Littwin: Planned Parenthood shooting: Shocking news that still shocks

People escort an injured person to an ambulance.

The only good news out of Colorado Springs is that the shocking news there still manages to shock.

The attack on Planned Parenthood — whatever the motive, which remains unclear at this writing — brings a different angle to the all-too-familiar story of a disturbed man with too-easy access to guns who goes on a killing spree and terrorizes a town.

With each killing, we point out just how often these shootings take place, and the gun-rights defenders take a firm stand against politicizing the epidemic of gun violence, as if there were any other way to respond to the unchecked horror.

A month ago, in the last such killing in Colorado Springs, a man walked around the neighborhood carrying an assault-style rifle. A nervous 911 caller was assured that open-carrying an assault-style rifle is perfectly legal in Colorado, unless he does something illegal with the gun. In this case, he killed three people.

This time, on Thanksgiving weekend, at a heavily protected Planned Parenthood building where protests are routine in the famously conservative city, where the “butcher” rhetoric has taken to the national political stage in the aftermath of the heavily edited sting tapes, when too many politicians seem unworried about the risk of violence, in a time when the FBI has issued warnings of possible attacks on Planned Parenthood, three are dead and nine injured and a city and state are once more left trying to recover from a tragedy. And in maybe the ultimate politicization, ThinkProgress reports that as of late Friday night, long after the 5-hour standoff had ended, none of the GOP candidates for president had issued any statement at all. Do the politics of Planned Parenthood trump ordinary sympathy?

But also, this time, Garrett Swasey, a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs cop who was also a longtime co-pastor in a conservative church which doesn’t believe in abortion, gave his life protecting those with whom he disagreed, a statement that goes far beyond ordinary sympathy.

In Washington, Barack Obama, who late in his tenure has become a leader on gun control, issued a statement saying, in part, “This is not normal. We can’t let it become normal. If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough.”

Period. Enough is enough. But of course, there will be more. We have known since at least Sandy Hook that there is no shock great enough to change what is the new normal.

Still, the stories remind us of the human stakes involved. We watched for hours on television as the madness of the situation sunk in. The stories of police heroics. The stories of eyewitnesses who came, literally, face to face with the shooter. The stories of a frightened woman calling her brother. The stories of the cops risking all. We watched the standoff on television and maybe we wondered why such violence is all but routine.

Meanwhile, we know the name of the shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, but little else about him. It seems strange in this age of instant information that we don’t know more, but we will. Meanwhile, the arguments have begun over whether to call this domestic terrorism — like the arguments about whether those who launched the Paris attacks were “radical jihadis” or “radical Islamists.” But the semantics matter far less than the facts of a Black Friday that, unfortunately, earned the name.

What we know for sure is that a seemingly mad gunman shot and killed innocent people, adding these latest victims to an ever-expanding list of those killed by gun violence in America.

Photo credit: Marianne Goodland


  1. It hasn’t been mentioned in any of the police briefings I’ve attended, but the investigation is only in its first days, so stay tuned.

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