Fair and Unbalanced

Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: Endlessly ‘falling down’ in NRA America

Littwin: Endlessly ‘falling down’ in NRA America

The informed debate from Chapel Hill in the aftermath of the triple murder goes something like this: Did Craig Hicks kill three people in their apartment because they were Muslim, which would be a hate crime, or did he kill three people in their apartment because of a parking dispute, which would subtract hate from the narrative and replace it with insanity. We are familiar with road rage, but parking rage belongs in an entirely different category.

But there’s another question, and one that should be at the heart of the debate: Did three people — whatever their religion — end up dead in their Chapel Hill apartment because the killer was not only an angry, confrontational man, but also because he was an angry, confrontational man who carried a gun to the confrontation.

Whatever the reason – and why should we suppose there was only one reason; are life or death really ever so simple? — this seems like the same old American story, if one with a few unusual twists. We aren’t usually faced with an accused murderer who is also a militant atheist fond of posting anti-religion screeds on Facebook and who, when not on the computer, plays the role of apartment parking-lot cop.

Whether hate crime or insanity or both, we can be pretty sure of what comes next: Absolutely nothing.

That Hicks calls himself a gun-toting liberal doesn’t seem to fit any narrative, except that it allows everyone to place him in some camp that is not their own. But much else about the story seems all too predictable.

For instance, that Hicks posted a photograph of his loaded .38 revolver on Facebook only three weeks before the murders.

And that an ex-wife has said Hicks’ favorite movie is “Falling Down,” about a beleaguered man who goes on a shooting rampage in Los Angeles. She told the AP that he watched it over and over, laughing as he did.

And that, according to neighbors and to a father of two of the victims, when Hicks had come on previous occasions to the apartment to complain, he came with a gun on his belt. It’s apparently legal to open-carry in North Carolina. It’s legal unless you use the gun to terrorize and then murder three people who happen to be Muslim or because they are Muslim.

We don’t need to know too much more to figure out that this is another example of that place where guns and a disturbed mind intersect.

The police and the U.S. attorney have quickly come to the conclusion that the murders are not about religion and that if there’s a hate crime, it’s a hate-people-who-don’t-follow-condominium-parking-rules crime. It doesn’t make sense. As Philip Gourevitch writes in the New Yorker, we “are being urged to consider this murderer as a figure of all-embracing American assimilation — a man who did not care who they were but hated them as he would hate anyone and everyone, equally and without fear or favor, for the way they parked.”

What we know is that authorities say Hicks entered the home of recently married Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Abu-Salha’s sister Razan and shot them all dead. According to family members, each was shot in the head.

Many inside, and outside, the Muslim community are convinced that the three young people were killed because they were Muslim. No one can be surprised by this. It’s the logical conclusion. Hicks was angry about religion — yes, all religions — but this was the religion that rubbed its head scarf in his face, or at least in his line of sight, every day. And though Hicks may have confronted many neighbors, only three are dead, and the 5,000 mourners who gathered in Raleigh for their funeral Thursday were told to reject the hate that the killings represented.

But if the parking lot story seems incredible, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It’s impossible to believe only if you can explain dozens of other killings that seem to make no sense. We reject the parking lot story because it seems illogical, but the truth is that the lack of logic may be the only thing about it that makes sense.

It may well be that this is about a parking dispute inflamed by anti-Islam hostility or anti-Islam feeling inflamed by a parking dispute. We don’t really know. We can’t quite believe that the cops really know either.

Here’s what we can safely guess: Whether this about an anti-Muslim hate crime or about a man driven by inexplicable rage, we can be pretty sure of what comes next. We will be told that, whatever else, we should ignore the fact that an angry, confrontational man used a gun — one he wears on his belt or displays on Facebook — to put an end to three lives. We know this because that’s how these stories always end.

[Photo: “Going to the Boardwalk” by Violette79.]

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin


  1. Colin J Guthrie on said:

    Perhaps that’s because the majority of people in the United States value THE WHOLE Bill of Rights – including the Second Amendment – and ARE NOT very impressed with the rhetoric of those who would do away with it on a “cherry-picking” basis; or simply because individuals in a population of over 300Million commit somewhat spectacular crimes using a firearm.

    We read all about how the Teabaghead/Republikkklan Party has “no alternatives” to the ACA; but wants to “repeal/defund”, or otherwise do away with it. We also read all about how a good many hysterical folks want to do away with OTHER PEOPLE’S GUNS; because they are afraid of them. And, here again, NO ONE offers any hint of an “alternative” to the ultimate destruction of the whole framework of our Government of Laws, and our guarantee of ALL FORMS of Civil Rights. Talk is cheap. It takes WORK to find replacement for some 200 years of stability, growth, and achievements, as we “increase the lead” in sound Government by Law.

  2. Will Morrison on said:

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with Mr Guthrie. I think there ARE alternatives being put forth, but the NRA and the gun nut lobby make ANY discussion essentially worthless.

    After Sandy Hook, there was polling that showed that 90% of people wanted background checks for gun purchases, INCLUDING 75% of NRA members. But when push came to shove, the NRA got damn near ALL of it shut down. Even here is this state once some modest proposals did pass, a recall was put forth, and now we have several gun nut lobbyists in our house instead of the elected officials who made the RIGHT choice. And if you’ve been following those gun nuts, that is their ONLY reason for being in the legislature at all.

    The problem is the gun MANUFACTURER’S lobby, which is what the NRA is, anymore. They REFUSE to let ANY discussion of what should be done to curb this national disgrace. After EVERY time this kind of slaughter happens, all we hear from them is “This is NOT the time to discuss this”, like they will LET us discuss it ANY OTHER TIME. These people are the PROBLEM, and it’s because they see MONEY being lost if we restrict gun ownership to the SANE amongst us.

