Jerry Falwell and the Notion of "Good People"
By: Melody Monroe
Recently, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. fell under heavy criticism for his remarks regarding the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. On Friday, December 4, 2015, at the close of Convocation (a weekly gathering undergraduate students are mandated to attend), Falwell urged every student in the audience to get their carrying license and take the free concealed weapon license course offered by the university under the premise, "if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in..."
Many people felt that Falwell's statements reeked of traditional, conservative presumptions and Islamophobia. Falwell is quoted in The Washington Times as saying he was only referring to Islamic terrorists, specifically those behind the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino and “That’s the only thing I would clarify.” But after the smoke from each side of the conversation has cleared, there is a question that remains: just what makes a good person?
Tales of heroes and villains have always been entertained and loved in our culture - bad guys vs. good guys, Spiderman vs.The Green Goblin, Batman vs. Joker, but when it comes to the gun law debate, is it really that cut and dry?
4 Questions To Consider In Response To Jerry Falwell Jr.
1) What does it mean to be good?
Fundamentally, Christians believe that no one is purely good except God. This fact makes Falwell's statements all the more crass. Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (HCSB) This would include, well, everyone. However, doesn’t “good” mean to be devoid of flaws? From a non-Christian, moral standpoint, it could be said that "good" refers to anyone that doesn't have violent intentions, but intentions alone are not enough to keep us from doing what we wish we wouldn't sometimes. Everyone can attest to that.
2) Who is considered good?
As Falwell was met with raving applause during his closing remarks, it was easy to notice that nearly everyone in the stadium was White. Falwell's tone seemed to suggest that "if more good people [like us] had concealed-carry permits...” America would be a better place. The question has to be asked: for who? Because, recent trends indicate not everyone is welcomed into the Good Person Society, on account of certain biological “hindrances”. Historically, when people of color carry guns, violence is imposed on them. It puts them more at risk of being stereotyped, profiled, and victims of unwarranted criminalization. We can simply look to the examples of John Crawford III and Tamir Rice who were both shot and killed while handling only toy guns. For Middle Easterners it typically takes much less, like simply existing. So who are the “good people”, exactly?
3) Are good people allowed to make mistakes?
The truth is, "good" people are still people and are prone to make mistakes by default. There's liability coverage for drivers who make mistakes. There's even coverage for boats, but none of such exist for firearm owners. That isn't to say gun accidents occur any less. Studies show a disproportionately high number of 5-14 year olds died from suicide, homicide, and unintentional firearm deaths in states and regions where guns were more prevalent, most of which involved family and friends. Gun accidents leave riveting, irreplaceable effects on the lives involved.
Beyond that, Falwell seems to think that being a good person is all that is required for self-defense. During his remarks, he quoted Mike Madden, a first responder on the scene of the San Bernardino shooting, saying "...when you see the carnage and smell the gun powder, it's just something you could never be prepared for..." What makes Falwell think an ordinary, untrained citizen would know how to control a mass shooting in the moment? And if they didn't, does that make them a bad person?
4) Will more guns = more good?
Ultimately, in the interest of goodness, the real question to ask is will supplying more Americans with guns result in more overall good? A recent meta-analysis revealed that easy access to firearms doubled the risk of homicide and tripled the risk for suicide among all household members. Studies also show that mass shootings only continue to rise in number, with this year totaling to 355 to date.
While gun law reform is not an easy issue to tackle, it's worth confronting the complexities that lie within it, despite how bad or good they may be for goodness sake.
Melody Monroe is a musician and entrepreneur. She earned her B.A. in Business Management from East Carolina University and M.A. in Theological Studies from Liberty Theological Seminary. Monroe has been featured in various national and international publications as a music artist and is currently working toward her first EP. Her work as an artist and businesswoman is fueled by a desire to make an eternal impact on the lives of others. She enjoys traveling, live concerts, chai tea, and dogs. Find out more at www.msmelodymonroe.com