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In pro-gun resolution, Wisconsin county blames violence on "lack of faith"
An atheist group is demanding that line be removed from the resolution
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A Wisconsin county has passed a resolution blaming violence on, among other things, “a lack of faith.” Now an atheist group based in the state is calling for that line to be removed.
In May, the Oconto County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution that has become all too familiar in red parts of the state. The “Resolution to Declare Oconto County’s Support of the People’s Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms, While Supporting Advancements in Education on Firearm Safety” reinforced the board’s support of legally owned weapons while calling for better training when it comes to the “use, storage and handling” of those weapons. The resolution passed 29-1.
To be clear, guns are the problem. The interpretations of the Second Amendment from the right-wing Supreme Court have allowed mass shootings to become commonplace in the country by putting weapons of war in the hands of people who use them to commit atrocities. Better “education” won’t matter if people seeking to cause harm can get their hands on a AR-15. It won’t undo the problems already created by gun enthusiasts. So the whole resolution is joke.
But it’s a different part of the resolution that caught the eye of the Freedom From Religion Foundation:
WHEREAS, this revelation of vulnerability has created a call for action. This Oconto County Board of Supervisors join the Sheriff and feel now is the time to discuss violence in its totality, not simply as an issue of gun violence. Violence is a result of a breakdown on many fronts. The lack of faith, the eroding of family values, the involvement in gangs, sex trafficking, the abuse and sale of illegal drugs, the lack of proper mental health treatment, the lack of education and guidance within our educational system as it relates to safe firearm use, storage and handling. The discussions must continue in our community from all disciplines who are dedicated to addressing the complex issues related to our safety.
Throwing a bone to gun enthusiasts, the resolution discusses violence “in its totality” and blames it on a variety of factors (so that critics stop saying things like “guns are the problem.” Those factors include everything except guns. They cite lack of mental health treatment, even though Wisconsin Republicans have called for a reduction in funding those treatments. They cite the abuse of illegal drugs, even though Wisconsin Republicans have opposed funding specifically dealing with drug overdoses. They cite the ambiguous “eroding of family values,” even though Wisconsin Republicans have made it harder to raise families, period.
And they blame “the lack of faith.” As if more religion—and more thoughts and prayers—would solve our gun crisis. There’s no explanation provided. They’re just blaming atheists for a problem created by virtually unlimited access to guns.
FFRF wants that line removed from the resolution.
“The Supreme Court has said time and again that the First Amendment requires ‘government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,’” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence writes to Oconto County Board of Supervisors Chair Alan Sleeter. “The board’s resolution that a ‘lack of faith’ is a contributing factor in the rise of violence in the community impermissibly sends the message that the board favors community members who are religious over those who are nonreligious.”
They’re coming at this from a strictly church/state separation angle, but the substance behind the claim is also lacking.
This resolution needlessly blames and alienates Oconto County citizens who are part of the nearly one in three Americans currently identifying as religiously unaffiliated. Furthermore, there is no reputable peer-reviewed evidence that supports the notion that a lack of faith among citizens correlates with a rise in violence, whether that violence is firearm-related or otherwise. A resolution stating that nonreligious community members are partially to blame for violence in their community is not only offensive but is also factually unsupported.
Conservative Christians are more likely to own guns. They don’t stop school shootings; their opposition to gun safety laws makes mass shootings more likely. (Remember that countries that are far more secular have virtually no mass shootings.)
But going after all the problems with the resolution would take a long time, so FFRF focused on the most egregious line. It’s unclear if county officials will make any changes to their symbolic resolution.
For what it’s worth, the resolution was actually somewhat liberal compared to other similar acts around the state because it didn’t declare Oconto a “sanctuary” county. There are some counties that have gone on record saying if the state legally passes gun safety measures they don’t like, they will refuse to enforce those laws. Oconto officials didn’t go that far.
Chair Dennis Kroll said he preferred the wording on the one that focused on the Second Amendment.
"It’s just the education behind the whole thing," Kroll said why he supported the resolution. "I think that’s what made me decide that’s the route we should go."
Education about guns makes a brief appearance in the resolution. It just implies we should have more “education and guidance within our educational system as it relates to safe firearm use, storage and handling.” There’s nothing calling for the funding of that education or whether gun owners should be required to go a safety course before being allowed to own a weapon. The whole thing is toothless.
But at least they got a shot against the godless in there, so they won’t care.
The line blaming atheists for violence should absolutely be removed from the resolution. It’s not like the rest of it is any better, though.
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