Another massacre recalls us to our mission to reduce gun violence

Thousands gather outside the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center for a vigil Monday, June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Fa. A large crowd gathered to remember the Pulse nightclub shooting victims early Sunday. (Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

The massacre in Orlando began the usual rounds of gun apologetics this week. Judging by chatter on social media and the gas-baggery of America’s pundit class, a lot of folks are straining mightily to reduce the rampage to a single defining component, preferably one that distracts attention from the AR-15-style assault rifle Omar Mateen used in his rampage. (Before gun purists object, I’m just gonna say that any gun designed from the ground up to kill people and that can fire 24 rounds in 9 seconds, as Mateen did, qualifies in my mind as an assault rifle.)

Though there has been no evidence yet produced to suggest Mateen was anything more than a lone wolf, psychically poisoned in ways few of us will ever understand, Islamist extremism has been frequently, even hysterically cited as the driving motivation for his horrendous act. In doing so some seen determined to downplay Mateen’s murderous hostility to LGBT people. Indeed among commentators who issued statements of general regret, urging prayers and deploring violence, many declined to note the specificity of his target, as if the sexual orientation of his victims had been an incidental, not essential part of the shooter’s homicidal calculus. (Can’t we just say #alllivesmatter, not #LGBTlivesmatter? No, we can’t.)


Other proponents of gun freedom once again cited the nation’s mental health crisis as the true problem, not Mateen’s easy access to military grade weapons. Mateen legally purchased the Sig Sauer MCX, which is similar to an AR-15 semi-automatic, and a Glock 17-round handgun just days before his rampage. (He apparently did not convert the weapon to fully automatic before employing it to such devastating effect, but you can find out how to do so on YouTube. You will need a pair of pliers, a paper clip and an AR-15 of course. Safety note: Don’t try it without an AR-15.)

It is exasperating to have to refute these arguments after each instance of above-average bloodletting (compared to the steady trudge of gun mayhem in places like Chicago, which apparently STILL does not warrant immediate attention as a national emergency), but here goes:

• Yes, the United States has a problem with effective response and treatment of mental illness

• Yes, it seems likely that some degree of Islamist extremism played some part in the shooter’s twisted and complex motivation (though nothing to indicate that Mateen was an actual puppet to a particular group or extremist ideology)

• Do we have a home-grown religion- and ideology- (pick your brand) based terrorism problem to deal with? We sure do!

• No, it is not the PC coddling of U.S. identity politics to acknowledge the simple fact this shooter picked a target—a gay nightclub—as an expression of his homophobic rage, and, yes, like other religions, Islam needs to address an inherent quasi-spiritual justification for discrimination and violence against non-heterosexual folks.

But none of these acknowledgements somehow relieves the nation of the obligation to confront its gun addiction. Whether you wish to ignore the military lineage of weapons like Mateen’s Sig Sauer—or the more popular AR-15 it replicates—and redefine them as a hunting weapon; whether you want to argue—erroneously in my opinion—that the second amendment barricades any regulation of gun ownership; whether you believe that gun violence fundamentally is a reflection of a deep a spiritual hole in the nation’s heart or that Islamist extremism is the more significant threat here, we are still left with the problem of 300+ million guns and mass-incident and daily deaths from guns that are far in excess of any OECD peer state. That reality begs a response.

If the gun-owning community does not begin to join the civil dialogue on gun violence with sincere and practical suggestions toward reducing and, perhaps, even ending gun violence, they risk being left out of the process toward meaningful solutions. That means repeating a loud “no” for everything suggested—including even tracking and studying gun violence as the public health menace it is—is no longer acceptable. That means suggesting that the answer to rampant gun violence is for more people to carry guns is a non-starter. Most of us want to live in a civilized, non-heat packing society, not in a Glock-infused state of nature, and if it makes any difference study after study after study confirms that harboring a gun makes you less safe from harm, not more.

We will never live in a society free of mental illness, and we seem doomed to struggle with religious fanaticism of all stripes from time to time. Those problems won’t go away. They are matters of the heart and head that can never be completely fixed, but gun violence is something that can be practically addressed. Other OECD states have already done so.

A lot of folks want to keep guns; let’s figure out how to keep them safely, in your homes and off city streets. The deaths in Orlando properly shock, but it should also be shocking that in 2015 more people died at the hands of toddlers who had discovered their parents’ weapons than were killed by terrorists (sadly, mostly the toddlers themselves). We should be outraged that the vast majority of guns used in crimes in our cities began their functional lives as legally acquired weapons before trickling down to the criminal market through private sales (which is why draining the reservoir of U.S. guns and tightening regulations for private sales is essential). Gun locks, gun safety instruction and gun liability insurance should be prerequisites to gun ownership. This is not unconstitutional; it’s common sense.

The NRA considers the persistent death toll from gun violence, whether through mass death events like Orlando or the quotidian mayhem of gang or other criminal violence, as acceptable losses to preserve Second Amendment freedoms. The rest of us who don’t think those deaths are acceptable have to remain in the fight to reduce gun violence. Fortunately that includes the majority of NRA members who are not opposed to stronger gun control measures and who could conceivably be dislodged from the monolithic positions of the NRA elite to join in a more fruitful, practical discussion on gun laws.

It is exhausting and exasperating to have to keep returning to this problem. But it is the least we owe—in remorse and sorrow—to the young people gunned down on Sunday in Orlando, the innocent children of Sandy Hook school and the scores of others in recent years who have had lives that should have been full of beauty and wonder and happiness senselessly, shamefully cut short.

