Washington, D.C.—The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence strongly condemns the actions of James Jay Lee, the gunman who took hostages Wednesday at the Discovery Communications building in Silver Spring, Maryland, and was later killed by law enforcement. This unnecessary tragedy was the result of Lee’s embrace of violence as a way to advance his political agenda.
Lee, 43, held radical views on the subject of overpopulation, but he also spoke about issues that are of concern to millions of Americans: pollution, war, unemployment, housing, global warming, etc. Initially, Lee’s activism involved peaceful organizing and protest. At some point, however, he became more virulent and forceful. In January 2008 he announced “It's time for REVOLUTION!!!” on his MySpace page. He then launched the website SaveThePlanetProtest.com, which laid out 11 demands for the Discovery Channel to comply with “immediately.” When Lee arrived at Discovery Communications’ headquarters Wednesday with two starter pistols and four improvised explosive devices, his transformation into a violent insurrectionist was complete.
Lee’s goal was to influence federal environmental policy and he chose a high-profile target to make his point. “In our constitutional system, violence in furtherance of political goals is always illegitimate, no matter what views one holds,” said Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Executive Director Josh Horwitz. “Our democracy is only as strong as our citizens’ commitment to engage in the lawful redress of grievances.”
Discovery Communications has generated significant criticism from progressive organizations in recent months. Environmentalists have actively denounced Discovery Communications’ new documentary series, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska”—which is paying the former governor and Republican vice presidential candidate $250,000 per episode.
The Lee incident is a reminder that threats and violence have no place in our democracy. It may be fashionable in some circles to talk about individual violence as one of the political tools that Americans have at their disposal, but when violence is actually deployed, the folly of the idea is revealed. When our government is coerced through force, the power of each American’s vote is diminished. Just as the destruction of private property in protest against the World Bank’s policies is odious, so too is using violence against corporate employees in an attempt to affect environmental policy.
“The progressive agenda in particular depends on an active, fair, and efficient federal government to achieve its policy goals,” said Horwitz. “The use of violence to make a policy point directly undercuts a democratic government’s source of legitimacy: The ability to make change through a peaceful political and legislative process.”
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy. For more information about the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, visit www.csgv.org