The reports are multiplying — the gunman who killed ten people in Roseburg, Ore., yesterday did, in fact, target Christians during his shooting spree. The brother of victim Autumn Vicari told NBC News that the shooter told his victims to stand and asked them whether they were Christians. If they said “yes,” he shot them in the head. “If they said ‘other’ or didn’t answer, they were shot elsewhere in the body, usually the leg.” A similar report came from student Kortney Moore, who was on the scene.
With Christians explicitly targeted for mass murder, are we now going to launch a round of anguished soul-searching about anti-Christian rhetoric? Will we cleanse political discourse of anti-Christian expression? Will militant, angry atheists be universally shamed into silence?
After all, we’re accustomed to National Conversations after mass murders. The horrific 2011 shooting that left six people dead and one congresswoman wounded in Tucson led to a National Conversation about civility — including the widespread and vicious vilification of Sarah Palin — in the absence of any evidence at all that political rhetoric had anything to do with the murders. The racist massacre of a black Bible-study group in Charleston earlier this year led to an extraordinary, sustained burst of commentary on racism, the South, and the Civil War — not to mention the public cleansing of Confederate symbols, a move that included a planned exhumation of Confederate bones and the toppling of Confederate statues.
#related#If recent history is any guide, in the days following an explicitly anti-Christian hate crime, the National Conversation will be mainly about gun control. The unmistakable rise of a particularly contemptuous brand of discourse directed at Christians will be an afterthought in the face of the “real” issue: America’s failure to confiscate guns like Australia. But if the gunman had asked Muslims to stand before shooting them, what would the conversation look like today? After all, we’re still talking about the brief detention of a young Muslim student who made a clock look like a bomb. Will we talk about anti-Christian bigotry after Roseburg as much as we discussed “Islamophobia” after Ahmed? I doubt it.
In reality, these National Conversations are often disingenuous from the start. No rational person believes that the Tea Party caused the Tucson shooting, yet that didn’t stop the Left from spending weeks browbeating the Right over its political rhetoric. No rational person thinks that a flag flying on the South Carolina capitol grounds caused the Charleston murders, but CNN transformed itself into the Confederate News Network in a weeks-long crusade against symbols of the Old South. White supremacists have long since been rightly banished to the fringes of American life, and making them an even fringier fringe will not have any real-world effect.
Here’s the cold, hard truth of many, if not most, American mass killings — there is, in this nation of 320 million souls, a certain small number of evil young men who have convinced themselves that the path to greatness lies over the bodies of the innocent. Some of them hate African Americans. Some of them hate Christians. Some of them hate indiscriminately. Finding these young men is like finding a needle in a haystack, and it’s just as hard to deprive them of access to weapons.
If recent history is any guide, in the days following an explicitly anti-Christian hate crime, the National Conversation will be mainly about gun control.
There is no true “solution” to men like this. It’s not realistic to expect that the media or the public won’t make them famous. In the hours after the Oregon shooting, as public officials delayed releasing the shooter’s identity, the online hunger for information was palpable. And that’s understandable: People want to know why, and they’re reasonably cynical about conclusory statements from the authorities.
Nor does gun control provide the answer. Presently, we don’t know how the shooter obtained his gun, but short of repeal of the Second Amendment and the large-scale, coercive confiscation of America’s firearms — neither measure will ever be taken — it won’t be hard to find a gun in the United States. Oregon, in fact, had recently tightened its gun laws. It did not save the victims at Roseburg.
Even in states with more-permissive gun laws, the vast majority of people don’t carry a gun. But while we can’t know if any of the Roseburg victims would have carried, or if they could have effectively engaged the gunman if they did, we do know that school policies tightly restricted their access to weapons. And that’s the core violation of individual rights at the heart of gun-free zones — they effectively gut the citizenry’s unquestioned right of self-defense, rendering Americans involuntarily vulnerable.
#share#While the quest for answers after this shooting likely won’t lead to a National Conversation about Christianity, that doesn’t mean that we all have to brush past yesterday’s realities. I woke up this morning awed by the courage of men and women who stood and affirmed their faith in the face of death itself. Compared to the love and approval of the Creator of the universe, the respect or acknowledgment of the New York Times or the president is meaningless indeed.
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.