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.