Religious-right extremists who have spent most of their energy in recent years vilifying LGBT people or fighting the nation’s culture wars on other fronts have found a new demon to slay: gun control.
It might seem odd that those who profess allegiance to the teachings of Jesus Christ would be so vociferous about making sure that Americans have continued, unfettered access to assault rifles. But in the wake of the massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut, which ignited the most heated debate about gun control in this country in a decade, some of the religious right’s most rabid voices are joining the fight.
Matt Barber, a lawyer for the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, predicts a civil war over gun control. Bryan Fischer, the rabid mouthpiece for the homophobic American Family Association, has banned the use of the words “assault rifles” on his radio show. Even the Family Research Council, which describes itself as a pro-family organization, has targeted President Obama as “blatantly disingenuous when he says he believes in the Second Amendment.”
David Barton, the Christian-right pseudo-historian whose views on America’s founding have been widely debunked by mainstream historians, went on conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck’s Internet television show this week to claim the National Rifle Association (NRA) was formed to protect freed slaves from the Ku Klux Klan.
“The NRA rises up in 1871 with three Union officers who had fought to end slavery, fought for civil rights, fought for civil rights for blacks,” Barton said. “And part of the reason is, they want blacks to defend themselves individually, use their individual right of self-defense against the Klan.” (Actually, most historians argue the birth of the NRA had nothing at all to do with civil rights but rather to establish training standards for emerging rifle technology.)
Barber went so far as to predict a coming civil war if the White House moves forward with gun control. In an article published a week ago for the far-right conspiracy website WorldNet Daily, he accused the government of preparing for a gun grab aimed at “controlling – disarming – the law-abiding masses.”
“I love guns. Grew up with ‘em. As a former police officer with 12 years in the U.S. military, I know how to use them, too – use them well. I plan to buy more – a bunch more. In fact, who’s to say I don’t already have a veritable arsenal?” Barber wrote. “Point is, tain’t Big Brother Barack’s nor any other candy-keistered-liberal-cream-puff’s business whether I do or not.”
At issue, for most on the religious right, is Obama.
Earlier this week, the White House released the president’s aggressive plan to address gun control. According to The New York Times, the “multifaceted effort” includes 23 proposed executive orders, some of which address controlling access to guns, and a full-court press on Congress to pass comprehensive gun reform legislation.
Leave it to Fischer, though, who has claimed that Adolf Hilter’s Nazi Party relied on gay men because of their innate brutality, to turn the debate straight on its face. Not only has he banned the use of the words “assault rifles” on his Focal Point radio show in favor of “sporting rifles” – and threatened to fine any member of his staff who uses the wrong term – he has defined the debate on gun control as a thinly veiled plot to target Christians.
“If they decide that mental health are reasons to deny people their constitutional rights, it’s a short step from there to identifying us, Christians, genuine followers of Jesus Christ who believe the Bible and what it teaches … as mentally ill,” Fischer claimed. And if that happens, Fischer fantasizes, “Guns are going to be taken away from us.”