In the wake of a Valentine’s Day slaughter at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead, lawmakers, pundits and the American people are debating solutions to gun violence more fervently than they have in years. For perhaps the first time, the NRA is facing real consequences over its drive to militarize every facet of American life, with several major companies severing ties with the powerful lobbying group. But despite the courageous protests of youth across the country, real political action still feels far away.
Three high-profile atrocities have occurred on American soil in the span of five weeks. On October 1, a man opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel window and shot more than 600 people, killing 58 of them. On October 31, a man drove a truck into a crowd in New York City and killed eight people. And on November 5, a man shot and killed 26 people at a church in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas.
At least since 9/11, the protocol for atrocity in America is militarism and nationalism if the perpetrator is a dark-skinned Muslim, thoughts and prayers for the victims if the perpetrator is white. In these recent events, President Trump’s tweets gave us a healthy sample of each. Continue reading
Mass shootings are so commonplace in America that news outlets can practically recycle old stories verbatim, changing only the names of the suspects, the locations, and the number of dead. When pundits are summoned to give their opinion, those responses, too, are predictably rote. Whether it’s said once or it’s said a thousand times, though, there is only one solution to America’s epidemic of gun violence: stricter regulation of the weapons in question. Continue reading
In the wee hours of June 12, during a period of festivity and camaraderie, 49 people were killed and more than 50 others were injured by bullets fired from a military-grade assault weapon legally purchased by a man who had been a suspected terrorist. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, perpetrated by a US-born Muslim who pledged allegiance to ISIS. But if the killer had been anything other than Muslim, the national conversation in the tragedy’s wake might be much different.
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump took the tragedy as an opportunity to pat himself on the back for “being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” Since that widely criticized tweet, most pundits and politicians have characterized shooter Omar Mateen as a terrorist. They did the same for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and San Bernardino killers Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook. But not all mass shooters are called terrorists. Those with names like James Holmes, Adam Lanza and Jared Loughner, for instance, usually aren’t. Continue reading
It’s very difficult for Hillary Clinton to position herself to the left of Bernie Sanders, but she’s spent much of the last month or so trying to do just that. One issue she seems to be getting away with it on is gun control. In debate after debate Clinton has kept Sanders defensive on gun control, touting her ‘F’ rating from the NRA against his ‘D-.’ Continue reading
Right-wing extremism received heavy scrutiny for a few days following the Planned Parenthood attacks. Commentators and left-wing politicians criticized the venomous rhetoric the right uses to denounce its opponents, one of which – the red herring cry of “baby parts” – was used by the Planned Parenthood shooter himself. Since the San Bernardino shooting, committed by Muslims a few days later, white terror has largely fallen off the radar. It shouldn’t.
What hasn’t fallen off the radar is the gun debate. It’s being waged as aggressively now as it’s been in years, with President Obama calling for restricted access to assault weapons and other mild reforms. Conservatives, as expected, reacted with total apoplexy. There has been a strange development, though, as the gun debate has become part of the discussion on Islamic terror. Continue reading
In their coverage of the San Bernardino shooting, the BBC introduced the story with the phrase, “Just another day in the United States of America; another day of gunfire, panic and fear.” As The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor aptly tweeted, “It only makes sense that the BBC treat a mass shooting in America like a carbombing in Baghdad.” Continue reading
Christians are experiencing grief and solidarity over reports that the Umpqua Community College gunman who killed nine people and himself in Oregon on October 1 was targeting their religion. There are conflicting testimonies about what the shooter, Chris Harper-Mercer, said to his victims, but all say religion was a theme in the killings.
Horrific as the massacre in Oregon was, it is not sufficient to establish the existence of a war on Christians. FBI statistics for 2013 show 116 hate crimes perpetrated against Catholics and Protestants out of nearly 6,000 hate crime incidents, or less than 2 percent. Continue reading
Another mass shooting, this time at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, has brought gun violence to the front page. At least ten people were killed, including the gunman, and another seven were injured. President Obama responded to the carnage forcefully, preempting the standard gun lobby responses that the answer is more guns and that it’s inappropriate to score political points off of tragedy.
The first claim, that more guns are the solution, is pretty thoroughly debunked so it hardly needs addressing here. The second claim, that it’s cheap to score political points off of tragedy, is truly a refuge of the scoundrel. Continue reading
Even as mass shootings in America have become almost a banality, last week’s massacre in Charleston, South Carolina manages to stand out. White supremacist Dylann Roof brought a concealed handgun into an African-American church, issued a series of terrifying proclamations about a race war, and murdered nine people. He intentionally left witnesses so they could repeat his words. Later research uncovered a trove of racism, including a detailed manifesto and pictures of the shooter wearing patches of racist African regimes on his jacket.
Any sane person could acknowledge that our gun culture, combined with venomous and widely proliferated rhetoric about black “takers” and “thugs,” were the ingredients for this act of terror. Yet in the tragedy’s immediate aftermath, conservatives threw their hands up in the air, offered meaningless condolences and said, essentially, “Who knows what went wrong or what we can do about it?” Continue reading