A meme accurately lists Democrats who have been involved in assassinations, assassination attempts, or mass shootings.
A list purportedly naming dozens of Democrats throughout history who have shot and killed presidents, politicians, and civilians has been circulating online since at least 2012 along with the argument that it should be illegal for Democrats to own guns. Musician Ted Nugent posted one of the most popular iterations in September 2015:
In 1865 a Democrat shot and killed Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.
In 1881 a left wing radical Democrat shot James Garfield, President of the United States – who later died from the wound.
In 1963 a radical left wing socialist shot and killed John F. Kennedy, President of the United States.
In 1975 a left wing radical Democrat fired shots at Gerald Ford, President of the United States.
In 1983 a registered Democrat shot and wounded Ronald Reagan, President of the United States.
In 1984 James Hubert, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 22 people in a McDonalds restaurant.
In 1986 Patrick Sherrill, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 15 people in an Oklahoma post office.
In 1990 James Pough, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 10 people at a GMAC office.
In 1991 George Hennard, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 23 people in a Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen , TX.
In 1995 James Daniel Simpson, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 5 coworkers in a Texas laboratory.
In 1999 Larry Asbrook, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 8 people at a church service.
In 2001 a left wing radical Democrat fired shots at the White House in a failed attempt to kill George W. Bush, President of the US …
In 2003 Douglas Williams, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 7 people at a Lockheed Martin plant.
In 2007 a registered Democrat named Seung – Hui Cho, shot and killed 32 people in Virginia Tech.
In 2010 a mentally ill registered Democrat named Jared Lee Loughner, shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed 6 others.
In 2011 a registered Democrat named James Holmes, went into a movie theater and shot and killed 12 people.
In 2012 Andrew Engeldinger, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 7 people in Minneapolis.
In 2013 a registered Democrat named Adam Lanza, shot and killed 26 people in a school in Newtown , CT.
As recently as Sept 2013, an angry Democrat shot 12 at a Navy ship yard.Clearly, there is a problem with Democrats and guns.
*Not one *NRA member, Tea Party member, or Republican conservative was involved in any of these shootings and murders.
*SOLUTION:* *It should be illegal for Democrats to own guns.*Best idea I’ve heard to date!
This list has evolved since it first started circulating in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. The earliest iteration of this list we could uncover only contained five items, but as it spread people added new names and dates and removed old ones that were either irrelevant or disproven.
The earliest versions of this list reveal two things: It has always been rife with errors (Lincoln’s alleged death-by-Democrat was originally listed in 1863, not 1865), and has always circulated with an anti-Democrat, pro-NRA message.
Why is it that those who steal guns and kill movie goers and children in school are always Democrats and not conservatives or NRA members?
Another early version of this list ended — as Nugent’s did — with a “solution” to the gun problem in the United States:
SOLUTION: It should simply be illegal for Democrats to own guns.
Although the message of this meme hasn’t changed, this list has grown from five items in 2012, to 19 as of June 2017. Here is how it appeared on ThoughtCrime Resistance Facebook page:
Setting aside for a moment the accuracy (or lack thereof) of the items on the list, there’s a logical flaw in using this meme to reach the conclusion that Democrats shouldn’t own guns — or that National Rifle Association members, tea party members, or Republicans are less likely to be involved in assassination attempts or mass shootings.
This list is not comprehensive. It does not include all of the shootings that have occurred in the United States, nor the political affiliations of every shooter. It ignores shootings committed by Republicans, as well as those with no political party affiliation, and makes no attempt to show how political affiliation leads to violence. In other words, one could make a similar list naming nothing but Republican or politically unaffiliated shooters in order to make the opposing (and still flawed) argument that those groups should not own guns.
In addition to the logical problems of this meme, much of the information is also inaccurate.
We searched contemporary reports for each of the listed incidents in an attempt to uncover any mentions of political affiliations, motivations, or voting records. Many of these items can be traced back to poor reporting, articles that were later corrected, or fake news items. And although we encountered this meme (or a similar list) on a variety of web sites, none of these publications provided any documentation to back up these claims.
