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Jason Rantz

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Cartoon exploits dead child for political points

Milt Priggee's cartoon that appeared in the Kitsap Sun. (miltpriggee.com)

What must it feel like exploiting the death of an innocent 2-year-old boy for petty, misguided, political purposes based on ideologically driven reflexes, and not actual facts? We’ll have to ask Milt Priggee, a cartoonist, and David Nelson, a newspaper editor.

About two weeks ago, Kaden Lum, just 2 years old, was shot and killed by an unidentified man at his home in Bremerton. It remains unclear who shot Kaden, but that doesn’t stop Priggee from drawing a cartoon depicting Kaden as an angel, and Uncle Sam as the devil, carrying two handguns, with the phrase “America’s gun culture” on the jacket.

Unfortunately for the victim’s family, anti-gun extremists, like Priggee, seemingly stare at their broswer’s news feed, waiting for a victim – any victim – of gun violence. The second they get their “breaking news” alert email, they have their next opportunity to lash out against guns – something they don’t understand but deeply fear.

Though local media reports there are no suspects in the shooting just yet, they clearly haven’t spoken to Priggee. “American’s gun culture” is the culprit. The same gun culture that has saved thousands of lives; the same constitutionally protected “gun culture.”

Anti-gun extremists have a little trick they like to employ. They rarely focus on the person with the gun; they focus on the gun itself – as if that gun mysteriously loaded itself and fired at targets. They avoid focusing on the bad guys with a gun because then they can avoid any substantive discussion on how to prevent gun violence. They don’t want to have the tough conversations about mental illness (it’s not as scary as blaming a “culture”); they don’t even want to have tough conversations about background checks (turns out, they’re not the cure-all to bad guys getting guns).

Instead, ideologues like Priggee focus on the gun itself – because the gun itself can’t talk back. The best way to win an argument is to have it with an inanimate object. It’s even better when they can use a dead child to make their point – maybe even garner the attention of a real newspaper to print his scribbles.

Priggee has no idea who killed Kaden, but it doesn’t stop him from stepping on this poor kid’s grave to make a political point, consequences be damned. And there are consequences, which takes us to the family’s reaction. They’re understandably upset, with Jaden’s grandfather, Jason Trammell, telling KING 5, “It was in very bad taste. It was disrespectful and it was not in line with honoring my grandson’s memory.”

It turns out family members met with the editor of the Kitsap Sun, David Nelson, two times to discuss their displeasure with the cartoon. Nelson, happy to join Priggee’s nearly 30-year anti-gun crusade, defended the cartoon in an op-ed, even though it doesn’t even make a point about this actual death. It just uses Kaden as a prop.

Unsurprisingly, in his op-ed, Nelson missed the point:

“The intent behind our commentary might be to provoke thought, but it shouldn’t be to harm. I don’t believe Milt [Priggee] was intending to hurt a family, though I acknowledge the pain that’s followed. It’s a tough one. In the cartoon, Kaden was portrayed as an angel. That portrayal isn’t hurtful. You see a precious angel that a family lost and who our community shouldn’t forget, just like we shouldn’t forget the vexing problems that lead to tragedy.”

Priggee’s point wasn’t to hurt the family; it was to exploit the family. And that this boy – this angel – was scribbled together, not for remembrance, but to vilify the political opposition. It’s why this is so deeply offensive. We shouldn’t forget the vexing problems that lead to this tragedy? You don’t even know who killed Kaden.

“Would things have been different if the cartoon was published a week later, after more time to heal?” asked Nelson. “If the baby wasn’t illustrated so accurately?”

You’re asking the wrong questions. Why not ask the family when they’re OK with a guy exploiting their angel’s death? That’s really what this is about.

This isn’t about the First Amendment. This isn’t even about politics. Not to Jaden’s family. It’s about you using the boy’s death to make a political point (one that isn’t even based on the actual shooting). You’re OK with that? Guess so.

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