    The problem isn’t that NO ONE is trying to put forth alternatives, it’s that the MONEY is getting in the way. I won’t even get into the psychological issues for some of these people, because it’s NOT flattering. I’ll stick with it being the money, because that is the LARGEST issue we have in this country.

  3. Colin J Guthrie on said:

    The only “alternative” that the principally ANTI- guns, and anything else that threatens their inability to grant that other people have rights too – claque has come up with is, simply, ELIMINATION OF THE CITIZEN’S RIGHT TO FIREARMS. And, this is true in spite of the clear Decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the Washington, D.C., case, where the “law” expressly called for confiscation of weapons.

    Intelligent and rational background checks, along with intelligent and rational restrictions – including total bans on ownership by those guilty of violent felony, or mentally ill – work; and have worked whenever given a decent chance. But , , , !

    Here in Colorado, we have – so I read anyway – something over a 52 day waiting period for even a cursory background check by our State Police. Why? Well, perhaps, those for whom firearms ownership and use is something “unholy” – or otherwise so totally feared and abhorred – might want to reflect a bit on the “psychological issues” that keep them constantly insisting that such intelligent and rational areas of workable and effective controls ARE NOT sufficient to their notions that guns, in and of themselves, are, always and in all ways, some kind of “infinite evil” to be kept out of the hands of everyone; and shut down the rhetoric of panic every time one person in 300Million population goes berserk.

    Our own Columbine tragedy is never allowed to become a part of the history of human failure to become “perfect” – or at least “perfect” enough to meet the demands of those who would force all others to adopt, and live by, their own positions. Yet, the question remains: Given the experience of that tragedy, what are the statistical probabilities of it happening here again?

    And, that’s just ONE question that the ANTI-claque refuses to even begin to try to assimilate, much less answer.

    And, just by way of query, WHO IS IT THAT CURRENTLY IS DOING THE MOST TO THWART the program of intelligent and rational controls already legislated? Take a good look around; and it’s NOT those of us for whom “perfection” means blind obedience to other people’s notions. There is more of a “national disgrace” in irrational negativity than discussion any time, anywhere.

  4. Don Lopez on said:

    Mr. Littwin is a long-time proponent of gun control and on numerous occasions has used his column to further that cause. He has also used his column to express his outrage, sadness and almost a sense of resignation about gun related tragedies such as Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Ferguson, Navy Yard and Virginia Tech. Although, for some reason, he has never commented on the assassination of two New York City police officers.

    But what’s different this time is his attempt to characterize this tragedy as a hate crime, a characterization Mr. Littwin feels is “the logical conclusion.” Setting aside for the moment his definition of “logical”, how would Mr. Littwin react if the situation was reversed and a Muslim had murdered US citizens?

    Well, let’s go back to November, 2009 and find out. It was then that Army Major Nidal Malik Hassan killed 13 soldiers and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas. According to the New York Times, Major Hassan, a psychiatrist, “was motivated by two desires — to avoid deployment to Afghanistan and to kill as many soldiers as he could as part of a jihad to protect Muslims from American military aggression.“

    At the time, Mr. Littwin said, “I don’t doubt that Hasan’s actions were linked to Islamic extremism.”

    But he stopped short of calling it a hate crime or even an act of terrorism. So how did Mr. Littwin react when the shooting was not labeled a hate crime or even an act of terrorism but rather an act of workplace violence? Was he angry, shocked, befuddled, melancholy, indignant, depressed, confused, lugubrious, frothing at the mouth, enraged, going berserk?

    Well, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no and hell no. He was silent.

    Silence is, after all, Mr. Littwin’s strong suit. Consistency, well, not so much.

     “Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer involved in the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday. The federal investigation did not uncover any facts that differed significantly from the evidence made public by the authorities in Missouri late last year. ” New York Times January 21, 2015

    “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
    President Obama redefining “randomly”

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Wounded Warrior Project
    Memorial Day – May 25, 2015

  5. Will Morrison on said:

    Mr Guthrie, thanks for the reply. I appreciate the chance for discussion.

    I think that a lot of what you say is valid, but that it’s slanted by the level of debate allowed in what passes for news in this country. What we have is “two” sides that demonize each other rather than actually deal with reality. Faux puts a level of animosity in their reporting that I don’t see anywhere else in the world, and they are frequently seen as reasonable.

    So the story is not on anyone who actually has a good, solid idea (like background checks still are) but on those who are on the extremes. There ARE people in the middle, who believe that we should let people have guns as long as they aren’t already crooks, mentally ill or otherwise disqualified. That is the 90% who wanted those checks that the NRA stopped.

    Unfortunately, we are now in a situation where a fair number of people no longer see themselves as citizens of a country, just free agents. This makes them dangerous, and once they are armed, a lone nut is harder to find than a group, where SOMEONE will talk. We’re seeing that in courts and on the streets in shootouts with cops every day.

    My real issue isn’t even so much these people, as it is my basic belief that most people in this society just don’t have the emotional stability or the sense of actual responsibility for their own actions to be able to handle a weapon in their own homes. Think about any ten people you know, just randomly. Would you want all of them armed at any given time? Honestly, I know enough about myself to know that I am NOT on my own list of people I would want armed.

    And when yo look at the average person on the street, how many stories in the news today are about that very type of person who flipped out and shot someone over nothing? There’s a story out right now about a woman who was teaching her child to drive, got into some kind of argument with another driver and got shot to death. And it’s just another Sunday in America. Nothing will change because of ANY of it.

    So really, we can both complain about either side and their actions or inaction, but nothing will be changing any time soon. Other than the gun nuts DO end up getting more places to flash their toys in other people’s faces, and the rest of us won’t have a thing we can do about it.

    Whose rights are getting trumped, again?

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