The New York Times put it succinctly:
“The debate over what to do to reduce gun violence in America hit an absurd low point on Wednesday when a Senate witness tried to portray a proposed new ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines as some sort of sexist plot that would disproportionately hurt vulnerable women and their children. …
But there is a more fundamental problem with the idea that guns actually protect the hearth and home. Guns rarely get used that way. In the 1990s, a team headed by Arthur Kellermann of Emory University looked at all injuries involving guns kept in the home in Memphis, Seattle and Galveston, Tex. They found that these weapons were fired far more often in accidents, criminal assaults, homicides or suicide attempts than in self-defense. For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides.”
My husband and I happened to see the testimony the Times was referencing: in it, the young woman told a Senate committee considering the assault weapon ban a poignant story of a woman who had shot intruders and protected her children. One of the Senators on the committee happened to be familiar with the incident she cited, and pointed out that the weapon the woman had used was a shotgun that would still be available to her if the ban passed. The facts didn’t phase the woman offering the testimony, who continued to insist that any effort to limit gun availability would endanger innocent women and children.
Her entire performance reminded me of a religious believer reciting a ritual–impervious to data or evidence contradicting her deeply-held belief.
The analogy that springs to mind is the congregation of simple folks without much in the way of worldly goods who nevertheless continue to donate hard-earned money to pastors living the high life thanks to their credulity. In this case, the pastors are the gun manufacturers and the believers are the fanatic fringe of the NRA.
I know reasonable people who own guns. I know rural folks who hunt. I even know single women who have pistols they have purchased for self-protection. None of them use–or defend–assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and they aren’t the problem. The problem is the True Believers–the people who are emotionally invested in a theology of guns.
People of faith.