Unfortunately, mass shootings seem to be the the main headlines in the news on a regular basis recently. There is mourning and prayers sent to those who lost their lives, then we wait for the next shooting to happen and just repeat the cycle. Last month, on November 27, there was a shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs that killed three people. One police officer and two civilians lost their lives. This shooting surfaces a plethora of problems, due to the complexity of the intent of the shooter, Robert Dear. The recent shooting at Planned Parenthood forces us to take a closer look at abortion and women’s rights, domestic terrorism, and gun control and violence.
The obvious issue, gun control, is an issue that has been on the mind of many Americans lately. The map below shows the mass shootings since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. There is a need to protect American’s right to the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, but there is an extremely large need to find a way to protect citizens from the overwhelming amount of gun related violence. President Obama has addressed two key focuses to this issue: to expand the background checks needed to obtain a gun and to fund research to recognize the causes of these mass shootings (Mitka, 2013). Robert Dear had a fairly extensive record, including animal abuse and charges of domestic abuse that were dropped, but was still able to be a licensed gun owner. The link between gun control and violence seems to be evident, but there needs to be steps taken to control this violence while permitting Americans to their Second Amendment rights.
(Lopez & Oh, 2015)
While mass shootings seem to be the cause of someone who is mentally ill, Robert Dear outspokenly had political motives behind his attack. After his arrest, Dear is quoted to be saying, “Protect the babies,” a clearly anti-abortion and pro-choice expression (Vercammen & Yan, 2015). This raises the issue for many that this attack could qualify as domestic terrorism. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the following is the definition of domestic terrorism:
- Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law
- Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
- Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.
(Definitions of Terrorism in the U.S. Code, 2013).
This attack was clearly dangerous to human life, killing three people. It was intended to intimidate the Planned Parenthood population, influence the abortion policies of the government, and affected the government by a mass killing. The attack occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. This attack seemingly falls into the definition of domestic terrorism, however officials are so hesitant to label it as such. Perhaps we are quick to label those who are not the majority in our nation, for example Muslims, as terrorists, but are fearful to label a white Christian man such as Dear as a domestic terrorist because he represents the majority population.
Below the surface of this attack, the morality of abortion and the rights to healthcare women have is brought to debate. De-funding Planned Parenthood has been a heavily debated topic in legislation today. However, de-funding clinics such as Planned Parenthood would leave women and particularly low-income minority women, disadvantaged and without access to affordable healthcare. Concerning the right for a women to choose an abortion, it could be seen as being protected under the First Amendment. Many religions, including Christianity, the predominant religion in the United States, see abortion as immoral. However, the First Amendment protects freedom of religion, meaning that religious beliefs and morals cannot be used to influence laws, such as an anti-abortion law. On top of that, women are autonomous agents, meaning that they have the right to make decisions regarding what happens to their body. These women have the same rights as anyone else to affordable healthcare, which includes access to the choice of abortion, and defunding clinics such as Planned Parenthood would disproportionately effect women, particularly minority women.
Ultimately, these mass shootings, particularly this shooting at Planned Parenthood, surfaces critical issues towards the safety and rights of Americans. Citizens should know what constitutes as domestic terrorism, and evaluate what changes we need to make in response to domestic terrorist attacks. The debate over abortion rights and the funding of Planned Parenthood will continue, but it is important to keep in mind the rights that the Constitution provides. The link between these mass shootings and gun control is apparent, and it is evident to see that there needs to be a change. These mass shootings, particularly one like the Planned Parenthood shooting that have a political motive, bring rise to all of these issues, and make it evident to see that policies need to be changed for the safety of citizens. Mass shooting front page headlines should not be a regular occurrence.