By John Kass
April 24, 2018
Travis Reinking, the suspect in a deadly shooting at an Antioch Waffle House, is escorted into Hill Detention Center for booking in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, April 23, 2018. (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean)
Travis Reinking, the mentally disturbed man charged in the Waffle House killings, had his guns taken away with the help of law enforcement.
This is a fact.
But the guns were returned to him by his father, and four people were killed the other day in that Waffle House in Nashville, Tenn.
These, too, are facts.
President Donald Trump did not give the guns back to Reinking, the NRA didn’t, and theRepublicans did not meet in a quiet cloakroom so innocents would be slaughtered.
Law-abiding gun owners of America didn’t demand that the guns be returned to a man with obvious mental illness.
The killer’s father, Jeffrey Reinking, did that on his own, according to police.
He took possession of the guns from law enforcement. He knew that his son was sick, that he may well have been dangerous.
And yet he gave them back to his son.
Yes, facts are stubborn things, aren’t they?
Yet immediately after the Waffle House killings, the hot takes were launched in media, on Twitter, and the high priests of the left began attacking the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
It was Trump’s fault and the NRA’s fault and the fault of America’s “gun-culture” and the Republicans’ fault, and the fault of the patriots who wrote the Constitution to protect liberty and minority rights, and on and on.
If you’re a regular consumer of American news, you know this liturgy by heart. Do we really need another “town meeting” on national cable news to unleash the demagogues?
Using the Nashville Waffle House shooting in hot takes to shame Americans away from publicly supporting the Second Amendment must be extremely satisfying to some.
But it’s about as logical as using the Toronto van attack the other day to stop Canadians from renting vans.
When partisan politics meets fear and opportunity, the hot takes come rushing, and the herding of the mob commences and facts are pushed aside.
We’ve seen this before in the aftermath of other shootings, like the recent carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
The immediate cry was to gut the Bill of Rights in the name of “common sense” gun laws, and those who didn’t join up were shamed.
Only later did facts come out.
An armed Broward County sheriff’s deputy refused to engage the shooter. Local law enforcement had repeated run-ins with the alleged shooter; they knew he was armed and dangerous and yet did nothing.
The federal PROMISE program, brainchild of the Obama administration, was designed to allow schools to deal with disciplinary issues without notifying police.
The 19-year-old suspect, former student Nikolas Cruz, was reportedly not in this program. But such policies may allow troublemakers like him to fall through the cracks.
Seventeen were killed, and he confessed pulling the trigger, authorities said.
But before the details were all known, the hot takes were already thrown.
Appeals to fear and rage aren’t policy, but they are effective politics, especially in a culture that has been weaned away from understanding that our republic was designed to be slow and deliberate to protect the rights of the minority against the passions of the day.
Now we’re fed a daily dose of policy by polls and pundits shouting on TV. Civics in schools is an afterthought.
Fear and rage are potent weapons. And there’s nothing like pushing raw emotion and political tribal chant to herd people to policy, whether that be another war in the Middle East or tearing up the Bill of Rights.
Are there good and honestly outraged and frightened Americans who just want to put an end to these shootings? Yes, of course.
But fear and outrage also have political utility. And those techniques are used by political hacks with their eyes on the 2018 elections.
That is the way of hot takes. Then, a few hours pass, and the facts start coming out.
In August 2017, the U.S. Secret Service arrested Travis Reinking, who is from downstate Morton, Ill., near the White House. He demanded a meeting with President Trump. Federal authorities contacted the Illinois State Police asking that Reinking’s state firearm owner’s identification card be revoked. It was. He gave up his FOID card.
Travis Reinking also gave up his guns, three rifles and a 9 mm handgun.
But his father gave them back to him.
In June 2017, Travis Reinking was wearing a dress, pulled it off and jumped into a pool and began yelling at people. Authorities said he was spotted tossing a rifle into the trunk of his car.
According to news reports, a Tazewell County, Ill., sheriff’s deputy told the father what had happened, adding in his police report that “he might want to lock the guns back up until Travis gets mental help which he stated he would.”
That report mentions Jeffrey Reinking taking Travis’ guns away earlier.
And in May 2016, the sheriff’s office found Travis Reinking talking of suicide, that pop singer Taylor Swift was stalking him and that he had weapons.
You want “common sense” gun laws? How about promoting Gun Violence Restraining Order bills in the states? A GVRO would allow family members living with a mentally ill person to seek a court order to temporarily seize their guns.
But in this case?
This one is not on law-abiding gun owners who safely keep weapons to defend themselves and their families, as is their right.
This one’s on the father.
He gave those guns back to his son.
Listen to “The Chicago Way” podcast with John Kass and Jeff Carlin atwww.wgnradio.com/category/wgn-plus/thechicagoway.
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