A man illegally carrying a handgun into the Wisconsin Capitol while seeking Democratic Governor Tony Evers was arrested, posted bail, and then returned with an assault rifle.
“A man illegally brought a handgun into the Wisconsin Capitol, demanding to see Gov. Tony Evers, and returned at night with an assault rifle after posting bail, a spokesperson for the state said Thursday,” KKTV reported.
“The man, who was shirtless and had a holstered handgun, approached the governor’s office on the first floor of the Capitol around 2 p.m. Wednesday, state Department of Administration spokesperson Tatyana Warrick said. The man was demanding to see the governor, who was not in the building at the time, Warrick said.”
In case you’re wondering why it was illegal for this shirtless man to carry a handgun in the Capitol, it is apparently legal to conceal carry in the Capitol, but not to carry outright. (A pause while readers digest just exactly what this law invites.)
This threat brings to mind the recent attacks and near-misses of attempts of violence on Democrats, including the brutal hammer attack of then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband by a man who radicalized by right wing lies and conspiracies, the Utah man who threatened to assassinate President Joe Biden and ended up being shot by the FBI, the armed man arrested outside of what he thought was former President Barack Obama’s home, and the men who plotted to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer during the pandemic.
Six days before the shooting of the man planning to kill the President of the United States, a Texas man was sentenced to prison for threatening to kill Arizona election workers and “Four days before that, prosecutors charged a 56-year-old Michigan woman for lying to buy guns for her mentally ill adult son, who threatened to use them against Biden and that state’s Democratic governor.”
Seeing a theme here?
Sadly, those threats against Whitmer didn’t end when three men were convicted of attempting to kidnap the Democratic Governor last October. State Assistant Attorney General Bill Rollstin told jurors according to NPR, “and you begin to see — wow — there were things that happened that people knew about. … When you see how close Adam Fox got to the governor, you can see how a very bad event was thwarted.”
But in March of 2023, a Michigan man made threats of violence against President Joe Biden, Gov. Whitmer, law enforcement and the LGBTQ community that rose to the level of concern to be investigated by the FBI.
“The FBI received an online tip earlier this week from Google about an “unknown subject making threatening comments on Youtube” against law enforcement, members of the LGBTQ community and government officials,” ABC reported.
And who can forget the deadly attack on our political system itself on January 6th, 2021, when Trump incited his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol to try to stop the certification of the election he had lost.
Before that, in 2011 U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords and 18 others were shot as she held a constituent meeting in an outdoor parking lot, with a judge and five others dying as a result. Giffords was shot so severely she eventually had to retire. This shooting happened after Republican Tea Party queen and former Governor and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whose mantra was, “Don’t retreat, reload” had put gun sights on Giffords’ district in campaign literature over Giffords’ support for affordable healthcare. The media defended Palin in the aftermath, claiming she wasn’t to blame. Yet, there was no shame after this, let alone a dampening down of rhetoric.
Palin walked so Trump could run, and both were assisted by the systemic corruption of the political media by “bothsiderism.”
Most of the these threats are against Democrats. But six years ago, there was the 2017 shooting of Republican Steve Scalise by a man who wanted to get rid of Republicans. Last year, a man who called 911 to report on himself while armed outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home around the overturn of Roe v Wade, which stole the right of women and girls to live. I mention that not because I’m suggesting violence is ever the answer — it is not — but because anger over lies about an election and petulant anger over a global shutdown during a pandemic shouldn’t be conflated over anger over a real loss of freedom that will kill people.
Again, violence is never justified, but in the telling of this history, it’s also important to note that the violent anger of an unstable individual incited by the political threat to a fundamental human right is not the same as a party leader consistently and relentlessly manipulating mentally unstable people to commit violence based on known, debunked lies. Neither is okay. But they are also not the same thing. And that matters, because as long as they are conflated, we will never be able to mitigate the danger.
No party leader or president or elected members to the U.S. Congress should be inciting stochastic terrorism around the country. We have yet to deal with this factor, and it shows. It’s bad enough that unstable people will be triggered by political events and can easily arm themselves with our lax gun laws. We don’t need political leaders tossing gasoline on that fire.
Back in 2020, Elizabeth Neumann in the Washington Post pointed out that then President Trump’s rhetoric encouraged violence: “The threats against Democratic governors prove Trump’s rhetoric encourages violence”:
Rather than bring us together, the president did the exact opposite. In April, he tweeted, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
Those words are in keeping with Trump’s slow repudiation of former KKK leader David Duke in 2016, his description of “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville in 2017 and his invitation to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” at last month’s presidential debate.
Language from campaign materials and Trump’s extemporaneous speeches at rallies have been used as justification for acts of violence.
One piece of this that the media misses is that by the time people are taking aim at public officials, people in towns across the U.S. have already been terrorized and silenced by political fear and threats. And then there are the mass shootings all too often triggered by extremist political rhetoric that is not denounced.
It’s not going to stop until the media starts holding the party leader and enablers responsible for their rhetoric. That is unlikely to happen any time soon, as just yesterday the media was blaming Democrats for not saving McCarthy from Republicans’ dysfunction. If they can’t hold Republicans responsible for their own House rules, they are nowhere near capable of holding Republicans accountable for their menacing political rhetoric.
Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here.
Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.