Verifying this information through online state voting registrations proved problematic as deceased individuals are removed from these databases. We reached out to state historical societies for additional documentation, but several of the states we contacted told us that voter registration records weren’t archived. Even if they were, however, one’s official party registration can often contradict one’s political beliefs.
Given the difficulty of finding the political affiliation of many of the individuals on this list, we are highly skeptical that this list is based on credible information.
Here’s a look at what we found:
In 1865, a Democrat shot and killed Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.
Shooter: John Wilkes Booth
John Wilkes Booth was a member of the Know-Nothing Party. However, some of his motivations for assassinating Lincoln (Booth was opposed to freeing the slaves) aligned with the Democratic Party at the time:
Those ideological differences include increasing the power of the federal government and emancipating the slaves, both things Booth was vehemently against. He was angered that the government instituted an income tax and the military draft, and that the government occasionally suspended habeas corpus, a legal protection against unlawful imprisonment. All these things, Alford says, agitated Booth.
“But Booth brought to that agitation an extremism, the passion almost of a fanatic,” Alford says. “And it was very dangerous, as we find out.”
Although Booth’s motivations may have aligned with the Democratic party of 1865, they bear little resemblance to the party’s modern positions, which have changed dramatically over the past 152 years.
In 1881, a left wing radical Democrat shot James Garfield, President of the United States – who later died from the wound.
Shooter: Charles J. Guiteau
Guiteau gave what The Atlantic calls an “incoherent speech to a small group of black voters in New York City” in support of presidential candidate James Garfield. Guiteau then claimed that the speech — which he had originally written in support of Ulysses S. Grant — was the reason for Garfield’s election victory. The new administration, from Guiteau’s perspective, owed him an ambassadorship. When he was denied his request, Guiteau set out for revenge:
After the election, Guiteau moved to Washington to collect his imagined prize. These were the days when any ordinary citizen could pay visits to officials. Guiteau roamed the halls of the State Department and White House, imploring anyone who would listen that he deserved a diplomatic post.
He didn’t get the diplomatic job. On one visit to the State Department, Secretary of State James Blaine barked at Guiteau, “Never bother me again about the Paris consulship as long as you live.”
The words stung, and set Guiteau off on a bizarre chain of logic, which would result in his demise. Blaine was a menace to the Republican Party. To get rid of Blaine, he reasoned, he had to kill the president. After all, it was Garfield’s fault that such a man served in the State Department. Guiteau heard these instructions from God himself. It wouldn’t be an assassination, but a divinely ordained “removal.” The plan was essentially motiveless, as the the death of the president wouldn’t stand to benefit Guiteau or any Republican. “In the president’s madness, he has wrecked the once Grand Old Republican Party; and for this, he dies,” Guiteau wrote in a letter of admission.
Guiteau was not a “left wing radical Democrat” — he was a supporter of the Republican Party.
In 1963, a radical left wing socialist shot and killed John F. Kennedy, President of the United States.
Shooter: Lee Harvey Oswald
Oswald was a Marxist and supported Fidel Castro and Cuba.
In 1959, Oswald travelled to Moscow in hopes of becoming a Soviet citizen. “I want citizenship because I am a communist and a worker,” he wrote in his request for citizenship. “I have lived in a decadent capitalist society where the workers are slaves.”
However, Oswald’s inclusion on this list is odd in that there is no claim that he is a Democrat.
In 1975, a left wing radical Democrat fired shots at Gerald Ford, President of the United States.
Shooters: Lynette Fromme and Sara Jane Moore
Two women in one month attempted to shoot Gerald Ford in 1975: Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a member of the Manson family, and Sara Jane Moore, a member of radical leftist circles in California and an FBI informant. Both women appear to have had mental health issues. For her part, Fromme appears to have been trying to impress Charles Manson. Moore may have been caught between her loyalty to the FBI and to the leftist groups she was a part of, according to Atlas Oscura:
One interpretation of Moore’s assassination attempt is that she had made a choice between the two sides—she had decided to throw her lot in with the leftists and wanted to demonstrate her allegiance. In the days before she shot at Ford, Moore called up the San Francisco Police Department and told the officers there she was considering a “test” of the president’s security system. They took away her gun; she bought another one, and with that gun in her car, sped through downtown in the hopes, she later said, of being apprehended. While she stood waiting to fire her shot, she was thinking about whether she’d be on time to pick up her son.
