By Emily Wang
A recent shooting at a Sunday church service once again brings to light the debate over gun control in America. Although undercovered by the media, this attack remains central to the issue of gun control laws throughout the affected nation.
On September 24th, a mass shooting occurred in an unlikely place: the quiet town of Nashville, Tennessee. During the weekly Sunday service, a masked man carrying a .40-caliber handgun shot a woman who was on her way to her car in the church parking lot. He then proceeded to enter through the back door of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ and shot six other victims before a church usher tackled him down prompting the shooter to accidentally shoot himself. Currently, Samson faces a state murder charge, and the FBI and U.S. attorney's office in Nashville have opened a civil rights investigation for the Tennessee attack.
The gunman, Emanuel Kidega Samson, was a seemingly innocent person, having even attended services at that particular church a year or two ago. However, similar to most mass shootings, this attack was not an impulsive decision made during the spur-of-the-moment, but rather, a deliberate act of violence that had been planned for quite a long time.
Even though investigators have not officially identified the motive behind the shooting, police found a note in the attacker’s car that suggested that he may have been attempting to avenge the 2015 shooting at Emanuel AME, a black church in Charleston. In that particular shooting, a white supremacist fatally killed nine black victims, with no public remorse for his devastating act of violence. As a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Sudan to the United States during his childhood, Samson’s quest for revenge holds validity: Samson was trying to avenge his people. He even stated in an earlier Facebook post that “rage is my preferred state of mind.” However, his shooting is not justified regardless of his motives, as he took out his anger on an innocent and unsuspecting group of people. Even more, although the majority of Emmanuel AME Church was black, the Burnette Chapel Church had a diverse congregation with a myriad of ethnicities, further proving that he had no justification for his violence.
This mass shooting, like many others, brings to light the issue of firearm safety in America. Before taking sides, it is crucial to understand the role of guns in the attack. After the shooting, investigators discovered four guns that were bought legally from in-state retailers: the 40-caliber handgun allegedly used in the attack, a military-style AR-15 rifle found in a case in Samson's car, and a 9mm handgun found in the church. As a result, many claim that handguns should be banned, as they were the sole cause for the numerous amounts of innocent deaths; however, it is important to take into account the entire scene of action, similar to the way in which the jury attempts to thoroughly understand both sides of the case before making a verdict. In reality, the church usher who grappled with the shooter was successful due to his possession of a gun. As the two men struggled, the gunman accidentally wounded himself, giving time for the church usher to retrieve his own weapon and hold the gunman back at bay. Evidently, without a handgun to stop the attacker, the shooter may have killed even more people.
Because guns can be used for both self-defense and attacks, guns themselves cannot be labeled as either good or bad; the ethical implications of owning a handgun is entirely premised upon the person who uses the gun, not the gun itself. In truth, it is not so much the issue of handguns being a harmful tool as it is the issue of gun control laws. While that debate over gun laws continues, Congress is increasingly pushing for the passage of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which would allow an eligible person to carry a concealed handgun in any state where it is legal.
Although attacks like these traumatize the nation, it serves to reshape the American view on safety, urging all citizens to unite together to not only overcome life-changing obstacles, but to stand even stronger in the face of adversity.