The man who allegedly shot a security guard at the Washington, D.C., offices of the conservative Family Research Council, a group that opposes same-sex marriage and gay rights generally, appears to be yet another troubled individual (the Washington Post describes him as "secretive and somewhat odd") who had easy access to semiautomatic weapons when he should not have. Whatever the man's motives, they are utterly unacceptable, and the shooting should send a chill through everyone on all sides of these debates. Security guard Leo Johnson, who took a bullet -- and luckily did not lose his life, and is currently in stable condition -- is a hero who saved others from being shot.
There have been reports that the alleged shooter, Floyd Lee Corkins of Herndon, Va., recently volunteered at the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and had Chick-fil-A materials in his backpack. There are unconfirmed reports that he was angry with the Family Research Council's position on same-sex marriage, and that he made comments against the group's position as he attempted to enter. If true, this would be an anomaly, something very rare and very random. We've not seen any notable instance in this country of gun violence by gay or gay-supportive individuals against those who are anti-gay, nor have we seen any organized efforts by groups of individuals planning such attacks. And from the first bits of information we've received in this shooting, there is no evidence of any organized plot, though federal authorities are rightly still investigating whether or not it is an act of domestic terrorism.
This does not appear, at least from the outset, similar to the many attacks and actions over the years by far-right extremist groups and individuals, as documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, who are often connected to larger organized hate groups and cultural scenes, targeting LGBT people, black people, Jews, Muslims, and other groups, including, most recently, Indian Sikhs. It's important to keep that in perspective.
Every major LGBT group has signed a joint statement strongly condemning this shooting -- which, thankfully, didn't result in any death -- and strongly condemning violence of any kind, no matter the motive. There is no question that this crime should be investigated as a hate crime, and if the authorities determine that it is motivated by animus against Christians, who are protected under federal hate crimes laws, then it should be prosecuted as such. Federal hate crimes laws, like the one that was passed in 2009 to protect LGBT people and which the Family Research Council itself fought against, are meant to send a message that hate against any group -- LGBT people, Christians, Jews, black people, Muslims, Sikhs, women -- is unacceptable.
What no one should be doing is exploiting this tragedy to make political points or to attack an entire group of people because of the actions of one man. As we once again express our concern and outrage over yet another incident of gun violence in this country, let's be sure to keep all the facts in perspective and, of course, offer support to those affected by that violence.