In Wake of Charleston Tragedy, Gun Nuts Call for More Guns!

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In the wake of the latest act of angry, white male gun-fueled terrorism in the United States, pundits on the right are already arguing that had those parishioners at a prayer meeting only been packing heat, the tragedy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church could have been avoided.

The first notable idiot to fire off an opinion was Christian conservative radio host Bryan Fisher, who in true Christ-like fashion argued that the appropriate response would have been to turn the church into a firefight:

Misguided bans on guns in houses of worship turned this black church in SC into a shooting gallery. Nobody could shoot back.

The right wing Washington Times framed its headline about the lack of guns in the church, the clownish hosts at Fox and Friends called for someone to “pull out their weapon and take him out,” and the NRA, no doubt distracted by the onerous task of wiping yet more blood off its hands, offered its typical “no comment.”

America’s chief source of terrible research and even worse opinions about gun safety, John Lott even took to Fox News with a ready-made op-ed piece, posted hours after the shooting. In it, he argued:

The horrible tragedy last night that left nine people dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., probably could have been avoided. Like so many other attacks, the massacre took place in a gun-free zone, a place where the general public was banned from having guns. The gun-free zone obviously didn’t stop the killer from bringing a gun into the church.

Indeed, the circumstantial evidence is strong that these killers don’t attack randomly; they keep picking the few gun-free zones to do virtually all their attacks.

Unfortunately, Lott’s argument, like so much of his research,  that South Carolina prohibits gun possession at churches is incorrect, as the law in South Carolina does permit people to bring guns to churches with the sensible requirement of “express permission…given by the appropriate church official or governing body.”

Montana Shooting Sports Association Calls for Guns in Schools Today

Lott’s repeatedly discredited claim that more guns in more places would reduce gun violence is the “intellectual” underpinning of the movement across the country, including here in Montana, to increase access to guns. Remember Gary Marbut and his Montana Shooting Sports Association pushing for guns in bars and churches here at the Montana Legislature? Their latest effort, promoted just today less than 24 hours after another mass killing in this country, to permit all employees of a school to bring guns to campus, absurdly titled the “Montana School Safety Act”?  All based on Lott’s discredited research, which has been described charitably as “junk science,” “flawed,” and “fraud” by researchers more interested in the truth than in lining their own pockets.

There are two serious problems with the thesis that “gun-free” zones are responsible for mass killings: the absurdity of the idea that mass killers are making strategic choices about the gun policies in place at their target locations and the even more absurd belief that more guns in everyday life will somehow make us safer. Both arguments are deeply flawed.

To believe that mass killers are seeking out targets based on their gun policies ignores the obvious: the vast majority of these crimes are driven by mental illness or hatred. In this case, the suspect made his motivation quite clear, telling the members of the congregation, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Killers seek their targets for many reasons, but it’s not likely that a location’s firearms policy is high in those calculations.

The worst, and most common argument advanced by the gun nuts is little more than macho posturing. Because they’d like to believe that, in a moment of crisis, they’d coolly pull out their concealed weapon and stop a madman, they push legislation encouraging more access to guns. To believe that in a moment of potential panic, gun owners, without any real law enforcement training would sensibly size up a threat, shoot the right person, and restore calm is tragically misguided.

And I am 100% certain that social policy should not be dictated by the John Wayne fantasies of gun nuts, pumped full of self-righteousness and adrenaline from gun web sites and forums. And I am equally certainly that advocacy for Somali-style brandishing of weapons will do little to ensure the general welfare of the people in this country.

But let’s imagine that I were to concede (and the researched backed up) the assertion that someone with a concealed weapon would be likely to stop people bent on mass killings. Even granting that logically dubious claim ignores the harm done by more guns being carried. If every potential mass killing were thwarted by concealed carry heroes, there would be (and is) far more death from accidents, mistaken shootings, and moments of passion turned deadly by the presence of a firearm.

Look no further than the revision to Montana’s “Stand Your Ground” laws, which has led to people being shot and killed while lying on the floor of a garage, shot in the back fleeing a crime scene, killing their neighbors, and shooting a co-worker in a Billings Wal-Mart.

The NRA and Montana Shooting Sports Association’s non-stop effort to convince people that more guns make us safer, that preserving a few places free of gun fanaticism ought to be condemned, and that any law designed to protect society from the danger of guns is tantamount to tyranny contributes to a culture of fear and distrust that leads to more people being armed and more people dying.

