June 28, 2022 Wayne Northey

Opinion A question for those who say more faith will prevent gun violence: How?

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Contributing columnist |June 27, 2022

image above: Handguns for sale at a store in Greeley, Pa., on April 26, 2019. (Bryan Anselm/Redux for The Washington Post: Actually, guns do kill people, according to a new study, Analysis by , Reporter, July 27, 2018)

WN: There is great irony in the final line of the article highlighted below:

If Republicans keep insisting guns aren’t the problem, they’ll be absolutely right about one thing: America will need more religion — to console more grieving families.

In a somewhat dated study (July 23, 2018), Gun Control in the Crosshairs: Christian Nationalism and Opposition to Stricter Gun Laws, by Andrew L. Whitehead, Landon Schnabel, and Samuel L. Perry, the Abstract reads:

Abstract

Despite increasingly frequent mass shootings and a growing dissatisfaction with current gun laws, American opposition to federal gun legislation remains strong. The authors show that opposition to stricter gun control is closely linked to Christian nationalism, a religious cultural framework that mandates a symbiotic relationship between Christianity and civil society. Using data from a national population-based survey, the authors show that Christian nationalism is an exceptionally strong predictor of opposition to the federal government’s enacting stricter gun laws. Of all the variables considered, only general political orientation has more predictive power than Christian nationalism. The authors propose that the gun control debate is complicated by deeply held moral and religious schemas that discussions focused solely on rational public safety calculations do not sufficiently address. For the substantial proportion of American society who are Christian nationalists, gun rights are God-given and sacred. Consequently, attempts to reform existing gun laws must attend to the deeper cultural and religious identities that undergird Americans’ beliefs about gun control.

In America, one reads in the above article:

Calls for stronger gun control have met strong reactions from gun rights advocates, often framed in terms of Americans’ constitutional, and perhaps even God-given, right to bear arms. Following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, claimed that the right to bear arms was bestowed upon Americans by God:

The genius of those documents, the brilliance of America, of our country itself, is that all of our freedoms in this country are for every single citizen. And there is no greater personal, individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive. It is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright [emphasis added]. (C-SPAN 2018)

LaPierre’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference is only the most recent invocation of a longstanding belief that the right to bear arms is God-given, guaranteed by the divinely inspired founding documents of  this country (Barton, David. 2000. The Second Amendment: Preserving the Inalienable Right of Individual Self-protection. Aledo, TX: WallBuilders.).1 Claiming that the U.S.  Constitution was inspired by God serves to elevate the gun, and the right to own it, to a sacred status bestowed by a Christian God.

More conservative religion in the United States amongst “Christian” Nationalists is not the answer according to the above: it is the overwhelming problem!

excerpts:

At last, Congress has passed its something’s-better-than-nothing package of gun-safety legislation. Though the vast majority of Republicans voted against the extremely modest law, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) assures us that they are “committed to identifying and solving the root causes of violent crimes.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), for instance, has said that “the secularization of society” is to blame for the massacre at a Texas elementary school. “I think the solution is renewed faith.” Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) said we needed to “embrace religious beliefs.” “The fact is,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), “before prayers were eliminated in schools, we didn’t have the kind of mass shootings we do today.” Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) blamed “the left” for having “taken God out of our classrooms.”

Of course, if they’re not going to vote for serious gun control, they have to say something about why yet another mass shooting happened and why it won’t be their fault when it happens again.

That can’t be it, either. If the specter of hell dissuaded believers from doing wrong, surely Catholic priests would not have committed — nor would their superiors have countenanced — child sexual abuse. Neither would leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention have ignored or covered up reports of sexual abuse in its ranks.

If the fear of hell prevented believers from committing mass shootings, even, then the eight victims of evangelical Christian Robert Aaron Long would still be alive.

Religion doesn’t magically erase evil; it doesn’t even claim to. In addition to rules of moral conduct, the religions practiced by most members of Congress offer steps to follow when someone breaks a rule. The Catholic Church includes penance, with confession and absolution, in its seven sacraments. Jews observe an annual Day of Atonement, which features a process of confession and repentance called teshuvah. Muslims have a rite of repentance or tawbah, in which a believer regrets the sin, asks Allah for forgiveness and promises not to do it again.

Why do religions spell out what to do next when people do wrong? Because they understand that everyone does. Even their adherents.

That’s why the prisons are not filled exclusively with nonbelievers. In fact, self-identified atheists make up just 0.1 percent of the federal prison population. As for morality, a 2021 study indicates that nonbelievers are just as concerned as believers with protecting vulnerable individuals from harm.

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Footnotes
  1. Clemson University, Clemson, SC, USA[]

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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