We’re going to be hearing a lot more about the Gilroy shooter. He was a young white male who, shortly before the attack, urged everyone to read a book from the 1800s which is beloved by white supremacists. He purchased his weapon, being described as an “assault-style rifle”, legally in Nevada because it was banned in California. Among his victims were a 6 year old boy and a 13 year old girl. He was not a known troublemaker, and was not on anyone’s radar as a potential danger.
The anti-gun lobby could hardly ask for a better example of why guns should be banned. The only way they might be happier is if the book he’d promoted, “Might Makes Right”, were pro-Christianity instead of denouncing it (the author believed modern Christianity was a design of “the Jews”) and the shooter had been wearing a MAGA hat while on his murder spree.
There is blame here. The blame is not on the gun… but that’s not to say that the anti-gun lobby doesn’t have a point. Without easy access to the weapon, he would not have shot multiple people. Simply dismissing their argument without considering it does no good, and it’s only through examining multiple points of view with an open mind that solutions can be found.
He still might have murdered his victims, though, or others, without the rifle. He could have set fire to a crowded building, or triggered a bomb, or simply gone on a stabbing spree. This is the way hate murders are typically conducted in areas where there is no easy access to guns.
The problem with hate-related murders is the hate.
Hate is useful, though. It can rally people together under a single sociopolitical banner. It shuts down thoughtful debate, which can be extremely helpful for those who cannot argue well for their point of view. It can be used as a justification for nearly any abomination, even finding a father and a young daughter face down in a river.
Used carefully, hate can reap great rewards. It is a power tool of politics. One of the problems with it is that it is not truly controllable; it is like a tool with manufacturing flaws and no safeguards. It is a tool that can lead to pain and death for the wielder or for anyone else within its range.
It doesn’t matter what the context is. When anti-police rhetoric is ramped up in contrast to a reasonable discussion of individual cases of abuse, we see incidents like the slaughter of Dallas police officers. When pro-environmental groups swear we’re about to destroy the world and demand action instead of talk, we see a hostage situation at the Discovery Channel. When gang members dehumanize their opposition enough, we see children murdering children in city streets. When it happens on a political party basis, we see Congressmen shot while practicing for a charity softball game.
These events occur most often when hate is given free rein and encouragement from leadership. This is why some put some blame on Obama for the Dallas police shooting, the Family Research Council shooter and others; he had taken obvious sides in the matters and, by doing so, had helped create an environment in which the actors felt emboldened.
If that standard is to be maintained, it must be recognized that Trump is not only enabling such an environment but actively encouraging it. With tweets that even many of his defenders have to excuse as “nativist” in an effort to avoid recognizing their racism, he has strengthened those who view racial purity as a laudable goal.
Even though he has, specifically, been viewed as not going far enough, he has nevertheless set the stage for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter and the San Diego temple shooting. His use of hate was the inspiration for a number of package bombs sent to media figures and Democrat politicians.
This is the real danger we face. Not the guns themselves, but the mentality that encourages people to use them against innocents.