Moore fired a shot, which a bystander deflected by grabbing her arm. Fromme was apprehended before she fired a shot. Although both women could rightly be described as radicals, we found no evidence to show that they were Democrats. It appears that Moore and Fromme earned their place on this list thanks to a March 2010 article published by the web site Red State which compiled a list in an attempt to show that “LEFTIST ARE THE HATERS AND ASSASSINS.”
In 1983, a registered Democrat shot and wounded Ronald Reagan, President of the United States.
Shooter: John Hinckley Jr.
Another claim that seems to be supported only by speculation. John Hinckley Jr.’s assassination attempt in 1981 (not 1983 as suggested by this meme) was motivated not by politics, but by his desire to woo actress Jodie Foster. In fact, officials believe that before he shot Reagan, Hinckley stalked Jimmy Carter towards the end of his presidency.
Regardless, we contacted the History Colorado (Hinckley’s last place of residence was in the state), who told us:
We wouldn’t have voting records in our collection at all. If their affiliation happened to be mentioned in a newspaper article, we might have that, but as the relevant years for Hinckley aren’t digitized (nor do we have digital access for current Denver Post content), it would be extremely difficult to find.
We also contacted the Colorado State Archives, but they didn’t have a record of Hinckley’s purported political affiliation either.
In 1984, James Hubert, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 22 people in a McDonalds restaurant.
Shooter: James Huberty (not James Hubert)
Again, we found no record that Huberty was a Democrat, either in terms of his official voter registration or his political leanings. The book Dying on the Job: Murder and Mayhem in the American Workplace describes Huberty as a survivalist who was paranoid about government overreach:
As a self-proclaimed survivalist, Jmes Huberty saw signs of trouble in America, which was on the brink of ruin, in his view, because of government meddling and overregulation that ruined businesses, including his own. He also believed that the country was headed for disaster because a cabal of international bankers purposefully manipulated the federal reserve system, which bankrupted the nation. To prepare for the inevitable apocalyptic collapse, he also collected a half-dozen guns, including those he brought with him to the McDonald’s restaurant that afternoon.
Huberty attempted to contact a mental health facility the day before he killed 22 people in a McDonald’s.
In 1986, Patrick Sherrill, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 15 people in an Oklahoma post office.
Reports about the 1986 shooting which left 15 people dead and led to the popularity of the phrase “going postal,” paint Sherrill as a “loner” whose eccentric behavior earned him the nickname “Crazy Pat.” He was a marine and a member of the National Guard.
The meme itself offers no proof of Sherrill’s supposed political affiliation. His shooting spree, which came shortly after he was reprimanded by superiors, had little to do with politics, according to TIME:
Patrick Henry Sherrill was a mediocre postman. After 16 months as a part-time letter carrier for the post office in Edmond, Okla. (pop. 47,000), Sherrill was still receiving complaints from his managers about misdirected mail and tardy performance. Last week, after two supervisors reprimanded him, Sherrill told a local steward for the American Postal Workers Union that he was being mistreated. “I gotta get out of here,” he said.
Instead, the angry mailman returned the next morning with a vengeance. At about 7 a.m. he strode into the post office in his blue uniform, toting three pistols and ammunition in a mailbag slung over his shoulder. Without a word, he gunned down Richard Esser, one of the supervisors who had criticized him, and fellow Postman Mike Rockne, grandson of the famous Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne.
Still, we contacted the Oklahoma Historical Society to see if they had any record of Sherrill’s voter registration. Director of Special Projects and Development Larry O’Dell for told us, “We wouldn’t have voter records for that time period.”
In 1990, James Pough, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 10 people at a GMAC office.
