Today, in response to the shooting in San Bernadino, an acquaintance posted a photo of herself shooting a gun, declaring her allegiance to the principles which, in her estimation, made America powerful. She then suggested that the real solution to mass gun violence was to put God back in our core values. It’s a pretty ugly response to a bunch of people getting murdered, but I think it is important to understand what she is saying because this is the type of thinking that is enabling these killings to happen in the first place.
First, she believes that the guns make people powerful. I guess she and I have different definitions of powerful, because I see gun ownership as giving in to your fears. It is cowardly. It is weak and defensive. It hints at low self-esteem and a lack of faith in humanity.
But whether guns make us powerful is entirely beside the point; whatever they do make us, it isn’t safe. From the escalation of domestic violence to accidental shooting deaths to facilitating suicide, guns just make bad situations worse.
It is particularly noteworthy that this person believes God – or lack of God – plays a role in these shooting sprees. The suggestion that this nation needs to return to some set of religious values in order to overcome this issue would be laughable if it wasn’t so scary. Frankly, the suggestion that a lack of God is responsible for these deaths is victim blaming, plain and simple. Did those people not believe enough? Or did they believe in the wrong God? Is it the shooters who need God? And if so, how does this theory account for the generations upon generations of killings committed in the names of too many gods to even begin to recount?
It’s time we start calling out thinking like this for what it is: cowardly religious extremism.