American Politicians Are Facing More Gun Threats - DMT NEWS

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American Politicians Are Facing More Gun Threats

Women and nonwhite federal lawmakers are more likely to receive threats of gun violence compared to their white, male counterparts, according to new data obtained exclusively by VICE News. 

The data was compiled by Gifford’s Law Center, which advocates for better gun safety laws around the U.S. The organization reviewed more than 150 federal indictments for individuals charged with threatening federal elected officials between Jan. 2016 and Sept. 2022 and found that more than half invoked the use of firearms. 

What’s more, the number of armed threats against lawmakers appears to be on the rise, Giffords found. From 2016 to 2020, about 45 percent of threats mentioned guns. Between Jan. 2021 and Oct. 2022, that figure had risen to 63 percent, according to Giffords. 

Additionally, nearly half of all indictments involving threats to federal legislators were directed to female lawmakers—despite women holding between 19 and 27 percent of seats in Congress over that six year period. Similarly, despite people of color holding 18 to 25 percent of congressional seats between 2016 and 2022, they were on the receiving end of 38 percent of threats. 

Gifford’s findings offer a snapshot into the deepening problem of political violence in the U.S.

Overall, threats against federal lawmakers have increased more than 400 percent in the last six years according to Capitol Police, who tallied 9,625 threats in total in 2021. They haven’t released their figures for 2022 yet, but Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger testified in a Senate Rules Committee hearing last month that the final tally is expected to be a “sobering number” that exceeds 9,000. (The prosecution rate for threats remains low, however. In 2021, Capitol Police referred 458 threat cases, and only 40 resulted in prosecution.)

“I cannot overstate the scope, breadth, and intensity of the nation’s current threat climate," Manger told lawmakers. "Hate, intolerance, and violence are part of this disturbing trend." He said that the persistence of such threats are a “sad reminder of the extent to which our social fabric has frayed.” 

Capitol Police define a threat as “statements where the speaker means to communicate a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.”

The danger posed by such persistent, politicized threats became clear in October, when a man who espoused far-right conspiracy theories online broke into former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home in San Francisco and bludgeoned her husband with a hammer, leaving him with a cracked skull. The assailant told police that he wanted to interrogate Nancy Pelosi, and he planned to “break her knee-caps” if she didn’t tell him the “truth”—which he believed would send a message to other Democrats in Congress. 

Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul had been on the receiving end of threats for years. In Dec. 2021, a Florida man was charged for repeatedly threatening her as well as Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.(one of the indictments in Gifford’s dataset). The man left Nancy Pelosi voicemails threatening to travel “a long, long way to rattle her head with bullets” and vowed to cut her head off “jihadist style.” 

Giffords found that more than half of the indictments involving threats towards members of Congress were directed towards Democrats. Republican lawmakers received 38 percent of the threats. Around 7 percent were directed at a combination of Democrats and Republicans, and in a small number of cases, the political affiliation of the targeted party couldn’t be determined. 

It’s not just federal lawmakers who are being targeted. A survey published late 2021 by the National League of Cities found that 81 percent of local officials had experienced harassment, threats, or physical violence. Many respondents reported that the threat level had intensified since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered an intense culture war over public health ordinances designed to curtail the spread of the deadly virus. 

The Department of Justice has also been forced to take matters into its own hands to address rising threats against school board members over issues like mask requirements, “critical race theory,” and, increasingly, any form of education that touches on LGBTQ themes. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo in 2021 tasking the DOJ to come up with solutions to protect school officials and teachers from rising threats against their personal safety. 

That same year, Garland also formed a task force to investigate threats against election workers, which spiked due to conspiracy theories that the election was “stolen” from former President Donald Trump. Former Georgia election worker Wandrea "Shaye" Moss testified to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that she was targeted with a barrage of threats after Trump and his lawyer spread false information about her. Moss said she eventually left her job, had to change her appearance, and even went into hiding due to the level of threats. Many of the threats were racist, Moss said. 

Despite escalating threats against lawmakers involving firearms, security remains an issue at the federal level. 

Capitol Police Chief Manger told lawmakers last month that his force has made “great strides” toward bolstering security since Jan. 6, which has included addressing staffing shortages but conceded there was “more work to be done.” 

Following the Jan. 6 attack, lawmakers described how they feared for their lives. Rioters had brought guns, knifes, and gallows with them, chanted “hang Mike Pence,” and stalked the halls of the Capitol shouting, “Where’s Nancy?” As an additional security measure, Democrats erected metal detectors outside the House chamber, where they remained for two years—until this week. One of the first actions Republicans took when they took control of the House on Tuesday was to dismantle the metal detectors. 

Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican, told reporters she’d “been waiting for this day for a long time.” “I think they [the metal detectors] need to be removed from the Capitol, filled with Tannerite, and blown up,” Boebert said. 



via https://www.DMT.NEWS

Tess Owen, Khareem Sudlow