Can We Set Down The Banner Of Gun Rights And Mourn With Paris?

When the news broke on Friday that Paris had been attacked, I was at a friend’s house. I kept reciting the numbers to him: two explosions, 35 dead, hostages taken. Three explosions, 60 dead, 50 hostages taken. Then 100 hostages taken. Another attack at a mall. And on, and on.

His reaction was, “This is what happens when you don’t have an armed populace!” And, reminded of a chore he had to do, he went and got his Glock and prepared some magazines with ammunition he’d gleefully explained to me just a few hours earlier.

Donald Trump had the same thing to say about Friday’s horror, that if gun control weren’t so strict in France, that this wouldn’t have happened: “You can say what you want, but if they had guns — if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry — it would have been a much, much different situation. I hear it all the time, you know. You look at certain cities that have the highest violence, the highest problem with guns and shootings and killings — Chicago is an example, toughest gun laws in the United States, nothing but problems. So our country better get smart because we’re not smart right now.”

(To be clear, because we’re talking about the city I’ve lived in my entire life, Chicago’s problem is gang violence. Criminals in Chicago get their guns from neighbors who are able to purchase guns legally and resell them to the neighborhood. The need for guns in Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods has nothing to do with gun control, it has to do with poverty and survival. So let’s not go on a tangent, here. Chicago just isn’t comparable to France.)

To say that gun control caused Friday’s horror is a red herring. To decrease gun control in France in the hopes that an armed citizen would be able to shoot and kill an attacker and thwart the plan would be treating the symptom, not the cause. The cause is a radical ideology, that goes well beyond the fact that pinning your hopes on armed citizens to spontaneously stop a carefully planned and executed multi-stage attack involving explosives is dicey at best.

The statement that ISIL released about Friday’s attacks called Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity” and the “carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe.” It continued:

“Let France and those who walk in its path know that they will remain on the top of the list of targets of the Islamic State, and that the smell of death will never leave their noses as long as they lead the convoy of the Crusader campaign, and dare to curse our Prophet, Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and are proud of fighting Islam in France and striking the Muslims in the land of the Caliphate with their planes, which did not help them at all in the streets of Paris and its rotten alleys. This attack is the first of the storm and a warning to those who wish to learn.”

There’s a lot in there, but basically the claim is that the attacks were carried out because French culture is perverse, because France is leading the Christian faith in Europe (it’s not, it’s one of the most secular countries in the world), because France is fighting Islam at home and abroad (Islamaphobia is pretty tremendous in France on the first count, but they only started contributing to the 8,000+ U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIL in Syria on September 27 of this year). Ultimately, it’s a claim that France is persecuting Muslims, and that French culture stands in opposition to Islamic values.

This might be true. But while the vast majority of Muslims in France have been living their faith and objecting to persecution peacefully, ISIL presents a radicalized ideology, an ideology that claims that killing people – and killing yourself in the process – will solve the problem of persecution. If you’re willing to plan for months to attack a major city and wipe out as many people as you can, if you’re radicalized, if you’re willing to kill and die for your ideology, what’s really going to stop you from doing it?

A passerby with a gun? And even if that passerby manages to kill you, what about the multitude of people who share your ideology and will just plan more attacks? I’m sure that it feels nice to look at something horrible and say, “I have a simple solution. More guns!” – and compartmentalize the whole situation that way. But all the bloviating about how everyone should have guns just seems more and more like a way for hard-line, pro-gun Americans to distract themselves from facing the gaping terror that attacks like this provoke, from the uncertainty about what exactly we can do about radical ideologies in the Middle East or anywhere, from the fact that we don’t know if there actually is anything we can do to root out radicalism, or if attacks like this are just something we’re going to have to expect.

Can we stop talking about our American ideologies for a minute, and let France breathe, let them mourn? Can we mourn with them, because we’ve lost thousands of our countrymen to the same violent ideology that ripped through Paris on Friday? Can we look at the handiwork of a violent group of people who believe they know what’s right for France, and choose not to turn around and tell France that we know what’s right for them?


[Washington Post (1), (2)]
[Chicago Sun-Times]
[The Atlantic]
Image via Getty
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