3 Reasons I Disagree with Mike Huckabee

204x204-mike-huckabeeCirculating through the blogosphere and social media is Mike Huckabee’s response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. He did not blame the shooting on guns, or attribute it to a crazed individual, but instead, blamed it on a lack of “God” in our society. An honest explication of his position is he feels America has gradually shifted away from a religious nation and into a more secular one. And as the teachings of God become less prevalent in our culture, our culture has become more violent.

A lot on the right have taken a liking to this line of thinking. It skirts the issue of gun control and advances the Evangelical agenda – one where religion has a larger role in the public sphere. But quite honestly, it is illogical and misguided.

First, it assumes religion, and particularly western religion, is the sole arbiter of what’s right and wrong. It assumes only God knows what’s moral, and without him, we are left with an amoral society. In his monologue, Huckabee cites the 10 Commandments, specifically the 6th; “thou shall not kill” as evidence that if only we followed Christianity more closely we would not have nearly as many murders. Do we really believe we need religion or God to know killing is wrong? Are we as a society reliant on God to tell us where our moral compasses should point? Or is it more plausible that religion just reiterates what we already know to be right or wrong. The 10 Commandments are pretty much commonsense (except for the 2nd – not sure why an all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing being deals with problems of jealousy, but that’s a separate issue). Removing religion from public facets of society isn’t depriving or dismantling our moral beliefs. We can have morals without religion.

Second, his argument assumes the more widespread God is in our society the more peaceful it will become. Let’s not forget, people have been killing in the name of God for centuries. Religion doesn’t promote peace, if anything it has caused senseless and unnecessary death. The teachings of religion may not promote killing, but the practice of religion has without a doubt prompted murder. 9/11 was killing in the name of God. Those who blow up abortion clinics are killing in the name of God. Hate crimes against gay and lesbians are violence in the name of God. Religion has the unique ability to instill hatred in people without any rational backing for that hate.

Third, Huckabee’s position is so American centric, it becomes illogical upon actual analysis. 15 of the 25 most deadly mass shootings occurred in America. (Finland came in a not-so-close second with 2 entries to that list.) Yet, America is by no means the most secular nation. Many European countries are far more secular with much greater populations of atheists, but they do not have anywhere near as many violent acts as we do. They do have stricter gun control laws though. It’s worth noting, the most violent region in the United States is the South, also referred to as the ‘Bible Belt.’

Instead of blaming too little religion, or not enough God as the problem;  let’s look at solutions that actually make sense e.g. banning assault weapons or increasing funding for mental health diseases.  I’m not condemning religion, or those who practice religion, but what Mike Huckabee is purporting is disconnected with reality. It is comments like his that slow the process of actual and meaningful legislation concerning gun control. By making gun control a non-issue, he is dismissing the actual issue at hand in order to appease the gun-wielding portion of his base and advance his agenda of making us a more Christian nation.


Yes, Let’s Talk About Gun Control

360_fareed_0820It seems the only time the issue of guns and gun control is at the forefront of the national conversation is after a tragedy like that of Sandy Hook Elementary School.  At the same time though, as the nation ponders the issue, there are also societal murmurings and whispers that we must not politicize this event, or use it to advance political agendas. Here lies the crux of the problem of gun violence in our country. The only time we as a society think about reforming gun laws occurs simultaneously with an understanding that we must not use one event – one tragedy – to determine the laws of our nation.

So we are stuck with the status quo. We are stuck with a system where attaining a gun comes with relative ease, including guns meant for killing. Assault rifles, semi-automatics, and high-capacity magazines can all be legally obtained. These are weapons not for sport, not for hunting, and not for personal protection; they are weapons designed to kill.

Advocates of guns will give their usual objections about gun control laws after tragedies like the one that occurred last week, saying people like the shooter are insane, mentally disturbed individuals; gun control laws will not prevent people from shooting up schools, malls or movie theatres. This may be true. It may be impossible to create gun control laws to stop disturbed individuals intent on killing indiscriminately from doing precisely that.

But, let’s remember, the vast majority of victims of gun violence are not the victims of mass shootings. Gun violence happens daily. There were close to 9,000 gun related homicides in 2011 accounting for 67 percent of all homicides, and the frequency of gun violence in the United States is much greater than that of other OECD countries; however, it takes a national tragedy for us to talk about gun control. This is problematic because the dialogue around reforming gun laws centers on trying to prevent the next Sandy Hook, or the next Aurora movie theatre, which is without a doubt, a difficult task.