James Pough went into the office of the General Motors Acceptance Corporation, the car company’s financing arm, in Jacksonville, Florida, fatally shot 9 people and killed himself. We found no record of James Pough being registered with any political party. Although a motivation for Pough’s shooting spree is still unclear, reports at the time mentioned that his car had been repossessed.
In 1991, George Hennard, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 23 people in a Luby’s [C]afeteria in Killeen, TX.
Again, we found no evidence that Hennard was a registered Democrat.
A motivation for Hennard’s violent and deadly act are still unclear (he took his own life before he was arrested), but reports at the time indicate that his shooting spree was motivated by his hatred of women:
With cold-blooded efficiency, he stalked the restaurant and chose those who would die — most of whom were women. “All women of Killeen and Belton are vipers! See what you’ve done to me and my family!” Hennard yelled, calmly carrying out his executions, often at point-blank range with a single shot to the head. “Is it worth it? Tell me, is it worth it?”
In 1995, James Daniel Simpson, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 5 coworkers in a Texas laboratory.
Simpson, who killed five people at an oil refinery where he used to work, does not appear to have been motivated by politics. We also found no evidence that he was a Democrat. For this, and all other Texas shootings on the list, we contacted the Texas Historical Commission, who directed us to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, from whom we have not yet received a response. Again, we are skeptical that whoever put this shooting on the list found evidence that Simpson was a Democrat.
In 1999, Larry Asbrook, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 8 people at a church service.
We found no evidence that Asbrook was a Democrat. Although his motivation for opening fire at a church service is unclear, Asbrook was associated with hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Phineas Priests. During the shooting spree, Asbrook also called religion “bullshit“:
The most intriguing new detail came from Houston writer and private investigator John Craig, who said he had interviewed Ashbrook in the presence of several Ku Klux Klan members in spring 1997.
Co-writer of a book on white supremacists, Craig said that Ashbrook boasted of his membership in the Phineas Priests, a loose-knit, virulently racist movement that advocates the killing of minorities and Jews. Buford Furrow, who allegedly shot up a Jewish day-care center in Los Angeles in August, is also believed to be a Phineas Priest.
In 2001, a left wing radical Democrat fired shots at the White House in a failed attempt to kill George W. Bush, President of the US.
Shooter: Robert Pickett
Robert Pickett, who struggled with mental health issues, was fired from his job at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 1989. In 1994, he sued the government to get his job back, but the case was thrown out. According to CBS News:
Pickett continued to harbor resentment against the IRS. Police sources tell CBS News he sent several letters to an Indiana congressman complaining about it, and that he seemed to be “paranoid.”
Doug Davidoff, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party, said public election records showed Pickett registered to vote in 1992 but did not cast a ballot and has not voted since.
In Indiana, where Pickett registered to vote, the voter registration form does not offer the option to register as the member of a political party. Instead, for the purpose of political primaries, voters affiliate with a party based on their vote in the last election. Since Pickett never voted, he was never officially a member of any political party.
In 2003, Douglas Williams, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 7 people at a Lockheed Martin plant.
We found no evidence that Williams was a Democrat. Although many claimed that the shooting was racially motivated – according to one co-worker Williams once threatened to “kill me a bunch of n*ggers” – others simply said that he was “mad at the world”:
Some of Doug Williams’ co-workers said they were not surprised to hear that he was the man who blasted away with a shotgun at a Lockheed Martin factory near Meridian, Miss., before shooting himself.
“Mr. Williams was mad at the world,” co-worker Hubert Threat said. “This man had an issue with everybody.”
Four of the five people he killed were black. Some co-workers said Williams, who was white, had made racist remarks. But authorities said it appeared Williams shot people at random.
In 2007, a registered Democrat named Seung – Hui Cho, shot and killed 32 people in Virginia Tech.
Seung-Hui Cho was not a registered Democrat. Cho was born in South Korea and was a legal resident alien of the United States, which makes it exceedingly unlikely that he was registered to vote in Virginia. Furthermore, Virginia does not have partisan voter registration, so even if Cho had been registered, he would not have been registered as a Democrat.
