Monday, January 10, 2011

The Math of Congressional Shootings

Hat tip to the WSJ for the interactive timeline.

  • 11 Members of Congress have been shot while in office.
  • 9 House members have been shot while in office.
  • 7 Members of Congress were shot by 'progressives'.
  • 6 Members of Congress survived their shootings.
  • 5 Members of Congress died from their shootings.
  • 5 Members of Congress were shot by Puerto Ricans.
  • 4 Members of Congress were shot by Democrats. (The Southern shooters had to be Democrats)
  • 2 Senators have been shot while in office.  (Huey Long and Robert Kennedy)
  • 0 Members of Congress were shot by Republicans.
The Shootings

1868 - Rep. James Hines (R-Arkansas) - Shot by a drunk County Democratic Committee Secretary presumably upset by Reconstruction Republican control of state politics.

1905 - Rep. John McPherson Pinckney (D-Texas) - Shot in the back at a public meeting in Hempstead, Texas by "passionate and misguided men" who opposed his support for (mandatory) temperance.

1935 - Sen. Huey Long (D-Louisiana) - Shot by 1) the physician son of a political enemy or 2) by his own bodyguards.  Perhaps at the direction of FDR who considered him "one of the two most dangerous men in America".

1954 - Rep. Alvin M. Bentley (R-Michigan), Rep. Clifford Davis (D-Tennessee), Rep. Ben F. Jensen (R-Iowa), Rep. George Hyde Fallon (D-Maryland), and Rep. Kenneth Roberts (D-Alabama) - Shot on the floor of the House of Representatives by 4 Puerto Rican nationalists. All the congressmen survived.  Attackers were released after 25 years by James Earl Carter Jr.

1968 - Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-New York) - Shot by a (Christian) Palestinian upset by his support for Israel during the Six Day War (1967).

1978 - Rep. Leo Ryan (D-California) - Shot by a member of Jim Jones' People's Temple at that cult's facility in Guyana.  Jim Jones - in addition to being a Marxist - was active in Democratic Party politics in both Chicago and San Francisco. 

2011 - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) - Shot by a deeply disturbed young man at a public meeting.
The Frequency

Years Interval
1868 79
1905 37
1935 30
1954 19
1968 14
1978 10
2011 33

Note that after the first shooting, the frequency of congressional shootings increases steadily until 1978 when we experience a 33-year gap.  Looks like the rhetoric toned down since the '70s.

Eleven shootings in 222 years (1 every 20 years) seems low to me considering the frequent unpopularity of Congress.