What happened in Charleston last night was a tragedy and horrific act of terrorism. But more people than the shooter bear responsibility for creating a climate where shootings like this have become the norm in our country. That those same people are blaming sensible gun restrictions is repugnant beyond my understanding.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

36 Comments

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  • What the hell is wrong with this country? The Charleston massacre makes me want to cry. I’ll tell you one thing, though, more guns in more places is not the answer.

  • Using a gun to commit a hate crime, is one thing.
    This shooting looks more and more like a gun being used to commit
    domestic terrorism.

  • “The worst, and most common argument advanced by the gun nuts is little more than macho posturing. Because they’d like to believe that, in a moment of crisis, they’d coolly pull out their concealed weapon and stop a madman, they push legislation encouraging more access to guns.”

    That gets to the heart of the matter. It’s very easy for men who are handy with firearms, or who believe they are, to conjure scenarios in which they use their sidearms to avert tragedy. And it’s very hard, indeed often impossible, for these men to believe that they’d not survive an encounter with a killer who has an AR-15 and the element of surprise. I suspect that many would not even be humbled by professional training by Delta Force or the FBI.

    That’s why they define safety as everyone packing instead of an environment in which an unarmed husband and wife can walk their stroller and baby through their neighborhood without worrying that a guy with a gun will start shooting at them.

  • That idea that if only everyone else was packing heat they could just pull out their guns and save the day is a joke. At the mall where Gabby Giffords was shot there was someone who was legally carrying a sidearm who rushed to the scene with his gun. Fortunately he made the smart decision to leave his gun in its holster and NOT add to the violence that day. In his own words, he stated that as he came upon the scene of chaos, he would have shot the wrong people if he had pulled out his firearm because he did not understand what was going on. At the time two people were struggling with Jared Loughner for control of the gun and he would have shot them! SO…we can all thank our stars and the gods that this gentleman used his brain – the intelligent one instead of the lizard one – or the death toll of innocents that day would have been much much worse.

    This is why we do not need more guns. Not everyone is as cool-headed as that young man. Even well-trained police officers do not always hit their targets. About a year ago, a man started waving a gun around on a crowded street in Chicago. A number of police officers responded and began shooting at the man. When the melee was over, the man was still standing and was arrested. Four innocent passersby were dead. Eleven others were wounded. Approximately 57 bullets were removed from surrounding buildings and cars. And these were trained police officers! No, we do not need a bunch of scared people in a church or a school unloading on someone. I shudder to think of the results of that. No thanks.

    Instead of more guns and more guns, I would like to see more effort spent on why in this country the solution for everything is to pull out a gun and shoot someone. Why is it that the go-to fix for all problems? I know all the so-called studies that say that watching violence on TV and in movies doesn’t hurt kids but I don’t believe it. You cannot watch over 100,000 acts of violence by the time you are 18 and have that not affect you. You cannot watch reports with graphic pictures on the news every night of our soldiers killing people in our constant “wars” without that affecting us – and yes our kids are watching right along with us.

    So how about more effort on why we seem to ‘need’ guns so much. Why are we so afraid of each other? Why is the solution to everything to kill kill kill?

  • In this case, it appears that the gun is an extension of the violent psychopath or sociopath. If up to 2% of humans are psychopaths, more work on the human condition, and less on the extension might help reduce the frequency of similar violent events. The criminal justice system is archaic, but lucrative for current stakeholders. It just wasn’t designed to deal with these individuals. Another approach is needed.

    • I don’t disagree that we need to do more to deal with mental health issues that underlie many of these violent acts, but I think we can do that at the same time we develop and enforce sensible regulation of guns.

    • Wouldn’t step number one in ‘more work on this human condition’ be removing them from the tools which can be used to harm others? WE remove old people with growing dementia from the use of kitchens and we don’t clearly understand that mental condition either. But we clearly understand the danger involved in the symptoms. Let’s not put the cart before the horse here. Rational and universal background checks on the transfer of firearms are simply the right way to proceed.

    • The accuse terrorist bought his gun legally in S Carolina and passed the background check. So anyone who suggest universal background checks as the answer isn’t paying attention to the facts of this case.

      Now maybe we need better and improved background checks. Minnesota multi-phase personality tests and interviews with friends, neighbors and a thorough social media check. But that could get very expensive really fast.

      And many would see it as an odious infringement on privacy.

      Maybe capitalism is causing mental illness and some more socialism would help. It’s worth a try. Nothing else seems to be working.

      • It seems to me that changing the mental health system to recognize the capitalism is responsible might be a bit more time consuming than enforcing gun laws and making sure those laws are sufficiently restrictive.

