Has the Star Tribune Made a Case for Government-Mandated Church Attendance?

In the wake of Devin Kelley’s mass murder in Sutherland Springs, a meme has sprung up on the Left: ridiculing those who say their thoughts and prayers are with the dead and wounded and their families. Such sentiments might seem inoffensive, but the anti-prayer theme is one that has been building among liberals for some time, and has taken off over the last two days. One of the many liberal outlets that have attacked those offering prayers on behalf of the victims is the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s “Lawmakers’ thoughts, prayers aren’t good enough.”

Two assumptions underlie the Left’s attack on those who pray for victims of crime. The first is that prayer is a useless superstition. The second is that everyone knows how to stop mass murder–ban guns!–but politicians are too cowardly to do it. Liberals perhaps don’t understand that most Americans believe prayer is, in fact, powerful, while probably an equal number think that adding more layers of gun regulation would be ineffective.

This divide defines today’s Left and Right as well as any: the Left believes in government gun regulation with a blind faith regardless of evidence, while many on the Right think the evidence of experience supports the belief that prayer can do good.

The Star Tribune’s editorial board says that offering prayers is OK as long as you aren’t a politician:

Offering prayers is a touching gesture from ordinary citizens expressing sympathies with the grieving. Coming from lawmakers empowered to do more, the gesture is an empty one, reeking of political cowardice.

What, exactly, would lawmakers do if they weren’t so cowardly?

Japan, where Trump is now visiting, is among those with severe restrictions. Handguns are banned outright and rifles are allowed only after extensive training and background checks. The restrictions are extreme, but it is hard to quarrel with the results: In 2014, the U.S. recorded more than 35,000 gun deaths. Japan, population 127 million, had six.

So the Strib evidently endorses banning private handgun ownership and severely restricting private long gun ownership. It argues that banning handguns “outright” is a good idea. However, in “District of Columbia v. Heller,” the U.S. Supreme Court held that such a ban would be unconstitutional: “[W]e hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment.” (That holding has been expanded in subsequent cases to cover “bearing” as well as “keeping” arms.) Does the editorial board really think that Congressmen are “cowardly” because they haven’t adopted legislation that has already been held to be unconstitutional?

The editorial board supports its anti-constitutional position with misleading statistics. A large majority of the 35,000 “gun deaths” in the U.S. are suicides. Japanese commit suicide too, they just don’t use guns. In fact, the suicide rate in Japan is much higher than in the U.S.

It is true that the Japanese don’t commit many murders, with or without guns. But Japanese-Americans hardly commit any murders, either. The editorial board’s manipulation of statistics is either deliberately misleading, or painfully ill-informed.

Devin Kelley was an outspoken atheist. Here is a question: how many mass shooters have been regular attenders of church services? My guess is, very few if any. If liberals are willing to violate fundamental constitutional rights in order to cut down on the number of mass shootings, it would make far more sense to order mandatory church attendance than to try to confiscate guns. And there would be a lot of collateral benefits, too.

Every time a liberal says the government should ban guns, we should respond: rather, the government should require every American to attend church or synagogue once a week. It would be no less unconstitutional, and much more effective.