Opinion | Gun Idolatry Is Destroying the Case for Guns

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I was born in Alabama and grew up in Tennessee and Kentucky. As a son of the South, I was no stranger to firearms. We had a gun in our home. I learned to shoot at a young age. So did my wife. After the episode of the man demanding to see me, she not only bought a handgun, she attended multiple classes to train in armed self-defense.

So, yes, we had guns. And when my son received the Klan hood messages — as well as in other similar situations — we were glad we did. While we scrambled to determine whether the Klan hoods and street sign images were truly threatening or intended to be merely harassing, and while we considered whether to call the police (we did), I knew that we would not be defenseless if the threat were real and if our stalkers arrived before the police.

Thankfully, no one came to our house. It was likely just more harassment, but the presence of a police car outside our home may have deterred something more serious. I share this story to make two disclosures: Yes, we own guns. And yes, I support gun rights, not just for hunting or shooting sports, but for the purpose of self-defense. I’ve written in support of gun rights for years. I grew up in a culture that approached firearms responsibly, safely and with a sober mind. They were a tool — a dangerous tool, to be sure — but nothing more. In a fallen and dangerous world, a responsible, trained gun owner could help keep his or her family safe.

But the gun rights movement is changing. In many quarters of America, respect for firearms has turned into a form of reverence. As I wrote in 2022, there is now widespread gun idolatry. “Guns” have joined “God” and “Trump” in the hierarchy of right-wing values. At the edges, gun owners have gone from defending the rights of people to own semiautomatic rifles like AR-15s to openly brandishing them in protests, even to the point of, for example, staging an armed occupation of parts of the Michigan Capitol during anti-lockdown protests.

But we’re now facing something worse than gun idolatry. Too many armed citizens are jittery at best, spoiling for a fight at worst. In recent days we’ve seen a rash of terrible shootings by nervous, fearful or angry citizens. A young kid rings the bell on the wrong door and is shot. A young woman drives into the wrong driveway and is shot. A cheerleader accidentally tries to get in the wrong car and is pursued and shot, along with her friend. A basketball rolls into a man’s yard, and a neighboring 6-year-old girl and her father are shot.


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