Caroline Bankoff reviews what we know about Sunday’s bizarre shooting spree in Las Vegas:
Late Sunday morning, a man and a woman identified as Jerad and Amanda Miller barged into a Las Vegas restaurant called CiCi’s Pizza, shouted “This is a revolution!” and fatally shot two police officers who were having lunch. The pair stripped the officers of their weapons and ammunition and covered their bodies with a swastika and a Gadsden flag (that’s the one with the coiled snake and the words “Don’t Tread On Me”). They then took off for a nearby Walmart, where they shot and killed Joseph Robert Wilcox as he attempted to confront them with his own gun. After exchanging gunfire with the police, the Amanda shot her Jerad and then herself in what was described as “an apparent suicide pact.”
“What precipitated this event, we do not know,” Sheriff Douglas Gillespie told reporters after the attack. However, neighbors told the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the couple was known for talking about their racist and anti-government views, and bragging about their ties to libertarian hero and fellow racist Cliven Bundy.
Jesse Walker observes how the media narrative is coalescing around the Millers’ ties to Bundy and the militia movement, noting how the distinction between the Millers’ beliefs and those of most militia members gets lost in the fray:
As I’ve noted before when writing about the militia movement, violence on the far right often comes from hotheads who have been kicked out of the more mainstream militias. (Is “mainstream” the right word? It’s all relative, I suppose.) When actual organizations talk up non-defensive violence, they are often isolated and despised within the larger militia milieu. Yet these divisions are frequently missed in public discussions of the issue, which often lump all the “extremists” together—and, as a result, look in the wrong places for terrorist threats. Even when analysts argue that lone wolves acting on their own are a more likely source of violence than militias acting as groups, there’s a mistaken tendency to treat “radicalization” as the problem and to ignore all the cross-currents within a particular radical community. (J.M. Berger offers some strong arguments against that habit here.)
Paul Waldman makes the inevitable connection with the over-the-top rhetoric of the right:
The most obvious component is the fetishization of firearms and the constant warnings that government will soon be coming to take your guns. But that’s only part of it. Just as meaningful is the conspiracy theorizing that became utterly mainstream once Barack Obama took office. If you tuned into one of many national television and radio programs on the right, you heard over and over that Obama was imposing a totalitarian state upon us. …
To take just one of an innumerable number of examples, when GOP Senator Ron Johnson says that the Affordable Care Act is “the greatest assault on freedom in our lifetime,” and hopes that the Supreme Court will intervene to preserve our “last shred of freedom,” is it at all surprising that some people might be tempted to take up arms?
David Harsanyi swats this argument away:
Yes, of course it would be surprising. Fortunately, despite the active imagination of pundits, no one has taken up arms to repeal Obamacare — ever.
Now, some of you would-be enablers of terrorism might argue that an individual mandate that allows government to coerce all citizen to purchase a product on the open market is, as far as policy goes, unprecedented. So it could be argued, reasonably, that it constitutes one of the most serious “assaults” on individual freedom in recent memory. Nothing in that statement, though, intimates that Americans should ambush their local police officers. Nothing in that statement implies that that you “harbor anti-government ideology.” We’re just debating the size of government. Harboring a desire to cut the budget to 2008 levels does not, despite what you may have heard, make you an anarchist.