On the day after the tragedy in Lafayette last week, Governor Bobby Jindal insisted on being non-political. According to reporting by Julia O’Donoghue for Nola.com / The Times-Picayune when asked about gun control laws Jindal responded: "I'm sure folks will try to score political points off this tragedy… It hasn't even been 24 hours. Let's focus on these families." When pressed about the issue, Jindal said, "You can ask as many times as you want. My answer is not changing … You can ask these questions in a couple of days. I'm not going anywhere. I'm happy to talk politics, but not here, not now."
A couple of points:
1.) A cynical person might think that Jindal was being political the night of the shooting when he rushed to Lafayette and positioned himself among those officials being interviewed on TV. Here he had a chance to reach more of a national audience than was ever achieved in Iowa. Certainly it is not uncommon for governors to go to the site of disasters. They can provide information; they can be assuring. But this was not like a hurricane where road closings and evacuation routes are announced. The truth is, there was not much for him to say other than to bemoan the tragedy (which we all felt on our own), to announce full support from the state police (which they would have provided anyway) and to urge people to pray (which is a deeply personal decision usually determined without prompting from a governor).
By visiting the hospital and site of the crime, Jindal was given a chance to act gubernatorial which, a cynical person might say, is great politics – an opportunity to shun annoying issues and appear as the concerned father figure. Again though, I caution, that is just being cynical.
2.) Why is talking about a major public issue such as gun regulation dismissed as “politics?” It is a topic that has been debated since the nation was founded, and there is still not a good answer. If advocating stronger gun laws is politics, it is bad politics. Those who take such a position will get clobbered in a state that cherishes its firepower. Still, couldn’t it be discussed?
Another issue that the Lafayette incident raises is mental health. Is it “politics” to discuss that, too? Don’t we need to learn more about how a loner with such apparent problems could create so much horror?
In this a statewide election year, gun regulation will NOT be an issue. None of the candidates will touch it. Nothing will change. But rather than our non-political governor dismissing the issue as “politics," it might have been statesmanlike if he would have conceded that Charleston, Chattanooga and now Lafayette raise questions – and while he remains firm in opposing gun laws, we owe it to our people to examine the status quo with an open mind. Maybe there are some answers waiting to be discovered.
Or maybe the leadership will come from the governor of the next state where there is a mass shooting.
I pray that that incident never happens.