Monday, November 06, 2017


There are two Americas, and yesterday's church massacre took place in the one I don't live in. The shooter and his victims grew up in Texas, where it's widely assumed that guns are very, very good for society. A "good man with a gun" shot the assailant, but only after he'd killed 26 people. Gun culture helped end this tragedy, but gun culture also caused it.

A lot of people in my America believe in gun control, but we've been strictly forbidden from having any influence on gun laws at the national level, and certainly in Texas. We also have no cultural influence, except in the negative sense. What I mean by that is that when we say critical things about guns, the other America reacts with outrage, and then embraces guns even more. In the other America, while it's acknowledged that bad people do sometimes get their hands on guns and do regrettable things, feelings about guns are overwhelmingly positive. Guns are fun. Guns can help you feed your family. Guns will protect you from crime. Guns prevent government tyranny. Guns -- they're wonderful.

Devin Patrick Kelley grew up in that culture. It's part of the conservative culture, the culture of the America I don't live in. But nobody ever says to this culture what the conservative culture says to Muslims when one Muslim commits an act of violence: Why don't you police your own people? Why don't you do a better job of identifying those who adhere to a perverted version of your belief system? Why don't you report the dangerous ones to the authorities?

In the gun culture, it's believed that guns can solve a lot of problems. Devin Patrick Kelley obviously believed that, too -- his problem was rage, and a gun helped him channel that rage. So it was an effective tool for him.

If you're part of the gun culture and you say that Kelley had a distorted view of your culture's faith, then I have to ask you whether you've noticed how many people in your culture have this distorted view and have committed horrible crimes, and whether you've turn a blind eye to them. Do you think that there's nothing worrisome about a young man with a domestic violence conviction in a military court buying multiple weapons and identifying one rifle in particular as "a bad bitch"? You don't, do you? You think we should err on the side of assuming that everyone is entitled to as many guns as he wants unless a very high bar of previous criminality is cleared. Right?

I don't believe that Muslim communities in America embrace Muslim extremism. I do believe that the gun culture in America embraces an extremist view of guns -- a belief that it's always good to have more guns, it's always good to have more intimidating guns, and it's always good to remind people that you're part of the gun culture and they should be a little bit afraid of you for that reason. Texas governor Greg Abbott spoke solemnly about yesterday's tragedy, but here's a tweet he posted in 2015:

This shooting is on you, members of the gun culture. You tell these shooters that guns are good. And they believe you.

(Abbott tweet via Holly O'Reilly.)

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