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Cop Killers And Political Opportunism

by @ 9:19 am on April 6, 2009. Filed under In The News, Media, Politics

On Saturday morning in Pittsburgh, a man named Richard Poplawski killed three police officers after a domestic disturbance led to a standoff and, at least, initially the incident seemed to have a political component:

A man opened fire on officers during a domestic disturbance call Saturday morning, killing three of them, a police official said.

Friends said 23 year-old Richard Poplawski feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.


Poplawski’s friends at the scene described him as a young man who thought the Obama administration would ban guns.

One friend, Edward Perkovic, said Poplawski feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon.”

Another longtime friend, Aaron Vire, said he feared that President Obama was going to take away his rights, though he said he “wasn’t violently against Obama.”

Not surprisingly, several bloggers on the left jumped on this as evidence that so-called “right wing propaganda” was somehow responsible for this tragedy. The founder of Daily Kos, meanwhile, took it one step further:

DanaHoule With no Veep to shoot people, folks are taking things in to their own hands

DanaHoule “He said he’ll be ready if there’s ever an invasion of the United States and that he had stockpiled foods and guns…” Wolverines!!

markosmoulitsas RT @DanaHoule: With no Veep to shoot people, folks are taking things in to their own hands

markosmoulitsas When we were out of power, we organized to win the next election. Conservatives, apparently, prefer to talk “revolution” and kill cops.

Even the normally reasonable Justin Gardner seemed to jump to some rather extreme conclusions:

Scare tactics like these may not seem like a big deal for you or I, but for those who genuinely trust Hannity…what do you think they’d believe after this? And let’s not pretend that guns sales didn’t spike after Obama won last year.

But, to be absolutely clear, this type of behavior doesn’t make the right-wing media responsible for the actions of people who go postal. But since when is it responsible behavior to create a climate of fear when there’s virtually no evidence that what they’re saying will happen?

One could say much the same thing, though, about the reaction of many political bloggers to this tragedy which, as it turns out, may have had more to do with a dog than gun control:

(CNN) — Three Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, police officers were shot to death while responding to a 911 call of a domestic argument triggered by a urinating dog, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.


She told police she awoke to discover that “the dog had urinated on the floor,” and awakened her son “to confront him about it.”

The two had an argument, and Margaret Poplawski told her son she was calling police to remove him from her home, according to the complaint. When officers Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo III arrived, she opened the door and let them in.

“Mrs. Poplawski reported that as the officers entered approximately 10 feet into the residence, she heard gunshots, turned and saw her son about six feet away with a long rifle in his hands, at which point she fled downstairs after asking him, ‘What the hell have you done?'” the complaint said.

Margaret Poplawski reported she stayed in the basement during the standoff, and heard her son yell, “Yeah, I’ve been shot,” and “I’m standing down, come in and help me,” according to the complaint.

And as far as politics are concerned, it seems that Poplawski was way off the deep end to begin with:

Mr. Poplawski’s view of guns and personal freedom took a turn toward the fringes of American politics. With Mr. Perkovic, he appeared to share a belief that the government was controlled from unseen forces, that troops were being shipped home from the Mideast to police the citizenry here, and that Jews secretly ran the country.

Believing most media were covering up important events, Mr. Poplawski turned to a far-right conspiracy Web site run by Alex Jones, a self-described documentarian with roots going back to the extremist militia movement of the early 1990s.

Around the same time, he joined Florida-based Stormfront, which has long been a clearinghouse Web site for far-right groups. He posted photographs of his tattoo, an eagle spread across his chest.

“I was considering gettin’ life runes on the outside of my calfs,” he wrote. Life runes are a common symbol among white supremacists, notably followers of The National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group linked to an array of violent organizations.

So, this probably had nothing to do with politics at all and, if it did, it’s fairly clear that the gunman’s views had nothing to do with mainstream American politics.

It’s truly sad that people jumped on this to make a political point.

4 Responses to “Cop Killers And Political Opportunism”

  1. Doug, usually I don’t use the “context” argument, but you’re leaving out a big piece of that post, which was a 6 minute, sinister video that Hannity put together last year before the election about Obama’s “real” stance on gun control.

    And whether you want to admit it or not, gun sales did skyrocket. If you don’t think there’s a causal relationship between the right wing’s efforts to convince gun owners that Obama would take their firearms away from them and those sales, well, I urge you to seriously reconsider.

    Also, how is it extreme to suggest that it’s not responsible behavior for the media to be pushing scary memes that aren’t supported by the facts?

    One last note, why didn’t you post the fact that I called out Kos too in a post that very same day?

  2. Justin,

    And yet it now seems that gun rights had very little to do with what happened in Pittsburgh, no ?

    And so what if gun sales have skyrocketed ? Is there something wrong with people who want to own guns ?

  3. Polimom says:


    I probably shouldn’t jump into what looks to be a private argument, but your response compels mine. You said:

    “And so what if gun sales have skyrocketed ? Is there something wrong with people who want to own guns ?”

    I strongly support the 2nd Amendment, and at the most superficial level, the answer is an emphatic “NO! — There’s nothing wrong with people who want to bear arms!”. Nothing wrong, that is, as long as the people buying them are sane.

    There is, however, something extremely scary about people who are buying guns frantically because they believe every nutty conspiracy they hear.

    People who have paranoia fantasies aren’t able to distinguish hyperbole a la Glenn Beck (as an example) — and there are, in fact, some extremely crazy individuals out there who are deliberately inciting and provoking (like Hal Turner).

    Our society contains within it a disturbing number of psychologically unstable people like this Richard Poplawski. The problem isn’t the guns. It’s the madness of some of the people acquiring them — a madness that laps up incitement and hyperbole like a drug.

    It’s not just like yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. It’s like yelling fire in a crowd that already thinks it smells smoke.

  4. EJ says:

    i would also poitn out that the increase in gun sales also correlates with the fiancial meltdowns and panic that occured over the fall – events that increase those who subscribe to doomsday scenarios. I’m sure electric generators and bottled water sales also probably spiked.

    But as you said, so what if people bought more guns? And to some extent there probably was some legitmate worry that certain types of firearms have a chance of becoming illegal in the future. Is that concern completely unfounded?

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