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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More