When you hear that a police officer was ambushed and shot to death, what is your first image? For many Americans, it’s an angry black man who seeks revenge for police shooting black men. And that has certainly happened.
But imagine my surprise when I read about the Des Moines, Iowa case of a man shooting two police officers in two ambush attacks, read that the alleged shooter had been in contact with police in the past while waving a Confederate battle flag at black people, and had been calling at least one black man the n-word, and then when I later listened to National Public Radio they reported this new Iowa case as part of a wave of police shootings in retaliation for police violence against black males. Really, NPR? Is that the best imitation of Fox News you can do?
In the end, I believe that most psychologists would agree that cop killers are suffering from mental illness first and most primarily, with other motives a distant second. Yes, police kill unarmed black people at a far higher rate (not raw numbers, but as a percentage of the population). Yes, police will try (in most cases) to intervene on boisterous racially offensive behavior and thus may be the target of white men who wish to freely use racial epithets and symbols of slaveholders. So the cursory motives are understandable intellectually, but seriously, the blatant insanity of randomly shooting police officers? Why isn’t that proclaimed first and foremost as the controlling engine to those heinous acts? None of the attacks in the past year were targeted at the cops who actually did the things that produced the nominal reason for the murders. Shooting a target of opportunity without specifically choosing the actual perpetrating officer is not remotely sane.
When will we take gun control seriously? If for no other reason than to stop so many cop killings, we should elect officials who will get this job done. The blundering police unions endorsing Donald Trump are acting on emotional affinity with a man who says he supports police, but Trump’s unreserved support for no limits on firearms for anyone will only result in more unstable people gaining access to all the guns they can afford. More cops will die.
The import of this election is tough to overstate. Trump will exacerbate all the worst developments—fewer resources to assist folks who struggle with mental health issues, fewer controls on access to weaponry by anyone, no help from a Trump Department of Justice in improving police-community relations. This will lead to more tragedies like the one we saw in Iowa. I admit I strongly disliked voting for Hillary Clinton, but a Trump presidency is many giant leaps backward. Let’s prevent this.
Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.