Courtesy of Thought Crime Resistance, where it received over 300 likes and 4,000 shares. Similar memes have been sporadically spread by some (though not many) voices on the right, including one by Ted Nugent that got over 100,000 likes and 75,000 shares. Are these shooters all Democrats? To find out, we’ll briefly go through each of them, and look at the evidence (if any) that they were.
First, a fair definition of “Democrat” is needed. For that, we’ll use;
a person who is either a registered voter with, a member of, or a known supporter of the Democratic Party.
If the claim meets this criteria, the statement will be considered true or mostly true, depending on the strength of evidence. If they can be proven wrong, it will be considered false or mostly false, and if there is no evidence either way, it will be unsubstantiated (which is a nice way of saying this meme is b.s., since the label would be uncalled for)
1. In 1865 a Democrat killed Abraham Lincoln
Mostly False. This refers to the infamous John Wilkes Booth. Booth was a fairly successful actor, who was also very pro-slavery and anti-Lincoln. A couple different sources, here and here, give accounts of his life and motivations. While Booth became active in politics, his only known association with a political party was in the 1850s with the American Party, aka the Know-Nothing Party. This party was known primarily as an anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic party, but ironically didn’t take a stand on slavery. The party disbanded in 1860. During the Civil War, Booth was a spy for the Confederacy, as his job as an actor let him smuggle goods throughout the country.
There is no evidence of Booth’s involvement with the Democratic Party, but he was anti-Lincoln and pro-Confederacy, which meant at the time, anti-Republican. Therefore, he would most likely support and vote for whatever party opposed Lincoln, which some would consider the Democrats. However, during the Civil War, even Democrats were split on slavery and the war. Many in the north ended up supporting Lincoln and became Republicans. In the south, the Democratic Party halted all operations from 1861-1865. Booth shot Lincoln in 1865. He would probably have fit into the racist Southern Democrat mold if given a chance, but labeling him a Democrat would be wrong.
2. In 1881 a Democrat killed James Garfield
False. This refers to Charles Guiteau. He was quite a character, seeming to annoy and creep out every group he became associated with. He became involved with a small religious sect in upstate New York called the Oneida Community, lead by John Noyes, who labeled the practice “Bible Communism”. The biased observer might take that to mean Guiteau was a leftist, but he was never really accepted by the group. He ended up filing a frivolous lawsuit against them, and eventually wrote threatening letters to the group when that failed. Noyes described Guiteau as “moody, self-conceited, unmanageable” and addicted to masturbation. Later, he called him “insane”, and remarked, “I prayed for him last night as sincerely as I ever prayed for my own son, that is now in a Lunatic Asylum.” Eventually, Guiteau took up politics, where he promoted the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party.
He wrote a speech titled “Garfield vs. Hancock”, which was filled with over-the-top arguments supporting the Republican nominee, Garfield. After Garfield narrowly won the election, Guiteau deliriously concluded it was his speech that was responsible for the victory, and began incessantly bugging the administration about being appointed Ambassador to Paris. The Secretary of State, James Blaine, finally told him, “Never bother me again about the Paris consulship so long as you live.”
Guiteau eventually became depressed, and decided Garfield needed to be removed from office because he was on a course to “wreck the once grand old Republican Party“. He purchased a .45 revolver and shot President Garfield at a train station, who later died from his wounds due to the medical incompetence of the time.
3. In 1963 a socialist killed John F. Kennedy
True. Putting aside all the conspiracy theories and assuming we’re talking about Lee Harvey Oswald, he was a self-described Marxist. After being discharged from the Marines, he even traveled to the Soviet Union, and attempted to renounce his citizenship and become Russian. After a short time in the Soviet Union, he seem underwhelmed with the system, and eventually moved back to the US. He seemed to identify more with revolutionary Marxism after that, and started admiring Cuba. Before Kennedy, he attempted to kill General Walker, an outspoken critic of Fidel Castro.
It’s interesting to note that this is the only person on this meme’s list not called a Democrat, but a socialist instead.
4. In 1975 a Democrat shot at Gerald Ford
Mostly False. Two woman shot at Gerald Ford in 1975, both unsuccessfully. The first was Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, who was a member of the Manson Family. The other was Sarah Jane Moore. While Moore was certainly affiliated with leftist groups, and would likely support a Democrat over a Republican, it would be a stretch to call her a Democrat, as she had no affiliation with the party. It would be more accurate to describe her as a radical leftist, or Marxist.
5. In 1983 a Democrat shot Ronald Reagan
False. There is no evidence that John Hinckley, Jr. was a Democrat. He was clearly mentally ill, and fixated on the movie, Taxi Driver, where Robert DeNiro was a psychotic taxi driver, who contemplated political assassination, as well as rescued a young prostitute played by Jodi Foster. He became obsessed with Foster, even enrolling in Yale to stalk her. Initially, he began following President Carter (a Democrat) around, but never went through with an assassination attempt. His mental health deteriorated at the same time Reagan became president, and Hinckley finally went through with his plan. Before the attempt, he wrote a letter to Foster explaining how he was doing it for her. Also, the shooting happened in 1981, not 1983.