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Carlos Orozco
2 years 7 months ago
Far easier to blame the NRA and the Fourth Amendment instead of the "religion of peace".
Robert Lewis
2 years 7 months ago
Instead of talking only about "gun violence" and "the religion of peace," why not also talk about the homophobia that the Catholic Church has done so much to encourage.
ed gleason
2 years 7 months ago
Right R Lewis ...The investigation has a lot of evidence that self hate homophobia is the motivation of the killer along with suicide by cop. No ISIL ties have been established as of this writing, except the self serving 911 call [to please daddy?]. . The killer could not face a gay life with that father. Islam, the FBI, Evangelicals and rightey Catholics have all been bitten by their homophobic stances. ....basta
Monica Doyle
2 years 7 months ago
What practical steps can those of us who are appalled at the ease with which guns can purchased take to stop this madness? The first thing I am trying to do is respectfully listen to another's point of view. I am trying to step into the mindset of someone who thinks the bad guys will always get guns, therefore the good guys need unfettered access. Then I am at a complete loss as to how to convert hearts. What can be done?
Mark Mitchell
2 years 7 months ago
I have co-presented and been in 'active shooter' events. The question for us Catholics is "will you take some of your personal time and volunteer to help victims and their families?".In other words, go to them, maybe lead a discussion group on the topic at your church.....They will know we are Christians by our love.
Joseph Keffer
2 years 7 months ago
Thank you for your diverse thoughts, most of which are relevant. Please reconsider your phrase: "Islamist extremism has been frequently, even hysterically cited--" It is not hysterical. After a lengthy study of the excellent DVD series of Prof. Reynolds of Notre Dame, and the life of Muhammed, and other academic sources of publication, it is quite clear, to our study group, that the Islamic terrorism of the current era is real, diverse, spread throughout the world, and not exaggerated. We must confront it realistically. This is another example of the stimulus it has provided.
Robert Koch
2 years 7 months ago
Robert It wasn't a Catholic that killed the people in Orlando. It wasn't a Catholic that killed at Sandy Hook, it wasn't a Catholic that killed in Aurora Colorado, nor on 9-11.
Nicholas Clifford
2 years 7 months ago
The morning news today has carried the cheering story that for the past 20 years, the World's Greatest Deliberative Body (aka US Congress) has forbidden the spending of any money on research into gun violence. Now, the head of the AMA has decided that 30,000 US firearms deaths a year is a public health hazard, and is trying to overthrow this ban, which has been supported not only by Republicans but some Democrats as well. We can only wait and see whether the WGDB will continue to take refuge in its heretofore cowardly stance, or will look the facts in the face. Closer to home, meaning in our church, perhaps we could all realized that it's way past time to get rid of that loving phrase "objectively disordered," or whatever other dreadful language the Roman wordsmiths dreamed up to describe homosexuality.
Carlos Orozco
2 years 7 months ago
Guns don't kill, radical Islam does. Ask the gays thrown from rooftops, Christians beheaded, enemy combatants drowned, dynamited or overrun by tanks in Syria and Iraq. Guns are just accessories. The obsessive attack on the Second Amendment is purely political and a diversion. On a related matter, what good is the NSA-controlled police state if it can't stop radicals already in its radar? What has been gained from rescinding the Fourth Amendment in practice?
Tim O'Leary
2 years 7 months ago
I am not an NRA member and do not own a gun. I am supportive of strict controls on assault weapons. I support what appears to be the consensus developing in Congress to have greater background checks keeping guns out of the mentally or religiously or ideologically disturbed. But, there are 350 million guns in private hands in America, up from 185 million in 1993 (when there were nearly double the gun deaths, contradicting a direct correlation between gun number and gun deaths). There are over 10 million AR-15 rifles in private hands. So, let's be realistic about the efficacy guns laws and these crimes. On the other hand, eliminating ISIS to end ISIS-inspired killings is something we know works. Defeating the Nazis greatly reduced Nazi-inspired violence. Ending Communism stopped the mass killings in those countries. Defeating Pol Pot ended the killing fields. Invading Afghanistan greatly curtailed the Taliban's ability to inflict terror on their women. Even destroying Al Qaeda substantially reduced their terror attacks. Unfortunately, the American people got tired and voted in an administration who made space for ISIS to grow, then scoffed at their rise and continues to this day to underestimate their capability to inspire Muslims to kill the infidel. It continues to thwart intelligence gathering, to let would-be terrorists slip through their fingers, to make mosques police no-go zones. The Obama administration is very particular when using the latest terms (forever shifting to test supporter compliance) for the LGBT movement (Q or no Q, IA, etc.), or careful in getting the pronoun right for a gender in transition, or condemning some term as now racist, but it can never call the Jihadi's Islamic, is obsessive about the ISIL term (another form of psychological resistance of recognizing ISIS - even the French government gets that right), and like the writer of this article, always tries to conflate all religious extremists as equally violent, when suicidal murders are almost non-existent outside Islamic extremism. It is also completely illegitimate and the height of prejudice to try to blame Christians, Jews or non-violent Muslims for their peaceful or political defense of normal marriage and their sincere moral and health objections to same-sex activity for motivating an ISIS-inspired suicidal killer who also happens to be a Registered Democrat with homosexual leanings. The involvement of the wife and probably others in this attack, as in San Bernardino, proves the ISIS-inspired Islamic Jihadi motive was the dominant one. But, the greater point for the Christian response to the self-identified LGBTQIA... is that our God calls us to love them and want the best for them, their salvation, even if that means a desire for them to see themselves first as children of God, bound to live a chaste life as all Christians are bound to (Religion means to bind oneself to a belief). Here is a great piece on what it means to respond as a Christian to those who see themselves as LGBT.
c w s fong
2 years 7 months ago
>>>Orlando’s hellish massacre; Rampage alarmed America; Losing fifty lives in short time; A death toll like that in wartime; No violence may people all pray; Dwell in men’s hearts is love each day. Our God may you hear all these lines. Amen.


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