This past week, the NRA and its advertising firm, Oklahoma City based Ackerman McQueen, published a video on the NRA News website that continued to stoke the fires of fear, hate, and distrust. The video displays how a terrorist, described in the video as a “radical Islamic terrorist,” would case a mall for a terrorist attack. You can view the video here: Radical Islamic Terrorists Targeting Gun-Free Malls. The mall used in the video is Penn Square Mall here in Oklahoma City, and the narrator of the film says that the reason this “radical Islamic terrorist” will attack in a place like this is because it is a gun free zone, essentially communicating to the viewer that no place is safe unless every place allows people to carry guns. The NRA wants people to believe that we are safer when everyone is armed and when they can take their guns anywhere they want. Of course, the research that the NRA tries to keep from happening, shows just the opposite, that countries with easier access and fewer regulations on firearms are actually much less safe than gun free countries or those with more strict regulations. Preferably the NRA would like all people to be able to open carry. The suggestion is that perhaps this will keep the terrorists at bay.
Imagine a country (sadly some states can imagine this already), where anyone can carry guns anywhere they want without restriction. Imagine these guns in full sight, so that you can see that people are armed. Also imagine that other persons may be carrying concealed weapons wherever they may be going. Think of the chaos and confusion that this could cause in an active shooter situation. Looking at the tragic situation in Dallas, we saw a bit of this confusion displayed on live TV as a person who was legally open carrying an assault style weapon during the march was singled out as a person of interest and even referred to as a suspect by some news outlets. His picture was broadcast for the world to see and judge. And this happened even though he immediately gave police his weapon after the shots from the gunman were fired. He was cleared of any connection to the shooting, but he has received numerous death threats owing to the confusion.
What if many more had been open or concealed carrying in the march? What if they began to shoot back in the direction where the shots were being fired at police? Likely many of those persons would not be alive today? Imagine such a scene in the mall scenario with the terrorist – dozens of armed persons firing back at the terrorists, many being mistaken as the terrorists themselves, likely shooting each other as often as they might shoot the terrorists, and likely killing or injuring others in the crossfire. I am definitely not saying we should not be diligent about protecting places like our malls, but a mall full of open and concealed carrying citizens does not seem to be the answer. The constant anxiety to workers and customers seeing people with guns going in and out of the shops is hardly life in a civilized society. Even most towns in the Wild West had people check in their guns when they came into town.
Our national obsession with guns, driven by fear and distrust and sometimes driven by racism has brought us to a place where no other industrialized democracy is – a place of constant anxiety, too many mass shootings to keep count, and daily deadly encounters with the police who are on edge knowing that anyone they encounter may be armed. When will this madness end? The NRA does not focus on ending the madness – it is good for sales.
The NRA relentlessly plays on and heightens our fears and our lack of trust in each other for the sake of selling more guns and perpetuating the political power of its allies. As a result, not only are we increasingly less safe, but the bonds of trust needed for a just and peaceful community are further eroded. A well armed citizenry that fears and distrusts each other is a formula for ever escalating violence. Gun sales are at a record high, while community is destroyed. It is a cycle of violence that will continue to spiral out of control unless we as a society intentionally break it.
As I ponder this devastating, dangerous, and violent situation, I have a simple message for the people of the United States: Put your weapons down and come out with your hands up! … Now look at your neighbors and put your hands in theirs. We are called to Beloved Community, not to armed combat. Guns will not make us safer as country. They never have, and they never will.