By this point, readers of this site are surely very aware of the murders committed in Charleston, South Carolina. Predictably, the usual cast of politicians and advocates have leapt on the incident with demands for more gun control. Twitter is aflame with angry claims about how we who support gun rights are somehow responsible for what was done. The killing of innocent people does demand a response out of common humanity, and the voices of knee-jerk reaction have to be countered. To that end, consider the following suggestions for how all good people can answer the horror that has been perpetrated.
First off, we must quit celebrating these killers. In this, I’m following the advice of astrophysicist and author, David Brin, who reminds us of of a parallel case, a man who burned down the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus to get his name remembered. The people of the city punished him by banning the speaking of his name.
Before anyone accuses me of calling for the violation of another right, I’m not saying we should make this a law. I am asking people of good will to choose to ostracize the vile coward. Don’t show his picture; don’t spend endless hours and ink and electrons making him the subject of our attention. His picture only serves a benefit when law enforcement is still looking for him. The suspect has been captured. He will be tried, and given the evidence, he’s likely to be convicted. Or if we must speak of him, make it clear that we see him as a loser who had nothing of any value to contribute to human race. If we can’t secure permission to use the image of a certain big purple dinosaur of sadly still living memory, find images of baboon posteriors in the public domain to represent him.
We must also make it clear to the world that support for gun rights is entirely separate from and opposed to racism. The concept of rights only works when we recognize them as inherent in all human beings. The forces of gun control are the ones who want to limit firearms as a privilege of the approved (wealthy and politically connected) few. Recall, for example, Michael Bloomberg’s comments on how minorities should not be allowed to have guns—comments that got reported on, even though he tried to restrict access to the video of his words. People of good will have to call out racism wherever we find it, even when its among our own supporters. Killing people because of their skin color is a disgusting act, and so is regarding a person’s moral, intellectual, or mental worth on the same basis.
Beyond these moral choices, we also need to remember the reality of mass shootings and to remind others: Mass shootings are rare and not increasing. They are a tiny fraction of all deaths involving firearms. Such incidents grab our attention, understandably so, but mistaking a mass shooting as a common occurrence is the fallacy of misleading vividness. A rational discussion of how to respond to mass shootings has to include perspective.
With regard to gun rights, need I say that laws that disarm good people are a bad idea? Not to the usual readers of this publication, but apparently to many people in our nation, I do. Supporters of gun rights will recall the attempted mass shooting in Colorado that Jeanne Assam brought to an end. We can speculate at length about what might have happened if a good person at the church in Charleston had been armed. It should have been their choice. I absolutely do not blame them for being unarmed. I do object to the law that removes their ability to decide.
But the question of how to respond to mass shootings isn’t really one about gun rights. Our exercise of rights in no way includes killing innocent people. This attack was not just an attack on one church or one group of people. It was a violation of all of us, every single person. The best thing we can do is raise all our voices against the cowardly act.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.