. The most recent one, it looked like he wanted suicide by cop.
MURPHYI think we have to be careful about drawing conclusions in each case.
REHMI do want to ask you the same question that one of our listeners posed. If Mr. Dear, who is alleged to be the shooter at the Planned Parenthood clinic, had been a Muslim, would we know regard this as an act of terrorism?
MURPHYI don't even -- how can I even respond to that question with the what-ifs here? You had the situation where we had someone who was a member of the Army shoot up an Army base, who himself proclaimed Allahu Akbar at the moment, and the president did not declare that an act of terrorism. Let's look at these things, and let's avoid the what-ifs in this that try and stir us up.
MURPHYWe had a situation in Pittsburgh some years ago of a man by the name of Richard Baumhammers, who went into an Asian restaurant and killed an Asian, went into an Indian grocery store, killed an Asian Indian. He painted swastikas and anti-Semitic things on a synagogue. He himself was of a Jewish family. And people tried to read into that, was that some terroristic act, going after minorities. The fact was that this was someone who had command hallucinations and delusions going with that, and the man should have been in treatment.
MURPHYOnce these crimes occur, there's not much you can do except jail and other treatment. We've got to be talking about what we could be doing ahead of time instead of the Monday-morning quarterbacking of trying to figure out motives before we have facts.
REHMAdam, Winkler, do you want to comment?
WINKLERWell, I think that's generally right. We do want to know what's going on in a particular situation, but we also shouldn't be blind to the facts that we have. We have a statement that he made to police, that to the extent that's a credible statement that that's a very troublesome statement that he was talking about body parts. We've had the major controversy about Planned Parenthood in the last five months because of some videos that came out and frankly mislabeled what Planned Parenthood was doing, said they were selling these body parts for profit when in truth they were just acting within the confines of federal law, which allows you to distribute fetal tissue for research and to be compensated not for profit but to make up your own expenses.
WINKLERAnd you -- when you stir up a lot of hatred against an organization like Planned Parenthood, efforts to defund them across the country, targeted not just at abortion providers but at a particular organization, Planned Parenthood, we shouldn't be surprised that people go too far. Now that's not to say that those who criticize Planned Parenthood or who made these videos are responsible for this shooting. I don't think that's the nature of responsibility in our society. But it does encourage us all to think twice about how we want to -- who we're going to demonize and whether demonizing our political opponents is a good idea and is going to lead to a society that's more just and fair and equal for all of us.
REHMLouise, what about the issue of Planned Parenthood in Congress and among the presidential candidates?
RADNOFSKYWell, we have seen Planned Parenthood be a polarizing issue for candidates on both sides in the presidential race. Democrats have pledged to stand with Planned Parenthood. That's been an effective tactic for them, particularly in the 2012 election, and they appeared to be keen to repeat that, or certainly they had been in the lead-up to the incident this past weekend.
RADNOFSKYRepublican candidates have varied in their assessment. Some have focused primarily on the individual. Others, including Governor Mike Huckabee, have referred to this as an act of domestic terrorism and then gone on to put the context of this in the broader pro-life agenda, saying that Planned Parenthood is in some -- in some ways acting against that agenda, but so, too, is the shooter.
RADNOFSKYAnd what we heard from Carly Fiorina was, in addition to concern about the incident and criticism of it, a broader concern that perhaps it was a form of a left-wing tactic to then try and accuse Republicans of having created this situation or suggest that they in some way have blood on their hands.
REHMHowever, Carly Fiorina did make some statements that suggested that the video was in actuality a truthful video when in fact it had been pieced together by other people.
RADNOFSKYI think there...
MURPHYThis is Congressman Murphy. I need to intervene on this because what's happening here, the assumption that somehow what people saw in this video or what people said about Planned Parenthood has caused a man to go out and shoot people around a clinic, if that was the case, if words and movies caused it to happen, then why didn't millions of people do the same thing. And if words are causing that, that those who on the other side are stirring people up to say, well, conservatives are bad, or pro-life people are bad because they're saying, then why aren't liberals out doing the same thing?
MURPHYWords do not cause someone to do this. There is something seriously wrong with a man who takes it unto his own to go and attack anybody under these circumstances. And there's plenty of evidence that there was something seriously wrong with him.
REHMAll right, Adam Winkler?
MURPHYI think it's a quantum leap to draw these conclusions.
REHMAdam Winkler, do you want to respond?