6. In 1984 a Democrat killed 22 people in a McDonald’s
Unsubstantiated. There’s no evidence James Huberty, who perpetrated the San Ysidro massacre, was a Democrat. As a kid, he contracted polio, grew up in Amish country, was abandoned by his mother, and reportedly blamed God for his mom’s absence. Later in life he held several jobs, including a funeral home undertaker. Eventually, he adopted conspiracy-type beliefs including a fear of Soviet Aggression, foreign control of the Federal Reserve and the imminent economic collapse of the economy. He became a self-described survivalist, bought several weapons, and reported believing himself mentally ill shortly before the shooting, even calling a psychologist’s office. However, due to a clerical error he was never called back, and one day left his family at home to carry out the McDonald’s attack.
7. In 1986 a Democrat killed 15 people in an Oklahoma post office
Unsubstantiated. There’s no evidence Patrick Henry Sherrill, the postal worker for whom “going postal” is known for, was a Democrat. Sherrill served in the Marine Corps, was a member of the National Guard pistol team, and considered an expert marksman. His motive for committing the Edmond Post Office shooting was likely his supervisor who had reprimanded him (along with mental illness).
8. In 1990 a Democrat killed 10 people at a GMAC office
Unsubstantiated. There’s no evidence James Edward Pough was a Democrat. He was an unskilled construction worker, who earlier in life had murdered his best friend in an argument. Despite being banned from buying firearms, the authorities dropped the ball and he ended up buying several. His motivation for attacking the GMAC office was likely because they repossessed his Pontiac Grand Am.
9. In 1991 a Democrat killed 23 people in a Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, TX
Unsubstantiated. There is no evidence George Hennard was a Democrat. There is evidence that he had an irrational hatred of women, calling them “female vipers”, but that doesn’t seem to be a political platform of either party.
10. In 1995 a Democrat killed 5 coworkers in a Texas Laboratory
Unsubstantiated. There is no evidence James Simpson was a Democrat.
11. In 1999 a Democrat killed 8 people at a church service
Unsubstantiated. There is no evidence Larry Ashbrook was a Democrat. He was an emotionally disturbed, likely schizophrenic man, who before the shootings thought the police was drugging him and the CIA was targeting him. He had some issue with Christianity, as evidenced during the shooting, but no known link to the Democratic Party.
12. In 2001 a Democrat shot at the White House, aiming for George Bush
False. No evidence could be found that Robert Pickett was a Democrat. Furthermore, he didn’t “aim for George Bush”, he fired a shot at the White House, while behind the gates. According to the Secret Service, Bush was never in danger. As far as Mr. Pickett, he was a former employee of the IRS, and had lost lawsuits against them for grievances.
13. In 2003 a Democrat killed 7 people at a Lockheed Martin plant
Unsubstantiated. No evidence could be found that Doug Williams was a Democrat. Some attributed the workplace shooting to racism, as Williams had apparently made racist remarks at work, but the police stated it was likely random, as most of the injured were white. The incident appeared to be caused by Williams becoming enraged at a work meeting. Then, he went to his car for a shotgun and proceeded to shoot up the plant.
14. In 2007 a Democrat killed 32 people in Virginia Tech
False. Seung-Hui Cho, the 23-year-old Korean student turned shooter at Virginia Tech was an immigrant, not a US citizen. In Virginia, only citizens are allowed to vote, meaning Cho couldn’t have been a Democratic (or any) voter. There is no evidence he was involved with any sort of political activity, instead being described as a loner. In his ramblings prior to the shootings, he did rail against “rich brats” and against Christianity, but no coherent political ideology.
15. In 2010 a Democrat shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed 6 others
False. Jared Loughner was a registered independent, who didn’t even vote in the 2010 elections. While he didn’t discuss his political motives, his friend was quoted as saying, “It wasn’t like he was in a certain party or went to rallies. It’s not like he’d go on political rants.”
16. In 2011 a Democrat killed 12 people in a movie theater
Unsubstantiated. There is no evidence James Holmes, the Aurora, CO movie shooter, was a Democrat. There was a Breitbart story claiming he was a registered Democrat, but that was later proven to be wrong, and retracted. Holmes considered attacking an airport initially, but decided against it as it might be confused with terrorism. He wrote, “Terrorism isn’t the message. The message is, there is no message.”
17. In 2012 a Democrat killed 7 people in Minneapolis
Unsubstantiated. This refers to the shooting at Accent Signage Systems, where 5 people (not 7) were killed, including the gunman Andrew Endeldinger. There is no evidence to support Endeldinger being a Democrat, only a disgruntled employee who was a loner, mentally ill, that recently lost his job there.
18. In 2013 a Democrat killed 26 people in Newtown, CT
Unsubstantiated. There is no evidence that Adam Lanza was a Democrat. He was often described as a troubled and fidgety loner that likely suffered from Asperger’s, among other issues.
19. In 2013 a Democrat shot 12 at a Navy Shipyard
Unsubstantiated, but possibly true. On CNN, one of Aaron Alexis’s friends said the following:
“Aaron wasn’t conservative like I am. He was more of a liberal type; he wasn’t happy with the former [Bush} administration. He was more happy with this [Obama] administration- as far as presidential administrations.”
This is the only evidence supporting the claim, and it’s certainly not rock solid, so it couldn’t be reliably claimed.
Looking at the profiles of all these shooters brings up many common characteristics. Loner, mental illness, violent outbursts and general creepiness. Political ideology is generally non-existent or incoherent, particularly among the mass shooters. Regardless of one’s view on politics or gun control, associating these killers with the Democratic Party (or conversely, with Republicans or Tea Party ideology) is a low blow that’s not backed up by facts, and the argument should be removed from any rational discourse.