In yet another senseless gun crime in the United States, a lone gunman entered a community college in Roseburg, Oregon and opened fire, killing at least 10 and injuring more than 20.
The gunman has been identified as Chris Harper Mercer, a 26-year-old man who allegedly posted about the shooting on the popular website 4Chan just hours before carrying out the crime.
Reports have indicated that after walking into a classroom and shooting a professor he then asked students to stand and asked them about their religious beliefs.
Anastasia Boylan, one of the girls in the class told her father about what happened before she was brought into surgery for a gunshot wound.
According to CNN:
“I’ve been waiting to do this for years,” the gunman told the professor and then shot him point blank, Boylan recounted.
The gunman, while reloading his handgun, ordered the students to stand up and asked if they were Christians, Boylan told her family.
“And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,'” Boylan’s father, Stacy, told CNN, relaying her account.
“And then he shot and killed them.”
The fact that Mercer asked the students about their religious beliefs raised questions online about his motives almost immediately.
The obvious finger pointing was directed at atheists.
However, the real situation seems much more complicated given that Mercer was signed up on the dating site Spiritual Passions where he listed himself as “non-religious but spiritual” and his MySpace profile was full of images and videos in support of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) a well known Christian terrorist organization.
Right-wing websites were eager to highlight Mercer’s claim to be “non-religious” without mentioning that the majority of Americans who identify as non-religious are still believers and or still religious but do not identify with one religion or another. Mercer’s support for the IRA adds to this confusion, however.
In the coming days I assume we will learn a lot about the shooter and his motives, beliefs and details about his personal life that seemingly led him to commit such a horrible act.
I also assume in the coming days we will see a lot of spin from those looking for political gains from this event. Mercer identified as a Republican and the party is sure to try to distance themselves from such a person, and I believe using his lack of religion will be a major tool in that argument.
Some authors and journalists who profit from painting atheism as evil and dangerous will also make the same attempts. They will use cherry-picked info about his personal life to paint a picture of an atheist that they will claim must have been inspired by Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris.
The one thing people will forget to talk about is gun control and how to prevent these types of shootings from happening again.
Sadly this script is already written because it is the same one used after each mass shooting, and in the US there is no lack of chances to use these arguments over and over.
What a sad state of affairs when after a mass shooting one must blog immediately to disperse blame from an already misunderstood and misrepresented demographic and remind people to look at facts and evidence and to keep the eye on the ball. The ball, of course, being meaningful and sensible gun control laws once and for all.
[Image: CNN Screen capture]