This space joins with every other Pittsburgher -- and every law-abiding person everywhere -- in expressing sorrow for the tragic deaths of Pittsburgh police officers Stephen J. Mayhle, Eric Kelly, and Paul J. Sciullo II. We offer prayers to their families, for our city, and for the justice system which must weigh the fate of the man accused of the crime, Richard Poplawski.
One of the many sad things about the shooting, though, is that our sorrow is all that seems to join us. The officers have not even been laid to rest, and yet a divisive debate over gun rights has already surfaced.
I should say that, for a lefty type, I'm pretty ambivalent about most gun-control legislation. But I guess this isn't a time for ambivalence. The folks at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence have already issued a statement decrying the Pittsburgh killings, and calling for gun-control reform.
Meanwhile, an online forum hosted by the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association shows the concerns of gun owners close to home.
Obviously, gun owners are as appalled as everyone else by the shootings, and much of the forum is taken up with expressions of condolence and sorrow, similar to those we've all been expressing in the past two days. But gun owners bring some additional concerns to the news as well.
As you might expect, some members are worried about the Brady Campaign's call, and what the shooting will mean for gun rights. Some even warn that if gun control is passed, other gun owners may follow Poplowsky's example
sure this guy was a nutjob, anyone committing domestic violence on their mother has some serious problems...
but how long will it be before some of us are faced with the choice of give up our guns or resist? how many of us own guns that are going to look too scary to be legal in the near future?
and how many people will resist? how many scenes like we saw today will play out nationwide?
[T]his spree of killings lately are going to put us in a very bad spot. We're up against Executive and Legislative branches setting up to revoke our rights. These recent cases are excellent platforms for the antis to launch the next assuault on us. We all know the reality of these people going berserk, the gun wasn't the criminal, but this is going to be spun hard against us nevertheless. If a ban does come into play will resistance be spun as just more nutcases?
Members are also, understandably, concerned that gun owners will be tarred with the crime. One member posts:
Then his "friend" states that "he believed in gun rights" and "he disliked the Zionist control of our government", all in the same sentence! Now we we all look like skinheads to joe public.
prompting the response
Unfortunately, it's probably going to get twisted around to look like us, too.
As it turns out, though, there's also concern that Poplawski may really BE one of them. Members themselves are speculating that he might have been a member of their forum, posting under the name "Rwhiteman."
It's not clear that Poplawski is "Rwhiteman" -- that user's account profile identifies his home in Westmoreland County, for one thing. And as one poster points out, with obvious sarcasm, we should be careful about leaping to conclusions because:
Its not as if PAFOA would forever be wrongly associated with a white supremecist that murdered three police officers because the media would be falling all over themselves to correct the misinformation that was spread.
But the "Rwhiteman" account has been banned, and all his posts have apparently been deleted since they were discussed in the forum. I did, however, find a place in which his textwas incorporated by posters responding to him ... and it appears that "Rwhiteman" had at least one encounter where police questioned him about his gun ownership. That encounter ended amicably, it seems, as noted in this post:I dont want enemies, period. I dont want LEO [law enforcement officer] enemies. I dont want LOCAL LEO enemies. Believe me, I had a morbid curiousity right below my skin that wanted to buck agaisnt what was happening. Part of me wanted to be a snot and have them attempt to crucify me so I could run on here and post it. But what good does that do?
I don't know who "Rwhiteman" is. But I wish that the man who gunned down those officers could have asked himself the same question on Saturday morning.