Gun cult?

The Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette raises the profile of the growing push for stricter gun control legislation emanating from U. S. churches.

Some Charleston churches, such as historic St. John's Episcopal, are pondering a call for U.S. congregations to unite in a nationwide crusade -- against the "cult" of guns that idolizes weaponry, causing 30,000 U.S. violent deaths each year.

The crusade is based on a new book, America and its Guns, by retired Presbyterian pastor James Atwood, published just before the Connecticut school massacre. The book says U.S. politicians won't protect American families from gun murder, so churches across the nation should join in a mass movement for gun safety.

Gun-lovers are more than just shooting fans, the book alleges -- they actually worship weapons like members of a cult. The minister-author says America's "Gun Empire" is rooted in shoot-'em-down video games, violent movies and toy guns cherished by American boys. The cult has more than 5,000 U.S. assemblies per year: gun shows drawing throngs.

We aren't endorsing the analysis of the book, and don't have conclusions to offer about the link between violent movies and video games and mass shootings. But some of the fact presented in the piece are interesting.

The Rev. Rick Barger, an Episcopal priest who tended victims of the 1999 Columbine school massacre, reviewed the book in Congregations magazine, saying:

"In the 17-year period between 1979 and 1997, there were 651,697 deaths by guns in America. This is more than the number of all U.S. servicemen and women who have died in all of our wars since 1775. The belief in guns and their proliferation is such that a child in the United States is 12 times more likely to die from a gunshot wound than in 25 other industrial nations combined. Between 1997 and 2007, there were 41 separate school shootings in the United States -- Columbine plus 40 others."

(The priest's math may be faulty, since more than 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War -- but his conclusion about the terrible U.S. gun toll is on-target.)

Comments (2)

Jim--
Remember most of the Civil War deaths were caused by disease (approximately 400,000 of the 620,000!) So if you only include in the war fatalities those shot and blown up-- what the DOD calls "combat deaths"--then Rick Barger's comparison is close to accurate.
--Byron Rushing

I'm no great fan of guns, especially in urban areas, but their inculturation goes deeper than current violent games and entertainments. From the time the first Europeans set foot on this continent's soil, guns were a part of everyday life, necessary for survival and protection as well as exploitation and conquest of this new 'promised land.' This was so unquestioned at the time of the writing of the Constitution that the only expressed government interest was the necessity of armed militias in the absence of a standing army.

The Census Bureau may have declared the frontier closed in 1890 but the three century deep frontier attitude toward the utility and necessity of gun ownership survived. Our contemporary culture of gun possession predates and conflicts with the rise of the modern liberal state, one of whose duties it is to protect us from one another, and will continue until we recognize and deal with how deeply embedded it is in our culture.

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