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Guns are not effective against hate

['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']
['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']

Perspectives with Shirley Hallee

Following the horror of the recent deaths and wounding of worshippers in The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the president of the United States stated if there had been a guard with a gun in the building there would likely have been no deaths...except that of the shooter.

There has already been a movement to place armed guards in schools, and now the leader of the country to the south is pushing for guns in places of worship.

There is a weird sense of irony in the belief that violence will prevent violence. Even more to the point is the fact all major religions are based on love...not hate. In November of last year 26 worshippers at a Christian church in Sutherland Springs, Texas were killed by a gunman. In 2015 a white supremacist killed nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. In late January of 2017 six people were killed and eight wounded inside the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre.

The person who stormed into The Tree of Life synagogue was carrying an AR-15 assault rifle, a Glock, and two handguns. Apparently, this person (I refuse to use his name...no moment of fame) had 21 registered firearms. Obviously, his main weapon was the assault rifle. It is unlikely that a single guard would have been able to stop him, unless the guard was similarly armed.

It is also hard to imagine a security person wandering through a place of worship carrying a semi-automatic weapon while the congregation is listening to the pastor or rabbi preaching words of peace and love.

One of the leaders of the synagogue in Pittsburgh did indicate that because of escalating threats against his faith, they have been hiring security during those times when the congregation was very large. However, that was not the case on the morning of Oct. 27, since a small attendance was expected.

Since police officers were among the wounded, it is not guaranteed security persons would have been able to stop a heavily armed person who was intent on destroying life.

Rather than seeing guns as the answer, it might be better to focus on the “hate” part of the crime. In a recent column I indicated the rhetoric of President Trump appears to be encouraging white supremacists, Neo-nazi groups, and male chauvinists to come out of the woodwork. When the leader of a country travels to the communities where he is holding rallies and spews words of hate, he creates an environment where hate becomes normal. The president's behaviour has had an impact. The Anti-Defamation League indication that the reported anti-Semitic incidents in that country have increased by 57 per cent in 2017. This is the largest rise in a single year since 1979... the year the tracking of these crimes began.

Adding to the likelihood that Trump's rhetoric might be inciting violence, the many bombs mailed to Democrats, their supporters, and to CNN by a person who plastered his vehicle with images of “Trump enemies” - complete with cross-hairs - leaves little doubt there are some who see fit to act on the president's words.

I have noted Donald Trump's utterances come very close to inciting violence...which is against the law. Legally it depends on intent and timing of statements made...and actual violent incidents. I think the guy is walking a very fine line. Trump's solution to the violence he is instigating is guns...and the death penalty. Maybe a better solution would be a world filled with people who refuse to hate. Huge numbers of students marched following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Women and men marched in massive groups around the world in response to Trump's inappropriate comments about women's body parts.

Maybe an anti-hate march is needed. If Trump could actually understand how many of us refuse to hate...he might put a lid on it. One can always pray for a miracle.

Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.

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