Guns are not ef­fec­tive against hate

The Amherst News - - OPINION - Shirley Hallee Shirley Hallee is a free­lance writer liv­ing in Amherst. Her col­umn ap­pears weekly in the Amherst News.

Fol­low­ing the hor­ror of the re­cent deaths and wound­ing of wor­ship­pers in The Tree of Life syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh, the pres­i­dent of the United States stated if there had been a guard with a gun in the build­ing there would likely have been no deaths...ex­cept that of the shooter.

There has al­ready been a move­ment to place armed guards in schools, and now the leader of the coun­try to the south is push­ing for guns in places of wor­ship.

There is a weird sense of irony in the be­lief that vi­o­lence will pre­vent vi­o­lence. Even more to the point is the fact all ma­jor reli­gions are based on love...not hate. In Novem­ber of last year 26 wor­ship­pers at a Chris­tian church in Suther­land Springs, Texas were killed by a gun­man. In 2015 a white su­prem­a­cist killed nine peo­ple in a church in Charles­ton, South Carolina. In late Jan­uary of 2017 six peo­ple were killed and eight wounded in­side the Que­bec Is­lamic Cul­tural Cen­tre.

The per­son who stormed into The Tree of Life syn­a­gogue was car­ry­ing an AR-15 as­sault ri­fle, a Glock, and two hand­guns. Ap­par­ently, this per­son (I refuse to use his name... no mo­ment of fame) had 21 reg­is­tered firearms. Ob­vi­ously, his main weapon was the as­sault ri­fle. It is un­likely that a sin­gle guard would have been able to stop him, un­less the guard was sim­i­larly armed.

It is also hard to imag­ine a se­cu­rity per­son wan­der­ing through a place of wor­ship car­ry­ing a semi­au­to­matic weapon while the con­gre­ga­tion is lis­ten­ing to the pas­tor or rabbi preach­ing words of peace and love.

One of the lead­ers of the syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh did in­di­cate that be­cause of es­ca­lat­ing threats against his faith, they have been hir­ing se­cu­rity dur­ing those times when the con­gre­ga­tion was very large. How­ever, that was not the case on the morn­ing of Oct. 27, since a small at­ten­dance was ex­pected.

Since po­lice of­fi­cers were among the wounded, it is not guar­an­teed se­cu­rity per­sons would have been able to stop a heav­ily armed per­son who was in­tent on de­stroy­ing life.

Rather than see­ing guns as the an­swer, it might be bet­ter to fo­cus on the “hate” part of the crime. In a re­cent col­umn I in­di­cated the rhetoric of Pres­i­dent Trump ap­pears to be en­cour­ag­ing white su­prem­a­cists, Neonazi groups, and male chau­vin­ists to come out of the wood­work. When the leader of a coun­try trav­els to the com­mu­ni­ties where he is hold­ing ral­lies and spews words of hate, he cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment where hate be­comes nor­mal. The pres­i­dent’s be­hav­iour has had an im­pact. The Anti-Defama­tion League in­di­ca­tion that the re­ported anti-Semitic in­ci­dents in that coun­try have in­creased by 57 per cent in 2017. This is the largest rise in a sin­gle year since 1979... the year the track­ing of these crimes be­gan.

Adding to the like­li­hood that Trump’s rhetoric might be in­cit­ing vi­o­lence, the many bombs mailed to Democrats, their sup­port­ers, and to CNN by a per­son who plas­tered his ve­hi­cle with im­ages of “Trump en­e­mies” - com­plete with cross-hairs - leaves lit­tle doubt there are some who see fit to act on the pres­i­dent’s words.

I have noted Don­ald Trump’s ut­ter­ances come very close to in­cit­ing vi­o­lence...which is against the law. Legally it de­pends on in­tent and tim­ing of state­ments made... and ac­tual vi­o­lent in­ci­dents. I think the guy is walk­ing a very fine line. Trump’s so­lu­tion to the vi­o­lence he is in­sti­gat­ing is guns...and the death penalty. Maybe a bet­ter so­lu­tion would be a world filled with peo­ple who refuse to hate. Huge num­bers of stu­dents marched fol­low­ing the school shoot­ing in Park­land, Florida. Women and men marched in mas­sive groups around the world in re­sponse to Trump’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments about women’s body parts.

Maybe an anti-hate march is needed. If Trump could ac­tu­ally un­der­stand how many of us refuse to hate...he might put a lid on it. One can al­ways pray for a mir­a­cle.

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