WINKLERWell, no, I mean, in the sense that, I mean, I agree that we don't know exactly why this guy was doing it. I mean, we have a sense of why he was doing it, but we do want to get more information. And as I said, we don't want to put responsibility on those who are just advocating for various political positions, but words do matter. Words can incite people into violence, especially when the words are as hateful as what we've seen toward Planned Parenthood, accusing them of killing babies, of harvesting organs, doing inhumane things.
WINKLERWell, when we do -- when we accuse people of doing inhumane things, we shouldn't be surprised that people want to go through to extreme measures to stop it from happening. But I agree with the congressman that we don't want to just put the blame on where it is wrongly. I also don't want to just immediately assume this guy was mentally ill. We don't have all the information on that, either. We have as much information that he was politically and ideologically motivated as we have that he was mentally ill and just happened to be a violent person.
WINKLERSo I don't know. I mean, I think that calling him mentally ill quickly, but saying oh, well, we can't look at whether the ideological motivations to this attack, tends to excuse the behavior too quickly. And what we should do is try to figure out exactly what happened, and if it was ideologically motivated show that we need to do more to protect Planned Parenthood and its clinics, who are offering women important health care services and providing them access to the exercise of a constitutional right.
REHMAnd you're listening to Diane Rehm Show. Bill Braniff?
BRANIFFJust a quick point, there's no reason to suggest that these two things are mutually exclusive, that you can't have a history of mental illness and then engage in ideologically motivated violence. Those two things can happen at the same time or the same individual. So it doesn't really need to be an either-or discussion but instead a related discussion.
REHMAll right, to Tony in Long Island, New York, you're on the air.
TONYYes, everybody knows pretty much that 3,000 people were killed on 9/11, but how many Americans know that more -- since then, the 14 years since then, over 430,000 have been killed by guns in this country. The simple math, 14 multiplied by more than 31,000 per year is over -- so 430,000 deaths. And the deaths in the states that have the weakest gun laws, they have the highest accidental gun rate and the highest suicide by gun, such as Alaska and Wyoming. Where is the outrage? A hundred and 30 died in Paris. In 36 hours, 130 die every 36 hours from guns in this country.
REHMAll right, Congressman, do you want to...
MURPHYWell, of the violent crimes, 90 percent of violent crimes do not involve a firearm. Of those that do involve a firearm, about two to three percent have that firearm purchased, obtained or used illegally. And going back to a question you asked a while ago about concerns about my mental health bill, and sometimes people are saying we should never involuntarily commit someone, but the issue with gun possession and purchasing laws.
MURPHYThe place it states, says that you cannot have a gun is if you have an involuntarily mental illness commitment of someone who has been found through psychiatric evaluations, through a judge, who say this is a person at risk for violence of themselves or someone else. And those are ones where we have to make sure those records get into the NICS database that say someone cannot purchase a weapon and that states have that information.
MURPHYNow, it's one of the flaws of our system is that hospitals and others feel that because of privacy laws, they cannot advance that information, and that creates a serious problem.
REHMAll right, I want to give Adam a chance to respond to our caller.
WINKLERWell, I think that the caller expresses a frustration that we have that points out sort of what I mentioned early on, that if we call it terrorism, our response is much more aggressive than when we just think of it as ordinary gun violence. We've kind of become immune in some ways to ordinary gun violence, and the fact that 100 people are killed in the Paris attacks leads to a huge national debate, it leads to a dialogue. The presidential candidates say we've got to do something about this.
WINKLERBut when we have, and the numbers that the caller cites are pretty accurate, we have about 40 people a day who are dying at the hands of criminal gun violence, and it seems to be, you know, the response to that is, well, stuff happens, there's not much we can do about it. I commend the congressman, if he's going to put more efforts to getting mental health reporting data into the background check system.
WINKLERThat's what we need. We need better background checks. We need to do more to make sure that those who are prohibited purchasers, that information is in the background check system. The problem is is our system now has so many loopholes that the information's not in there, and people who are -- even people who should be prohibited are still able to easily access firearms by buying them from someone other than a federally licensed dealer, who has to do a background check.
REHMAll right, and we'll have to leave it at that. Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA and author of "Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America." Louise Radnofsky, health policy reporter at The Wall Street Journal, William Braniff of the University of Maryland and Congressman Tim Murphy of the U.S. House of Representatives. Thank you all.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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