Most Democrats, especially those in the North, are averse to guns, which are officially known as firearms.
Far fewer Democrats (18%) own shooting irons than Republicans (50%), according to statista.com.
Included in the 18% of Democrats who own guns are West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, former D.A. Lynne Abraham, columnist Stu Bykofsky — and uber liberal Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
As soon as the hulking Fetterman announced early this week that he would run for Pat Toomey’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022, a 2013 gunplay incident involving Fetterman emerged. (Fetterman had a failed Senate run in 2016.)
In the gun episode, a really huge white man — Fetterman — pulled a gun on an unarmed, innocent Black jogger.
Can his political life survive this?
Before I answer, let me introduce Big John, who wears the bluest collar you have ever seen on a man who carries a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Intimidating, Fetterman stands 6-8, weighs around 260 (having come down from more than 300), has a goatee, and a small array of tattoos not usually found on Harvard men. (Most of the tatts are the dates people were murdered in Braddock, Pa., when he was mayor).
He is making a statement, as he does with his shaved head, and tieless gray work shirt he wears in his official government photo, which almost looks like a police mug shot. It is all calculated by a man who understands imagery.
The 51-year-old also made a statement after grad school by going into public service, abandoning Chubb, the insurance company where he was on a glide path to financial success, in favor of social work.
Before grad school, he helped set up the first computer labs and taught GED classes to young mothers and fathers in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District.
After Harvard, he returned to his home state (he grew up in York), to start a GED program in busted down pre-dominantly Black Braddock, population 1,869, not far from Pittsburgh.
In 2005, encouraged by his students and motivated to do more to address the inequality plaguing his community, Fetterman ran for mayor of Braddock. He won and served until 2019.
That job paid $150 a month. Fetterman has long been supported by his rich father, who bootstrapped his way from poverty to owning a successful insurance agency.
Along the way Fetterman married an illegal immigrant, who has since achieved citizenship. They have three children.
That brings us up to date.
Having gotten current, I turn the clock back to the 2013 gun incident.
Back then, The New York Times reported, “Mr. Fetterman used his shotgun to stop an unarmed Black jogger and detain him, telling the police that he had heard shots fired near his home and spotted the man running.” The story was based on a police report.
“‘Fetterman continued to yell and state that he knows this male was shooting,’ the police report says. Two other people told police they had heard several shots as well,” the Times reported.
This certainly invokes memories of last year’s murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger in a South Georgia neighborhood.
The key difference is that Arbery died, while Christopher Miyares, then 28, the man detained by Fetterman, was not harmed.
Police released Miyares without charges, Miyares filed no complaint against Fetterman. Miyares said Fetterman had pointed the gun at his chest. Fetterman denied that.
At the time, Fetterman defended his actions in a local TV interview. He said he was walking with his 4-year-old son when he heard a “burst of gunfire” (this was not long after Sandy Hook), and saw someone dressed in black heading toward an elementary school.
Fetterman called 911 and gave chase in his pickup truck and stopped the jogger using a 20-gauge shotgun he kept in the truck. Police arrived within a minute.
Was Fetterman a vigilante?
To some it might seem like that. To me, Fetterman was acting at least in part in his role as mayor, keeping his town safe.
As it turned out, he got the wrong guy, but he didn’t harm him. Thank God he didn’t shoot Miyares (who is currently incarcerated for committing various felonies in 2018 and is not available for comment).
I don’t think this single incident disqualifies Fetterman for running for office.
Matter of fact, the fact that this notoriously progressive Democrat owned a gun might help his political ambitions in Pennsylvania, which has the fifth most registered firearms in the U.S.