In 2010, a mentally ill registered Democrat named Jared Lee Loughner, shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed 6 others.
Jared Lee Loughner was a registered as an Independent in 2006 and did not vote in 2010.
In 2011, a registered Democrat named James Holmes, went into a movie theater and shot and killed 12 people.
The claim that James Holmes was a registered Democrat stems from a Breitbart article that was based on the voter registration of a different man named James Holmes. The article was eventually updated to state that Holmes may not have been registered to vote at all:
Newly-released information on the suspect’s birthdate (which, as indicated in our initial report, was a slight mismatch), combined with new details Breitbart News has obtained about the suspect’s likely addresses, together suggest that the suspect may, in fact, not have been registered to vote.
ABC News made a similar mistake when they tied Holmes to the tea party. That report also resulted in a correction:
An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect. Several other local residents with similar names were also contacted via social media by members of the public who mistook them for the suspect.
We found no record of Holmes’s political affiliation, if he indeed had any.
In 2012, Andrew Engeldinger, a disgruntled Democrat, shot and killed 7 people in Minneapolis.
We found no evidence that Engeldinger was a registered Democrat, and his shooting does not appear to have been politically motivated. The Minnesota Historical Society Library told us that they do not maintain records for individual voters. We did, however, once again find reports that the shooter was mentally unstable.
Andrew J. Engeldinger’s descent into darkness began two years ago, but even as he retreated from family and bought handguns and ammunition, he kept coming to work at the Accent Signage Systems factory in Minneapolis.
Engeldinger, 36, worked his shift Thursday and was told that after a dozen years, he no longer had a job. Then he pulled out a 9mm Glock handgun and committed the largest workplace massacre in recent Minnesota history.
But in recent years, Engeldinger’s family began worrying about what appeared to be his paranoia and delusions. Two years ago, his parents attended a 12-week “Family to Family” class offered by the Minnesota National Alliance on Mental Illness. The class is taught by family members of mentally ill people.
His family hadn’t had contact with him for about 21 months after he had shown signs of possible mental illness, said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the Minnesota National Alliance on Mental Illness.
They were trying to get him to seek treatment; they did think something was wrong,” she said. But Engeldinger didn’t appear to be a threat to himself or others — criteria for petitioning for commitment to mental health care, she said.
In 2013, a registered Democrat named Adam Lanza, shot and killed 26 people in a school in Newtown, CT.
The assumption that Adam Lanza was a registered Democrat appears to be based on the fact that Connecticut is typically a Democratic state. However, this is not evidence that Lanza himself was registered as a Democrat. In fact, a report at the time noted that Lanza was not registered to vote:
Adam — 5-feet-10 and thin, with blue eyes, according to his driver’s license — had become a vegan and insisted on eating organic food. Family friends said he was politically conservative, although he was the one member of his immediate family not registered to vote.
Furthermore, Lanza’s inclusion on this list is problematic as police found an NRA shooting guide at his home and an NRA certificate in Lanza’s name.
As recently as Sept 2013, an angry Democrat shot 12 at a Navy ship yard.
Shooter: Aaron Alexis
National Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental.
We found no record of Aaron Alexis being registered as a Democrat. However, a co-worker of Alexis’ did say that the shooter was more of a “liberal-type” guy:
“Aaron wasn’t conservative, like I am,” Ritrovato added. “He was more of a liberal type.”
“He wasn’t happy with the former administration,” he continued. “He was more happy with this administration, as far as presidential administrations.”
Politics, however, were not the motivation behind the attack:
The government contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard last week was driven by delusions that he was being controlled by low-frequency radio waves and scratched the words “End the torment!” on the barrel of the shotgun he used, the FBI said Wednesday, offering new, chilling details of the attack.
This viral list has been published by a wide range of outlets. However, none of those publications provided any documentation to prove that these individuals were all Democrats. Our investigation found that the majority of people on this list had no official connection to a political party, and that the majority of the incidents were not motivated by politics.
Correction, 23 June 2017: A previous version of this article stated that neither Moore nor Fromme fired a shot at Ford.