Conservatives, being Second Amendment stalwarts, are usually pretty chill about accidental shootings. “Fake News Exposed: Accidental Gun Deaths Plummet To All-Time Low,” reported the Daily Wire. “Every story about an accidental shooting in the home will be repeated again and again,” complained columnist Thomas Sowell, “while a thousand stories about lives saved by defensive uses of a gun will never see the light of day in most newspapers or on most television newscasts.” “Pools, knives, and pillows cause more accidental deaths than guns so I am not going to let you anti-gun weasels demonize my self-defense tool just because it makes you wet your pants,” wrote Bruce W. Krafft of The Truth About Guns.
But last week, an apparent gun accident resulting in a woman’s death led to conviction on only a minor charge, and conservatives went (forgive the expression) ballistic.
That’s because in this case the guy with the gun happened to be unauthorized immigrant José Inés García Zárate, whose careless discharge of a weapon killed San Francisco resident Kate Steinle in 2015.
Prosecutors had been going for a murder conviction, with felony involuntary manslaughter as the jury’s main lesser-offense option — which people watching the case closely think is the reason prosecutors failed to convince jurors to return a harsher verdict than the firearms charge they approved. Even some conservative lawyers agreed that, given that Zárate didn’t appear to want to shoot anyone, the verdict wasn’t so far-out.
Don’t tell rightbloggers that, though: They know it was because San Franciscans, like all liberals, love foreigners and don’t care if they kill Real Americans.
It may help to know that conservatives had been pushing Zárate from the get-go as a poster boy for tough immigration laws: He had multiple drug offenses to his credit, had killed a pretty young white woman, and lived in San Francisco, an eternal right-wing hate object as well as a “sanctuary city” — one of several U.S. municipalities, including New York, that had vowed to protect their many unauthorized foreign residents from untoward federal prosecution by authorities such as the increasingly aggressive U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a/k/a ICE.
After Steinle’s death, congressional Republicans introduced the Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015, seeking to bring sanctuary cities to heel, and called it “Kate’s Law.” Presidential candidate Donald Trump memorialized Steinle in speeches (“gunned down in the Sanctuary City of San Francisco by an illegal immigrant deported five previous times”).
And rightbloggers added the Steinle shooting to their talking points against liberal tolerance of undocumented immigrants, e.g., “San Francisco’s sanctuary policies allowed [Zárate] to roam free, and while roaming free, he killed,” wrote WorldNetDaily in its story “Sanctuary city solution? Hit cities’ pocketbooks ‘hard.’”
When in January a federal judge ruled Steinle’s family couldn’t sue San Francisco for negligence over their daughter’s death, James Barrett of the Daily Wire raged against the city’s “lawless ‘sanctuary city’ policy” and linked to the site’s “5 Things You Need to Know About ‘Sanctuary Cities’” (“3. Sanctuary cities are ‘akin to roulette’”).
Last week’s verdict unleashed a torrent of right-wing rage, from President Trump (“No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration”) on down the line.
Some rightbloggers hit the Frisco hate hard.
“How does anyone live in this city?” howled Scared Monkeys. “Father of Boy Killed By Illegal Immigrant: Steinle Jury Full of ‘Left-Wing Nutjobs,’” reported Fox News. “‘#BoycottSanFrancisco’ Goes Viral as SF Defends Sanctuary Policies,” claimed Breitbart. “Sanctuary Jury,” headlined National Review’s Jim Geraghty.
“The San Francisco jury…not only mocked simple justice, but further identified San Francisco as a city exiled from the American mainstream,” snarled the Washington Times. The verdict “perfectly reflects the city’s scorn of the way the rest of us behave.” First the gays, now the illegals — the place is a menace!
“Time for President Donald Trump to build the Kate Steinle Memorial Wall,” declared Wayne Allyn Root at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The person with the gun is responsible when the gun discharges and an innocent bystander is killed. Isn’t that what liberals would argue if I were holding the gun?” (Well…if you were holding it, Wayne?)
White nationalists quickly assembled a tribute to Steinle in San Francisco, which was quickly taken down by local authorities. “Kate Steinle Memorial By Identity Evropa Dubbed ‘Hate Shrine’ By Anti-White Media,” cheered AltRight.com. “Yet another excellent action. We’re getting better.… Notice how simply, touching and NORMAL it was?… [I]t triggers the media and anti-White establishment into overreacting.… I don’t know about you, but the self-loathing and cowardliness of most Whites is difficult to witness day in and day out.” Yeah, that’s pretty NORMAL, all right.
If this approach was too raw for some of the brethren, Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered a subtler alternative: He denounced sanctuary cities on — hey, what are the odds? — Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show (“We are doing everything possible to get these cities to reverse these policies”), and his department issued an arrest warrant for Zárate and confirmed it was seeking federal charges against him.
Florida attorney general Pam Bondi went on Fox News to stir things up. Zárate was ”not going to get off easy now that the federal authorities have him, now that ICE has jumped in, now that General Sessions has jumped in,” she promised.
Meanwhile, other people keep getting accidentally shot in America. In Louisville, Kentucky, a three-year-old shot himself, presumably without meaning to, and in Houston, nineteen-year-old Joshua Bradley was shot and killed by his older brother; “detectives said this tragic case just weeks before the Christmas holiday highlights the need for gun safety in your home,” reported the local ABC affiliate.
Conservatives aren’t as worked up about those shootings, though, because they were committed by NORMAL Americans born in the good old U.S.A. In fact, even non-accidental shootings — including the gun massacres that have become regular events in America — inspire conservatives to little more than “thoughts and prayers” when committed by natives, because such slayings are the sad but acceptable cost of freedom, while rare shootings by undocumenteds like Zárate are the only acts of violence (besides punching Nazis and the knockout game) that seem to upset them anymore.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 4, 2017