        • According to this rather exhaustive list, most mass murderers are buying guns, going through the federally mandated back ground check, and then walking out with a gun. Don’t get me wrong. i don’t oppose closing the gun show /craig’s list loop- hole, in fact I think we should.

          http://www.alternet.org/speakeasy/martharosenberg/most-mass-shooters-pass-background-checks

          But I don’t think it’s going to bring about a reduction in mass murder. That’s not what the facts suggest.

          The current back ground check isn’t working to stop mass murderers from legally buying a gun.

          So how would you change the background check to stop more mass murderers from legally buying a gun?

          What would you change, specifically, to make gun laws sufficiently restrictive?

          • I would close those loopholes first. Placing another obstacle in the way of a potential gun buyer who might do harm is worth the minimal trouble it would provide buyers and sellers.

            I’d reinstate the assault weapons ban.

            I’d allow communities to pass sensible gun regulations. When the SC reversed decades of precedent to strike down local gun bans in Heller, it really made gun control far more challenging.

            I’d require states to actually report the mental health information they are supposed to report to the federal database.

            I’d further restrict concealed carry permits.

            I would end the de facto Congressional ban on research into gun violence in this country. Even though the official ban is gone, the culture and climate of fear at CDC that linger prevent honest discussions about guns in this country.

            Those are a start.

            On a less serious note, I’d adopt Chris Rock’s proposal, because it’s actually brilliant.

            • A while back I bought a Glock handgun from Manager of Missoula area gunshop. He encouraged me to get carry permit. I asked him why he had one.

              So he could pack two handguns. A long barreled .45,
              and a compact if he needed to disable somebody.
              He had to have the .45 because some bad guys carry big iron.

              Desire for firepower equivalency, is yet another reason against carry permits.

              • woops, please read: against loosening/liberalizing current carry permits. Extending them to schools.( Or in extreme, permit handguns in bars and churches, like in S Carolina!)

                imo there’s a big difference between using a gun for acts of hate, and using a gun for acts of terrorism, like re-loading five times to shoot bullets into older women and a Senator/Minister who helped pass S Carolina Law requiring Police to wear/use Cams. All in a prominent,
                historically important AME Church.

                Where/how would such a case stand before Montana Law? A hate crime? An act of terrorism? An anomaly?

                Five Stars to Democracy Now for coverage of the Charleston terrorism soft-peddled as a “Shooting.”

                I didn’t know nothing, until I listened to long, live interviews with ministers and Amy Goodman.

  • I think it’s a mistake to concentrate on the gun issue. The real issue is just how a society can create such a monster in such a short time. (the shooter is only 21 yrs. old) I have been preaching for years that mainstream religions must confront head on the hatred espoused by the christofascist, racist pseudo Christian churches out there. Now, maybe they will. Folks like the Catholics need to stop worrying about abortion and who’s puttin’ whose whatzit into whose who’szit and start preaching a little love of your fellow man!
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/06/21/1395248/-Tony-Perkins-ties-to-White-Supremacists-Still-Unmentioned-In-News-Reports

  • While the liberty-hating fruitcakes cry out: “We are under attack, quick, disarm, then we will be safe!”

    • Must be awful to be so afraid all the time. Kind of a sad way to go through live, doncha think? I’m sure that you’re one of them NRA “stand and fight” kinda cakes of fruit. Well, who ya gonna fight? The Feds? The cops? The Army? Good luck with that! You’ve got cliven bungy syndrome. And you’re on the losing side. Eventually, the majority of Americans will get tired of your gun nonsense. Then who ya gonna call? Cliven Scumby? Liberty is just a wee bit more complicated than you fondling your assault rifle ’til it shoots.

      • Right, faced with a lunatic mass murderer like Dylan Roof I would fight “the feds, the cops, the army.” You leftists are just stupid beyond belief.Do you have any IQ at all?

        • Not sure what you point is with your pejorative assaults. Usually I am on the receiving end just such attacks as yours from the leftist commentators here. That being said, you and I are not kindred spirits at all. When you come into someone’s house do you always give offense, or are you making an exception here just to poke the hornets nest for your perverted enjoyment?

        • Alex, you remind me much of my old buddy Muley Graves. Ever heard of him? Of course you haven’t. He was gonna shoot his way outta things too. Check him out some time. Don’t really know how much luck he had doin’ it though, ’cause we never found out.

  • Will someone post statistics to back up the claims in this article? I fail to understand who restricting the gun rights of law abiding citizens prevents crime. If you want to prevent crime, the law abiding citizen is not who you go after.

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