Just about everyone has now heard about the shooting that took place in a Colorado movie theater on Friday. The shooter, a 24 year-old grad student, opened fire with tear gas and several guns, killing 12 and wounding 59. The tragedy has created a media firestorm as prominent politicians, relgious leaders, and other public figures express their sorrow and their commitment to national unity.
Despite the national mourning that America seems to be experiencing, there are those who are quick to use this as a way to further their own ideologies. So far, I have heard at least three different people expressing their conviction that if people simply followed what they believe in, this could have been avoided.
First of all, you have the religous conservatives, who state that it is a lack of God in our public sphere that led to this. They claim that if people went to church, prayed, and donated more of their money to them, then this wouldn't have happened. It's an indication of the breakdown of morality in our society, and only by strong conviction in faith can we restore order.
Second, there are the gun advocates. As usual, this has sparked debates about gun control. What's unique in this case, however, is that a number of conservative pro-gun advocates have asked the question, wasn't anyone in the movie theater armed? Couldn't someone with a concealed weapon have stopped this from happening? What if everyone in the theater had been armed; the gunman wouldn't have been able to kill or injure so many people.
Thirdly, you have the people who are advocating for more gun control, pointing to the fact that the shooter was able to purchase most of his weapons online without background checks or anything. These folks argue that this tragedy would never have happened if tighter restrictions on guns were put in place.
If there's one thing I cannot stand, it is individuals or groups using a national tragedy to push their agenda on people. In the first instance, you have a religious group using this to further their ideological perspective. They say that people should repent of their sins so that this doesn't happen. How is prayer and Christian dominance in the public sphere supposed to prevent these atrocities? Really? How does that work? Even if you're a Christian, you can't force everyone else to be, and so what's the point?
In the second case, you have people who observe an incident of gun violence, and use it to advocate for looser gun laws? Really? You could argue, I suppose, that if everyone had a gun that the shooter would not have been so deadly. Then again, I could argue that if we restricted access to high-power assault rifles, handguns with large clips, and tear gas canisters that this kind of thing would not happen in the first place. And, if everyone had a gun, do you think it would improve public safety? Really? Sure, everyone could protect themselves, but you don't think that having everyone running around with a 9mm is going to cause some issues?
Then, we have gun control advocates. In this case, I tend to agree with them, but I disagree with them using this tragedy as a way to galvanizing their base and drawing more people to their cause. This makes them just as sick as the pro-gun crowd, in my mind. If they want to have a real debate on the merits of gun control, do that. But don't play to people's emotions over something like this. Present facts on gun violence, but don't commercialize a national tragedy.
Finally, it annoys me that politicians tend to use these tragedies as well. Granted, so far, they've been good about simply expressing their condolences and suspending campaign stuff. But I don't think it's going to last. This will be one more point about gun control rights, and will be used by both parties to try and push their agenda. Again, I would hope that this wasn't the case, but I'm not holding my breath for civility.