I was driving, and didn’t catch who was being interviewed on YNN Monday around noontime, but the man was describing how much safer the public would be if more people carried guns. What he said was—and this is a paraphrase, but only just—that if someone in the theater in Aurora had had a pistol and used it, there may have been much less loss of life. Not only that, he went on, but the same holds true for the shootings at Virginia Tech and also the shootings at Columbine High School.
That’s right: what we need are people carrying guns into theaters. We need people carrying guns onto college campuses. We need people bringing guns into high schools.
Of course, if somebody packing heat happens to be driving by a church in Kansas (where guns are prohibited in churches, though fine just about everywhere else in that state) and a doctor who performs late-term abortions happens to be standing at the door ushering congregants into pews and he gets shot dead, well, at least the gun-carrying shooter wasn’t breaking any Kansas concealed weapons law.
We don’t need productions of Absurdist theater in this country. We’ve got the insane drama of the gun lobby instead. We’ve got the logic that says if somebody in a dark theater pulled out his pistol and started shooting toward the figure in a black SWAT outfit, maybe fewer people would have died in Aurora.
Dark theater? SWAT outfit? Umm, maybe more people would have died.
So we can’t blame guns for what happened in Aurora, right?
We all have a right to bear arms—all manner of arms. And some of the biggest supporters of the Second Amendment are Christians. Robert Jones at the Public Religion Research Institute looked at a religion breakdown of 2011 ABC News/Washington Post survey question on views on gun control and found this: Though the most support for stricter laws came from black Protestants (71 percent) Catholics (59 percent) and the unaffiliated (55 percent), solid opposition to gun control was expressed by white evangelical Protestants (60 percent).
And among mainline Protestants there was, in my view, a disturbing divide with 47 percent favoring stricter gun control laws and 51 percent opposing them.
Yet writer Ellen Painter Dollar, writing for Patheos, speaks for a massive number of other kinds of Christians when she says this: “Jesus was crystal clear on the question of whether violence is an acceptable response to violence, on whether arming ourselves with fists or swords or guns is the way to protect ourselves from fists and swords and guns. Nonviolence—turning the other cheek, keeping your sword in its scabbard even under threat, loving your enemy—is a centerpiece of Jesus’ gospel.”
And she points out an action plan that is simple and practical, though it sticks in the throats of those who extol the virtues of carrying weapons into the public sphere for the alleged public good: “Gun control is not about winning or politics or fantasies of well-played vigilante justice. It’s about taking weapons of mass murder out of the hands of those who would use them for ill (such as James Holmes) as well as those who would use them for good but possess the universal human capacity to screw up (such as George Zimmerman).”
Oh, well, those who name themselves members of the largest faith group in the United States can’t agree on something as basic as whether or not carrying lethal weapons is something their founder would endorse or decry.
Next place to look for blame? The movie itself. The Dark Knight Rises.
David Denby, writing for The New Yorker—rightly, I believe—says that “Who knows whether the killer . . . wanted to be a mass murderer like the Joker, or if he was just using the event as a staging ground to render himself immortal. . . . Whatever his intentions, the sophisticated response to movie violence that has dominated the discussion for years should now seem inadequate and evasive.”
But Roger Ebert isn’t buying it. He says, “I’m not sure there is an easy link between movies and gun violence. I think the link is between the violence and the publicity. . . .Whenever a tragedy like this takes place, it is assigned catchphrases and theme music, and the same fragmentary TV footage of the shooter is cycled again and again. Somewhere in the night, among those watching, will be another angry, aggrieved loner who is uncoiling toward action.”
Can it be that we want it all with no place to lay the blame? Guns aren’t to blame, movies aren’t to blame and certainly the devotees of our Second Amendment rights (written at a time when the diverse kinds of lethal weapons we can easily purchase now didn’t even exist) are not to blame.
The only one to blame is the individual committing the acts—the individual we brand time and again as an outcast and an aberrant, not at all a part of the so-civil society in which we live.