It is not possible to write about each multiple shooting or every instance of insanity that plays out with gun owners and their crimes. Given, however, the deeply fractured nature of our politics and the attacks on our democracy that peaked with the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6th, the news over the MLK holiday weekend from New Mexico truly startled me. A staunch Donald Trump supporter and losing candidate for state assembly was arrested for being involved in paying suspects to shoot up the homes of four Democratic politicians.
James Patterson could not have plotted a more sinister and dangerous storyline than what Albuquerque Police stated had occurred when Solomon Pena contracted individuals to carry out at least two of the shootings. Pena, himself, was present and fired a weapon at one of the other shootings. Those fired upon were the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators.
The report from NPR on Monday was, frankly put, frightening in every respect. In one case bullets ripped into the wall of a child’s bedroom.
The first act of gun violence happened on December 4th when eight shots were sent into the home of County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. That was followed on December 11th when more than a dozen bullets were fired into the home of County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley. Representative Javier Martinez’s home was also involved in a shooting incident in December while this month the home of state representative Linda Lopez was fired upon. That is where bullets blasted into a 10-year-old’s bedroom while she slept.
While the danger of such actions on a human level is most evident, it is the undermining of our democratic foundations that also must be addressed. The notion that violence is considered an option when losing a political race is absolutely disgusting and reprehensible. It strikes against the very ideas of what constitutes free and fair elections in a democracy. We know that Donald Trump has taught a large percentage of his base of supporters to act recklessly and claim election fraud at every turn. Police stated that Peña alleged his defeat was the result of election fraud. Gosh, where did that line of horse rot originate?
It needs to be noted that Peña lost his state assembly challenge to incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia by 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%. Or to round out those numbers Peña was defeated by roughly 50%!!
So, what did the losing candidate do upon having voters utterly reject him? NBC News reported that two handguns were found by police in a Nissan Maxima owned by Peña during a traffic stop on Jan. 3. One of the guns appeared to have fired shots outside the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez roughly 40 minutes before and 4 miles away, police said in a statement. A shell casing found in the Maxima matched those found at the scene of another shooting, an incident outside the home of new state House Speaker Javier Martinez on Dec. 8th.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller correctly summed up the crimes and placement of them into the larger issue at hand.
“This was about a right-wing radical, an election denier, who was arrested today; someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which in turn that into violence. That should never be the case”.
There is another factor needing consideration, and that is the Republican Party in New Mexico. Voters knew Pena was previously arrested and convicted of stealing goods from multiple big box stores as part of a “smash and grab” scheme. They knew their candidate served close to seven years in prison. Peña was also ordered to go through alcohol/substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, 90 days in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous, and anger management, court records show.
And yet….and yet. The New Mexico GOP thought him the perfect name to be on the November ballot. What they offered the voters was a terrorist who was not able to grasp that every election has a winner and a loser. Peña was told over the past two years of bombast and absurdity from Trump and his ilk that election-denying is just another part of the GOP playbook. A 10-year-old could have been a victim of this lunacy.
How many Republicans will now step up and denounce the fascism that has taken hold of their party?