The Democrats' Cynical Exploitation of the Michigan State University Shooting Is Indefensible | Opinion

Tragedy struck close to home for me this week. I was at my rec soccer league yesterday when people's phones began buzzing with the disturbing news of an active shooter alert at Michigan State University, an hour's drive away from where we were playing. My heart filled with dread, first at the thought of more families left broken, then at the thought of yet more toxic political discourse steamrolling through my state and our nation.

My concern proved well-founded. The bodies were hardly cold before some of Michigan's most prominent Democrats began exploiting the news to attack their political opponents and pursue a partisan agenda. House Majority Whip State Rep. Ranjeev Puri, a Democrat, put out a statement which boasted an opening line of "f**k your thoughts and prayers" and went on to demand "common sense gun reform" and blame the shooting on past "inaction."

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, another Democratic darling, took the opportunity to smear her political opponents as people who don't care about children. "You either care about protecting kids or you don't," Rep. Slotkin said. "Please don't tell me you care about the safety of children if you're not willing to have a conversation about keeping them safe. If this is not a wake-up call to do something, I do not know what is."

Translation: People who don't agree with us on gun policy have "blood on their hands" and don't care about dead children.

These Democratic leaders made these sweeping denouncements before any of the facts had come in. They blamed opponents of their agenda for the MSU shooting before even knowing the shooter's motive, what gun was used, how that gun was obtained, whether it was obtained legally, or whether any of their proposed laws would've made any difference at all.

They used the MSU tragedy as a political bludgeon, to hit their opponents over the head with regardless of the actual facts of this case.

That's despicable—and deeply intellectually dishonest.

For one thing, Americans on either side of the gun debate all care about protecting children and young people from gun violence. They simply disagree on what the best approach is toward doing that. We should be able to have conversations, even about the most morally charged of subjects, without demonizing our enemies or assigning to them the worst possible motives.

Honest adults know the real world is more complicated than a child's vision of the "good guys" versus the "bad guys."

What's more, it's bad enough to weaponize a tragedy to push an agenda when the facts of the tragedy do in fact bolster your argument. It is exponentially worse to do so when this isn't the case. And that's what we're dealing with in the case of the MSU shooting.

Michigan State University students hug during an active shooter situation on campus on February 13, 2023 in Lansing, Michigan. Five people were shot and the gunman still at large following the attack, according to published reports. The reports say some of the victims have life-threatening injuries. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

For starters, we know the shooter has a past criminal history of illegally possessing a firearm. In June of 2019, he was charged with carrying a concealed pistol without a concealed carry permit, according to court records obtained by The Detroit News. A court order barred him from having a weapon "of any type" during the term of his probation, which was extended once, into 2021. So we know that this man had zero respect for gun laws. The idea that another law could have stopped this deranged killer, whose motive we still don't know, is entirely unsubstantiated.

If anything, existing anti-gun policies may have enabled the shooting; in keeping with state-wide policy, Michigan State University does not allow law-abiding students or staff to exercise their constitutional rights and carry guns on campus, even though if they live anywhere else in Michigan other than on a college campus, they can carry a gun with the proper permit.

We'll never know what could have happened in a counterfactual scenario where MSU students weren't stripped of their right to self-defense. But it's at least possible that someone would have been able to stop the shooter and save some of these tragically lost lives. Guns are used in self-defense approximately 500,000 to 3 million times per year in America. We have seen other mass shootings stopped in their tracks by armed samaritans.

Of course, this does not mean those who hold anti-gun beliefs have any moral culpability in the shooting—that belongs to the shooter alone. I wish both sides of this debate could manage to have it without resorting to the kind of manipulative and opportunistic blame game that Democrats engage in whenever these horrific tragedies occur.

Even in the aftermath of such tragedies—especially in the aftermath—we must enter that debate in good faith. Too many Michigan Democrats are failing to do so.

Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is a libertarian-conservative journalist and the co-founder of BASEDPolitics.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.