A not as difficult task is creating laws that will help curb all the other forms of gun violence. Restricting access to guns, and banning guns solely meant for killing is a good start. A Harvard Study discovered that where there are more guns there are more homicides – a not-so-groundbreaking revelation. This coupled with the fact that the majority of guns are obtained legally leads us to conclude that if guns were harder to obtain, gun violence would be reduced.

Instead of implementing reasonable gun control laws, we do nothing because we become ensconced with the belief that no amount of laws will prevent insane individuals from shooting up public places. We let the extreme cases of gun violence paralyze all gun-related policy. Instead of enacting reasonable laws like stricter background checks, closing the gun show loophole, banning semi-automatic and assault weapons, increasing funding for mental health problems, and banning magazines and clips that hold inexplicable amounts of ammunition, we do nothing. We hide behind the excuse that these laws will not stop all gun violence.

However, just because these laws may not have stopped Adam Lanza or James Eagan Holmes from committing such horrifying acts doesn’t mean new laws would be useless or in vain. Gun violence is so prevalent in this country that homicides simply become statistics, and it’s only until we face mass murder that we stop charting those statistics and put a face to them. It’s why only after a shooting rampage do we think about reforming gun control laws. Let’s remember, every statistic is a person, a person with a family and friends, and if stricter gun control laws can prevent just one of those cases, I say it’s worth it.

This doesn’t mean restricting individual freedoms, or eviscerating the Second Amendment. I’m not saying all guns should be banned, but gun ownership is a privilege, not a right, and therefore it should come with restrictions. The goal of gun control laws is not to make us less free – but to make us safer.

Fiction vs. Reality: The Gun Control Debate

Fiction:  September 2008 – NRA ad alleges that then candidate Obama wants to levy a new tax on guns and ammo, as well as ban the use of certain guns.

Reality:  February 2008– Steven Kazierczak walks into a Northern Illinois University classroom with 3 handguns, a shotgun, and 8 loaded magazines. He opens fire killing 6 people including himself.

Fiction:  April 2009 – Glenn Beck says President Obama will, “slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun.”

Reality:  April 2009 – Police officers in Pittsburgh, responding to a 9-1-1 call, were met with open fire by Richard Poplawski.  At the end of the shootout, 3 officers were dead and 2 others were injured

Fiction:  May 2010 – At the NRA National Convention, Sarah Palin said that if Obama and other Democrats thought they, ”could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the 2nd Amendment.”

Reality:  February 2010 – During a meeting for the biology department at the University of Alabama, a professor, Amy Bishop, pulled out a handgun and began shooting indiscriminately. She killed 3 people and injured 3 others.

Fiction:  August 2011 – Chuck Norris claims the Obama administration is, “an administration with a secretive itch for gun control…”

Reality: January 2011 – Jared Loughner opens fire on a Tucson crowd gathered to hear Rep. Gabriel Giffords speak. She is critically injured and 6 are killed.

Fiction: April 2012 – Mitt Romney spoke at the NRA National Convention and warned that if Obama was given a second term, “He would be unrestrained by the demands of reelection” and would use, “every imaginable ruse and ploy” to take away gun rights.

Reality:  July 2012 – James Holmes walks into a Colorado movie theatre and opens fire on the crowd. 12 are killed and dozens are injured.

Reality:  The unfortunate reality is that these right-wingers are wrong about the President’s gun control record. In reality, Obama has already signed more repeals of federal gun laws than Bush in his combined 8 years. As a candidate, he supported closing the ‘gun show loophole’ and creating stricter background check requirements for new gun purchases; on both accounts he has remained silent since taking office. In fact, the Brady Campaign, the nation’s largest anti-gun group, gave him F’s in all gun control categories.

Part of me wishes the crazies on the right were correct about the President’s gun control record, but they are simply fabrications. I am not in favor of a total ban on guns, but how many more innocent people need to be murdered before we enact actual gun control laws? How many more preventable deaths need to occur before we realize sensible gun control laws will not be the destruction of our Constitution? How many more massacres need to happen before we reject the notion that fewer gun control laws somehow create a safer society?  We have to stop perpetuating the myth that everyone having a gun makes everyone safer. It doesn’t. It just leads to the further loss of life.