News / USA

US Passion for Guns Survives Newtown School Shooting

US Passion for Guns Survives the Newtown School Shootingi
X
December 13, 2013 12:02 PM
It’s been a year since a gunman shot and killed 20 first graders and six adults at an elementary school in the United States. And while national gun control legislation was expected to be passed, most laws passed since then have actually made it easier for individuals to own weapons. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports on how the U.S. fascination with guns survived the tragedy.
Memorials are being held for victims of gun violence this week, a year after a gunman shot and killed 26 children and educators at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. And many victims and proponents of gun control are incensed that dozens of people are still dying each day, including young ones.

“Newtown happens every week in America,” Rev. Matthew Crebbin of the Newtown Congregational Church said at a remembrance of the December 14, 2012 shooting, flanked by people holding up photos of lost loved ones. “Every week we lose precious children to guns.”

Countries with the Most Civilian FirearmsCountries with the Most Civilian Firearms
x
Countries with the Most Civilian Firearms
Countries with the Most Civilian Firearms
Not only have proposals for new national legislation in the wake of the tragedy foundered, but most laws passed by state legislatures have actually loosened restrictions on private weapons.

Apocalyptic theology

Why is this the case? There’s no denying that there is a deep-seated fascination with guns in America. But it should also be seen as part of an apocalyptic theology that dates back to the early days of the republic, says Donovan Schaefer, who teaches religion at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

“America was founded as a sort of utopian religious community - it meant different things to different people right from the beginning,” he said, “and somewhere along the way guns themselves - the actual physical object of the gun - became a sort of religious artifact.”

He says that’s the way the National Rifle Association - the principal U.S. gun lobby - treats it.

“The NRA’s strategy is to appeal to that minority of gun owners who are very invested in this apocalyptic idea of the United States as fighting this constant battle between freedom and tyranny,” he said.

Opponents of gun control use an apocalyptic vocabulary that resists reasoned debate, says Schaefer.

He cites NRA chairman Wayne LaPierre’s response to the school shooting that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Gun murders in developed countriesGun murders in developed countries
x
Gun murders in developed countries
Gun murders in developed countries
And Schaefer says the NRA’s late president, actor Charlton Heston, also spoke in such terms when he issued a rallying cry to gun owners in a speech that ended with him holding a rifle aloft and challenging the government to take his gun “from my cold dead hands!”

"Unlaw"

Last spring, President Obama tried unsuccessfully to turn outrage over the elementary school shooting into legislation that would strengthen background checks on gun purchases.

Pro-gun rights pastor David Whitney believes in a “God-given” right to bear arms and called the president’s proposals “unlaw.”

“If someone is enacting ‘unlaw’ - that is they’re specifically violating the provision of our law - they have become a domestic enemy,” he said, adding that if that would happen, it would mean “very deep trouble.”

One of the memorial services this week was at the Washington National Cathedral, a symbolic landmark.

The Cathedral’s dean, Reverend Gary Hall, has come out strongly in favor of gun control.

“For people of faith, gun violence is not a morally ambiguous issue,” he told those present.

2nd Amendment sacrosanct

Hall argues that the Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution - which talks about “a right of the people to keep and bear arms” - has been turned into a religious commandment by segments of the gun lobby.

“Somehow the second amendment gets theologized as a kind of absolute right where people have access to guns, and that somehow the country’s going to come undone apart and the American era will be over ‘if you take our guns away from us,’” he said in an interview.

Hall added that the gun has become part of a popular theology that is at odds with scripture.

“One of the chief idolatries in the bible is weapon worship, as if weapons are going to provide security,” he said. “And I do think there’s a way in which the gun has become symbolic of safety and security in a weird way.”

At one of the remembrances, the mother of Newtown schoolteacher Lauren Rousseau held a picture of her daughter and said: “Lauren never touched a gun, and she had no experience whatsoever with gun violence before that day.”

For her and other relatives of victims, the gun has been a source of sorrow and suffering, and their hope for no further tragedies is up against some strongly held beliefs in America about guns.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs