Following deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio less than 24 hours apart, our state senator issued a series of tweets tossing out the standard “thoughts and prayers” script on gun violence in America.
The Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso left more than 20 dead. The shooter in Dayton on Aug. 4 killed nine. To have two such deadly events occur so close together leaves us shaken.
State Sen. Steve Hershey, R-36-Upper Shore, showed real character when he sent out messages that he was really one of us too, another American hurt to see such tragedies continuing to transpire.
“I’m done with the thoughts and prayers. I’m done with the phony outrage from scores of politicians. I’m angry. I’m horrified. I’m devastated. Our American culture is suffering. Let’s call this what it is: A white nationalist committed an act of terrorism,” tweeted the senator, who represents Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, as well as parts of Cecil and Caroline counties.
A series of tweets followed in which Hershey took a stand against the rise of white supremacy and white nationalism in the United States, even tagging the president in a tweet quoting Donald Trump’s description of the El Paso shooter as a “wicked man.”
“Mr. President: The El Paso gunman is a wicked man. He’s also a terrorist and he’s a white nationalist. The first step in solving any problem is admitting that we have one. We have a white nationalist and white supremacy problem in America. Call it out, @realDonaldTrump,” Hershey tweeted.
As Cecil Whig Executive Editor Jacob Owens, who covered this story, noted, Hershey is the state Senate minority whip. That makes him one of the top-ranked Republicans in the General Assembly.
Meanwhile a Republican state representative in Ohio named Candice Keller offered these items, among many more, on her now-deleted tweet list of the causes of mass shootings:”The breakdown of the traditional American family (thank you, transgender, homosexual marriage, and drag queen advocates),” “hatred of our veterans (thank you professional athletes who hate our flag and National Anthem),” “the ignoring of violent video games,” “the relaxing of laws against criminals (open borders)” and “snowflakes, who can’t accept a duly elected president.”
“Did I forget anybody? The list is long. And the fury will continue,” she wrote in her deleted post, as shown by Columbus, Ohio CBS affiliate WBNS.
While Hershey received praise from the likes of Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, the number two Republican in Maryland, and lawmakers in the Democratic Party, unsurprisingly he found himself on the receiving end of scorn for his comments. He did not back down.
“Why is it that when a Republican like myself — a proud conservative, a small businessman, middle-class guy — speaks out on gun violence and cultural corrosion, some of these hard partisans begin to assume I’ve transformed into a ‘leftwing agent?’ Thats nuts,” Hershey tweeted.
He followed with: “We cannot allow our political system to be co-opted by irrational partisan hacks. There is nothing more American than putting aside partisanship and working with people — not political parties — to end mass shootings. We’ve got to get past the politics and work together.”
When it comes to gun control, Maryland has already done what many are seeking from Congress. The state banned assault weapons. The state passed a red flag law on requiring firearms to be turned over to police by anyone who is subject of an extreme risk protective order.
Meanwhile nary a statement can be found from our congressman, Dr. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st, following the El Paso and Dayton shootings. We asked his office if he would like to provide a statement, but did not receive one. A July 29 email to a local constituent and featuring Harris’ congressional letterhead spoke about his efforts to defend Americans’ right to own “popular semi-automatic rifles,” though.
Harris previously offered these responses on gun control at a March 2018 town hall in Harford County to a pair of concerned students following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“The fact of the matter is deaths in Maryland from AR-15s is almost zero,” Harris said at the 2018 town hall, as reported by Katie Tabeling of the Cecil Whig. “Gun violence doesn’t happen on the Eastern or Western Shore of Maryland.”
Harris reportedly continued at the Joppa town hall, shouting at the two female high school students, one them named Alison.
“I have raised $10 million over the last eight years,” Harris said. “Do you really think my vote in Congress depends on $20,000 in donations [from the NRA]? No, they depend on my parents coming from communist countries where they were not allowed to have a firearm. Alison, you are lucky to be in America.”
But gun violence did happen in Maryland, at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis on June 28, 2018, just a few months after Harris’ town hall. And then another happened at a Rite Aid distribution center in Aberdeen on Sept. 20, 2018.
We should not have to worry about someone shooting up the school our children attend. We should not feel the need to try to figure out an escape route while waiting in the checkout line of a grocery store. We should not have to worry about our desk being next to the front door of the office. We should not have to worry about movie theaters or a popular nightspot. We should not have to go through ALICE training. We should not have to live like this.
Finding solutions to the complex issues surrounding mass shootings — including mental health, gun ownership and racism — will take real work from lawmakers who care about actual outcomes not, as Hershey called them, the “irrational partisan hacks.”