In the wake of the Charleston, S.C. shooting, people have been quick to point the finger at many different culprits in order to try to make some sense of yet another senseless tragedy to add to the litany of senseless mass murders perpetrated against innocent civilians in the United States. At a luncheon last Thursday, Presidential hopeful Rand Paul decided to blame secularism for the massacre, saying:
What kind of person goes into church and shoots nine people? There’s a sickness in our country, there’s something terribly wrong, but it isn’t going to be fixed by your government. It’s people straying away, it’s people not understanding where salvation comes from. And I think that if we understand that, we’ll understand and have better expectations of what we get from our government.
The same day, fellow Republican candidate Rick Santorum spoke about the importance of prayer because “we’re now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before”.
Our politicians can’t seem to understand that this horrific murder isn’t about religious freedoms or secularism. It’s about two things: racism and gun laws. As Jon Stewart pointed out, African Americans in Charleston live in a state that– in 2015– still proudly flies the Confederate flag above its Capitol, and in which roads are named after Confederate generals. As the nation recovers from another random act of gun violence, the movement to have the flag removed is gaining momentum, and is also being increasingly reported by the media. Yesterday, HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver delivered a perfectly scathing assault on South Carolina legislators.
While the most recent instance was racially motivated, all of the mass shootings have underscored another issue that is similarly ignored: gun laws. Personally, I think that citizens should be allowed to legally own guns (although not assault rifles). The real problem is that our gun laws are too lax, and don’t require thorough enough background checks. Adam Lanza was able to murder 26 people– twenty of them young children– at Sandy Hook Elementary. He was enabled by his mother, who had entirely ignored repeated pleas by Yale University researchers that she provide mental help for her son. In fact, she not only refused to allow her son to have desperately needed help, she regularly took him to shooting ranges. According to page 26 of the Official Report, investigators found a check written by Nancy Lanza to her son. The check noted that it was for a CZ 83 (a semiautomatic pistol), and was dated “Christmas Day”. In addition to motivating her clearly-disturbed son to buy a gun, Nancy Lanza had kept as many as seven guns in a gun cabinet in their home. Despite the widespread grief and horror that followed the Sandy Hook massacre, politicians still have not successfully dealt with the fact that in this country, firearms can be easily purchased, with nominal background checks. A mother with an insane son was allowed to own guns– and she often spoke openly of her love of guns, according to those who knew her.
If twenty little children getting brutally murdered wasn’t enough to convince our legislators to take action, can anything get us to take meaningful action? If politicians deflecting blame after mass murders sounds familiar, that’s because it is. After Sandy Hook, theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss wrote a brilliant piece for CNN, called “Why must the nation grieve with God?” When the article was written, Mike Huckabee had recently blamed the shooting on secularism (sound familiar?). Dr. Krauss wrote a great response:
Television host and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee suggested that because we are keeping God out of schools, the Deity chose not to stop the slaughter of these young innocents. (Or, to put it more bluntly, “If you don’t invite me to the party, I will kill your kids!”) If this were remotely believable, who would want to pray to such a fickle and pompous deity?
Although– unlike Adam Lanza– Dylann Roof did not use an assault rifle when he murdered nine innocent civilians in Charleston, the issue here is that it is shockingly easy for Americans to purchase firearms. With mass shootings on the rise, what will it take for us to address this problem?
Even now, our politicians continue to deny the real problems. On Friday, Presidential candidate Ted Cruz addressed a crowd in Iowa and said, “You know the great thing about the state of Iowa is, I’m pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas — hitting what you aim at”. Afterwards, Senator Cruz was asked about the shootings in Charleston. As usual, we saw a politician deflect attention from the real issue. Cruz said that Democrats were capitalizing on a tragedy in order to “take away Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens”.
In response to that absurdly ignorant statement, I’ll leave you with the wise words of Australian comedian Jim Jefferies (NSFW language).