(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: The false gods in America’s gun culture

HB 61 is a solution in search of a problem.

  • By Rich Moniak
  • Friday, May 19, 2023 5:49pm
  • Opinion

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, was right when he referred to House Bill 61 as an “almost a deification of the Second Amendment.” The bill, which easily passed in the House earlier this month, will prevent state and local officials from restricting access to firearms during an emergency disaster declaration. Businesses that sell or service weapons and ammunition must remain open unless “all forms of commerce within the jurisdiction” are ordered closed.

HB 61 is a solution in search of a problem. While it’s true that firearms retailers in the Municipality of Anchorage were temporarily closed along with most other businesses during the COVID-19 health emergency, nothing like that happened following the 2018 earthquake there. Or in any other community that’s been impacted by a natural disaster.

But let’s get back to Josephson’s ‘almost’ qualifier with which he placed the Second Amendment near to a deity. The god some seem to worship, including Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky; Rep. Lauren Boebert,R-Colorado; and Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tennessee; is guns.

Early in December 2021, Massie, who is a member of the Methodist Church, wished his Twitter followers a Merry Christmas. The message made no mention of it being a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Instead, it included a photo of him, his wife, and children all holding guns, with a postscript that read “Santa, please bring ammo.”

In reply, Boebert tweeted a similar photo standing behind her four sons posing with guns.

Both were posted 10 days after a 15-year-old boy killed four students at his school in Oxford, Michigan. And a week after the boy’s parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter for failing to secure the weapon used in the shooting.

The following Christmas, Ogles, who campaigned on the need “to go back to honoring God and country,” copied Massie’s and Boebert’s blasphemy. Three months later, all he offered to the families whose loved ones were gunned down in an elementary school in his state were the obligatory “thoughts and prayers.”

Alaska legislators who supported HB 61 aren’t in the same league as those misguided attention seekers. But the point Josephson was making is treating the Second Amendment as an untouchable sacred text can be tragically misunderstood by some gun owners.

Like those who pulled the trigger in these three shootings last month:

In Kansas City, Mo., an 85-year-old man shot a 16-year-old boy who mistakenly rang his doorbell. In Hebron, New York, a 65-year-old man killed a 20-year-old woman when the driver of the car she was in used his driveway to turn around. And in Elgin, Texas, a 25-year-old man shot two high school cheerleaders after one of them mistook his car for hers.

Self-defense and “stand your ground” aren’t legitimate defenses for those crimes. It’s possible the shooters had undiagnosed mental health problems. Or that an undue faith in the Second Amendment and the power of a weapon in their hand at the wrong time induced a moment of temporary insanity.

In Texas this month, Gov. Greg Abbott responded to two mass killings by claiming he and the state’s Republican dominated legislature are “in a big-time way” working to address the mental health crisis behind those violent acts. It began after the killing of 19 students and two teachers two years ago in Uvalde, a crime that Abbot said came with “no meaningful forewarning.” The legislation they enacted hasn’t changed that.

Identifying gun owners with serious mental health issues is an impossible task. And the effort to find them does nothing for the mental health trauma of the survivors and witnesses, the numbers of whom are growing exponentially with each new gruesome tragedy.

“Our nation’s gun debate is understandably dominated by discussions of gun rights,” NY Times columnist David French wrote in April. But as a strong supporter of those rights for hunting, shooting sports, and self-defense, he adds “it needs to feature more accountability for gun culture,” which he argues has migrated from “respect for firearms” to “a form of reverence” and “is now widespread gun idolatry.”

Josephson understands that by being focused solely on rights, HB 61 amplifies the worshipping of a false god. But like Massie, Boebert, Ogles and Abbott, supporters of the bill seem too absorbed in today’s gun culture to even consider the possibility it may be part of the problem.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

More in Opinion

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Honoring the fallen on Memorial Day

As we honor the men and women who fell in service to our nation, we must keep their memories alive through their stories

Shana Loshbaugh (Courtesy photo)
History conference seeking input from peninsula people

The Alaska Historical Society will hold its annual conference on the central peninsula this fall

Coach Dan Gensel (left) prepares to get his ear pierced to celebrate Soldotna High School’s first team-sport state championship on Friday, Febr. 12, 1993 in Soldotna, Alaska. Gensel, who led the Soldotna High School girls basketball team to victory, had promised his team earlier in the season that he would get his ear pierced if they won the state title. (Rusty Swan/Peninsula Clarion)
Remembering my friend, Dan Gensel

It’s a friendship that’s both fixed in time and eternal

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The false gods in America’s gun culture

HB 61 is a solution in search of a problem.

KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland
Reflecting on a year of growth and resilience

A message from the superintendent

Jim Cockrell, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. (Courtesy photo/Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)
Honoring the 69 peace officers who have died serving Alaskans

Alaska Peace Officer Memorial Day honors the brave men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty

Rep. Maxine Dibert (Image via Alaska State Legislature)
Opinion: The economic case for a significant investment in education

As our oil production and related revenue have declined, our investments in education have remained flat

Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion
Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire impairs visibility on the Sterling Highway on Aug. 20, 2019.
Don’t let the abundance of snow fool you; Alaskans should prepare for wildfire season

Last summer’s 590 wildfires burned more than 3.1 million acres in Alaska, about 41% of the total acreage burned in the U.S.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
Former Gov. Frank Murkowski in May 2019.
Opinion: Statewide sales tax just doesn’t make ‘horse sense’

Money for the dividend was meant to be sized after State government services obligations had been met

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Point of View: Big steps to strengthen child care system

Funding in the budget, statutory reforms and support from the administration are all necessary to strengthen the child care system in Alaska

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a news conference in which options for a long-range fiscal plan were discussed. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tax talk should be paired with PFD pragmatism

Alaska is 30 years into state budget deficits, borrowing billions from savings to pay the bills.

Opinion: Seafood Producers Cooperative responds to WFC ruling

“I want to convey our great disappointment…”