As with every mass shooting in the U.S., which come at an astonishingly alarming rate (Shooting in Oregon: So far in 2015, we’ve had 274 days and 294 mass shootings), there is a wave of anger that no gun regulation reforms have been undertaken, no matter if the guns were illegally OR legally obtained to commit the crimes. Many books and studies have been written on this issue that goes far beyond the purview of DN, but the interesting side story to emerge out of this incident surround Douglas County, Oregon, Sheriff John Hanlin, who was the police Official responsible for responding to the latest tragedy in a quiet town where no one ever anticipated such an event.
Hanlin was an outspoken opponent of gun control reform. In January 2013, post Sandy Hook, he wrote to Vice President Joe Biden. In the letter, he requested that the federal government “not tamper with” the 2nd Amendment. He states he supports the view that current gun control reform requests exploited “the deaths of innocent victims”. He also stated he would refuse to uphold any such new laws. Here is an excerpt of the letter. (Entire letter here.)
Hanlin has since declined to comment on that letter.
Three days before the date of the Biden letter, Hanlin also posted a video of Sandy Hook truther propaganda on his Facebook page. The video suggested that the shootings at Sandy Hook (and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001) might have been staged by the federal government as a means to impose gun restrictions on the public.
The post was taken down. Why? Inappropriate now? I would say Hanlin, who is admirable refusing to call the shooter by name, does have some SERIOUS explaining to do.
CNN covered the story as did many other news outlets due to its ironic nature.
When asked about the video Friday, Hanlin told CNN that “I know what you’re referring to, but that’s not a conspiracy theory that I have.”
Whatever his intentions, the post is one of several provocative moves from Hanlin over the years, ones in which he’s drawn lines in the sand and challenged other authorities — even the highest in the land.
Hanlin told CNN that his position had not changed. What does that mean? It means Hanlin is dealing with some massive cognitive dissonance. It is easy for people to adopt even absurd beliefs if those beliefs are not challenged and are reinforced by those around them. Now, Hanlin has to deal with some stark reality. Some may even accuse HIM of playing a role. How will he deal with that? Welcome to the bizarro world of conspiracy theories.
According to the book American Conspiracy Theories by Uscinski and Parent (2014), American seem to anticipate grievances and complain before they suffer. Thus, Hanlin feared, as do many others, that gun rights would be impinged upon. Gun rights are a value he holds very highly. However, not only were gun rights NOT impinged upon after MANY events, but it does not look like it will happen now, since, even Hanlin admitted, that it seems clear no amount of deaths by shooting will surpass the need to hold the right to bear arms sacred.
This is an ideology – a set of interrelated beliefs that provide a way for people to understand the world. Ideologies we hold dictate our priorities and who are the good or bad guys. Such a framework allows us to categorize and interpret information and then derive meaning from it. What’s also clear is that many people in America hold an ideology that includes massive mistrust of government and other factors that result in adopting such conspiracies to make sense of these heinous shooting events. Does that mean that conspiracies will strengthen as these mass shootings continue? It might. That is unclear. (Commenters are asked to provide additional info on this point.)
The critical thinker can attempt to deal with such outrageous conspiracies by pointing out that the described plot’s cost and risk certainly outweigh any benefits. But then, the believer feels that the government is so evil that it does not value human lives or that the event was faked. So how do you deal with truthers? Sadly, you don’t.
Some just yell.
Since the Sheriff seems so brave in writing and speaking about his “fucking” gun rights, I wonder if he will have the balls to do the following:
1. Tell the Parents of those slain kids that it is terrible what happened to their children but the right to bear arms is more important than their kids right to live.
2. Tell the parents that though they will miss their kids deeply and have to live in a nightmare for years to come, that the very thought of having to register for his gun is more important than that, and God forbid they might take away a gun from someone, that would be far more terrible than the child that was taken from them.
3. Tell those Parents in his world the only way to make children safe at school is to make the school and armed encampment.
Or, you keep pushing.
Posted by The White House on Thursday, October 1, 2015:
“This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loves ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. The notion that gun violence is somehow different—that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt, and protect their families, and do everything they do under such regulations—doesn’t make sense.” —President Obama on the shooting in Roseburg, Oregon: http://go.wh.gov/7Gk8Eh #UCCShooting
What do we do about dealing with these problems of mass shootings and the subtext of the gun rights ideology? “Nothing” is not an acceptable answer.
The facts of gun ownership, use and crime are complex. See this piece on how we can’t make black or white statements so easily. It’s more complicated than that. Should we call for Commission report? Will that do any good in the climate we have regarding conspiracies?
A start would be finding common ground in admitting the problem, and calling out false flags and fake massacres as ludicrous. Then, as the President says, finding the courage to change. Let’s start with Sheriff Hanlin. What do you say now?