The fight on the home front

First Paris, now San Bernardino—the news reports are preliminary, but it appears that a coordinated attack has been carried out in southern California.  At this point, the police have released nothing in the way of information about a motive, other than to say that one of the shooters may have attended a party at the Inland Regional Center before leaving and then returning to begin shooting.  The fact that the shooters came in what is described as body armor and may also have brought a pipe bomb with them suggests that this was not simply a workplace disagreement, though.  One of the suspects has been identified as Syed Farook, a man whose father claimed is a devout Muslim.

Once more, the reactions are predicable.  In an interview scheduled before the incident, President Obama called for more gun control, while attacks on the religion of Islam are all over Twitter.

But let’s take a moment to recognize that two fundamental rights—gun ownership and religion—are at stake here.  I have stated that we are at war, but we have to be careful to define exactly with whom we are in conflict and what our goals can and ought to be.

If my neighbor faces Mecca five times a day in prayer, I am not harmed by that.  If my neighbor owns an AR-15 and boxes of ammunition, I am not harmed by that, either.  I put those two statements together to remind us all that there are plenty of people who would deny my neighbor—and me—the right to one of those things.  But harm only comes if the choices of one person or of a group of people are imposed on everyone.

As gun owners, we have to realize that many in this country see us in exactly the same light as many see religiously motivated terrorism.  The fallacy of the hasty generalization is seductive, one that we have to work at rejecting.  This is a message to everyone, not just to supporters or opponents of gun rights.  A few bad actors are not representative of over a billion human beings—nor of a hundred million—and we can only reinforce that point if we maintain consistency in how we view all groups.

If I choose not to practice your religion, that is my right.  The way to preserve that right is to guarantee that I won’t try to force you to practice whatever religion or lack thereof appeals to me.  Anyone who can agree to those terms must be free to believe and practice in any way he or she desires.  The same statement is true about owning and carrying firearms.

The other point to remember is that both attacks, in Paris and in San Bernardino, were perpetrated in locations that make the legal possession of guns difficult, especially in public.  Just as we cannot control what people choose to believe, we have clear evidence that we can’t keep guns out, no matter how much wishful thinking we engage in.

Any person who respects the rights of all of us is in that way my friend.  I say this to Muslims and Christians and pagans and atheists, to gun owners and to those who would never touch a firearm.  Those who feel the need to force me to conform to their vision of life is my enemy.  This is the clarity we need in the war we are fighting.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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