Before Dylann Storm was arraigned for his alleged crimes of mass murder, even before any determination of probable cause was made in a courtroom, the governor of South Carolina, was crying out for the death penalty. Almost simultaneously, President Obama seized on the moment, and reiterated his familiar anti-gun message. The New York Times reports:
[“This is a state that is hurt by the fact that nine people innocently were killed,” Gov. Nikki R. Haley said, adding that the state “absolutely will want him to have the death penalty.”
Her comments came hours before the suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, a white man who returned to Charleston under heavy guard on Thursday night after his arrest in North Carolina, was expected to go before a judge on Friday afternoon for a bond hearing, where he will hear the charges against him].
Meanwhile, even as Obama took to the microphones to denounce the “easy access” to gun message he has regularly sounded across the nation, Gov. Haley was ducking that issue. Again, the Times reported:
[On Thursday, President Obama spoke of the shooting and lamented what he called the easy access to guns, an issue he has tried and failed to address with legislation.
In the interview on Friday, Ms. Haley, a strong proponent of gun rights, deflected a question about whether the shooting would change her position on the issue.
“Anytime there is traumatic situation, people want something to blame. They always want something to go after,” she said. “There is one person to blame here. We are going to focus on that one person,” she added, referring to Mr. Roof].
These quick messages, in the immediate wake of such a tragic event, are expected from politicians, but in some way, diminish the soul of the process for those grieving their losses caused by the acts of an evil, and most likely mentally disturbed man. Grieving the death of loved ones is personal and specific, using the tragedy to highlight general beliefs, when the emotional impact of the events runs high, is disrespectful to those who are grieving. We know little about the details of the case, and certainly not enough to call for Roof’s death. A multitude of psychological and legal issues are certain to gain center stage during the legal proceedings in this case; it is premature and disingenuous for a public official to be already calling for the death penalty. As for President Obama’s comments, we think that Roof received a weapon for a birthday present, but we do not know whether that weapon was used during the commission of these horrific crimes. More importantly, we do not know that in these cases, and it certainly is not apparent in the general sense, that “easy access” to guns played an antecedent role in these murders; regardless, talk of such matters should be suspended while people grieve.