Investigators in Colorado Springs remain scrupulously careful about assigning a motive to the apparent Black Friday amoklauf in that conservative city, the second mass-shooting there in one month. It's an unusual case because the shooter, finding himself surrounded, decided to surrender after several hours holed up in a Planned Parenthood clinic, during which time he shot five policemen, killing one, and murdered two other people. Live reports established the ambiguity, raising the question of whether the shooter had struck first at a nearby bank; it turned out that people fleeing from Planned Parenthood fled to the bank and reported the incident from there. By now many of you have seen the shooter; he looks like the sort capable of multiple motives competing for dominance in the cramped space of his consciousness. Sources within the investigation have emphasized that among many other things, he said something to the effect of: "no more baby parts." While people who knew the shooter in recent residences have described him as an apparent right-winger with no particular grievance against abortion that any can recall, it would seem that he, like many less violent people, was galvanized by the video revelations about Planned Parenthood's dealing in body parts for researchers, and that that widely-shared outrage contributed to, if it didn't determine, his attack on the clinic. While some people are already unambiguously affirming that premise, the pro-life movement has grown defensive, denying any linkage between what they say and what anyone does -- at least when someone does something violent. The usual charges of hypocrisy have already been exchanged. If the right is so eager to blame Muslim violence on Islam, the left says, then they must admit anti-abortion propaganda's share of responsibility for the Black Friday shootings. If the left is reluctant to blame Muslim violence on Islam, the right says, they should not blame anti-abortion propaganda for the shootings.
It may be up to the gun lobby to tip the balance. That lobby's usual argument is that mere possession of guns is never sufficient to explain an amoklauf. Instead, gun lobbyists prefer to emphasize mental illness and, more importantly for this new debate, the corrupting effect of media. Rather than do something about guns, they say, do something about violent video games or violent movies. To be consistent, then, and in the absence of more than superficial psychoanalysis -- the shooter only looks crazy to us -- organizations like the National Rifle Association should have to affirm that the Planned Parenthood videos and related propaganda are dangerously inflammatory and a more immediate and remediable cause of the carnage in Colorado Springs than the shooter's easy access to firearms. Conversely, the pro-life movement might consider coming out for greater gun control, if only so no one will blame their propaganda for future shootings, if not also because a "pro-life" movement really should take such a stand. It's amusing to imagine these two core constituencies of the Republican party turning on each other to avoid blame for Colorado Springs, but it's more likely that both sides will agree that the shooter was nuts and end the conversation. While that might not exempt him from personal responsibility for the shootings by their moral standards, it will certainly take them off the hook.