Partisanship didn’t cause Scalise shooting, the rage of the unheard did
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

A lone gunman, reportedly distraught over President Trump’s election, opened fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team last week. 

Bullets struck four people including the majority whip of the House of Representatives­– Steve Scalise (R-La.).

In the hours that followed, it quickly became clear that the senseless act of violence was deeply condemned by the vast majority of people, regardless of political affiliation. 

As it should.


However, despite the unity in wishing the victims full and speedy recoveries, the partisan vitriol that preceded the attack immediately continued in placing blame for the shooting.


It is no surprise that conservatives blamed liberals.

Memes featuring pictures of Kathy Griffin holding the — now infamous — decapitated Trump effigy; resist protesters burning cars; and beaten up Trump paraphernalia-wearing conservatives accompanied social media posts as additional evidence of the "violent left."

Author Dinesh D'Souza tweeted, "What do @KathyGriffin and the theatrical Trump assassins in the park say when they see their words translated into action?"

Meanwhile, it was equally unsurprising that the left blamed lax gun control for the shooting.

David Frum, senior editor of The Atlantic, tweeted "Virginia: No background checks. No licensing. No registration. No permit req'd for concealed carry of long guns. Open carry long guns & handguns."

Igor Volsky, Vice President at the Center for American Progress, tweeted "Deranged people of all types & motivations do bad things. Access to guns makes them deadly. We must make guns harder to get in America."

In response, conservatives accused the left of using this tragedy to push gun control policy and exploiting the violent victimization of a Republican who would likely oppose such reform.

While some have jumped to their partisan conclusion on why a prominent politician was gunned down in a democracy like America, others are thinking longer and harder about what transpired.

In due time, more details about the gunman's motivation will probably be revealed, but whatever he believed and however he attempted to rationalize his actions will likely be only a symptom of a larger sociological problem­ that would still exist even if his access to guns were more restricted.

Ignoring the disaffected is one way to create an environment that cultivates violence. For example, like the Baltimore riots in 1968, liberal protesters resorted to violent demonstrations following the police-involved death of Freddie Gray.

In the 60's Martin Luther King explained the riots as "the language of the unheard." 

That message resonates still. While racism is no longer as overt as it once was, covert forms are still prevalent, but largely ignored.

In addition to racism, restricted access to education, justice, physical and mental healthcare, and affordable housing, are among other issues lacking solutions.

Elected officials must regain perceived legitimacy by addressing the sociological issues that plague the disaffected; while also becoming more trustworthy, respectful, and neutral; as well as giving all people a voice by listening to their concerns, regardless of partisanship.

For years, America's perceived legitimacy has been compromised, most recently with Russian intervention in the election of the president of our sovereign nation. 

More consistently, our country has disenfranchised and marginalized large segments of our population without redress.

Why does America's democracy now find itself in a place where people resort to violence to express their political disagreements? Because the process in place to arbitrate these disagreements is no longer perceived as being procedurally just.

If American politicians don't regain legitimacy and begin addressing the sociological root causes of incidents like this, these tragedies will be destined to repeat and our rule of law will continue to erode to the detriment of us all.

Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco holds a Ph.D. in Criminology, Law and Society from George Mason University, with an expertise in human trafficking. She currently serves as a human trafficking expert witness for criminal cases and her book, “Hidden in Plain Sight: America's Slaves of the New Millennium,” will be published by Praeger/ABC-Clio this year. Mehlman-Orozco’s writing can be found in Thompson Reuters, Forbes, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, The Baltimore Sun, The Crime Report and The Diplomatic Courier.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.