"Faith, family, firearms drive Georgia's devotion to Second Amendment," says the headline on an Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece tied to last week's mass shooting in Las Vegas.
What we have here is a case where I really wish the story had lived up to the headline.
Unfortunately, guns — not God — are the star of this report.
To some extent, maybe that's to be expected. On the other hand, I had hoped that the Journal-Constitution would delve — really delve — into the religion angle. Alas, faith makes just a few cameo appearances in this story focused more on economics than spirituality.
Up high, the article hints at a deeper religion angle than the paper chooses to explore:
An outsize American flag flies above the factory where Daniel Defense makes some of the world’s highest-priced assault rifles.
At NASCAR races, the No. 3 car flashes the Daniel Defense logo.
And when the company’s founder talks about his values, he distills them to three potent words: faith, family, firearms.
Daniel Defense, based in Bryan County, 25 miles northwest of Savannah, is a Georgia success story, one that embodies a culture that often conflates patriotism, religion, regional pride and devotion to the Second Amendment.
But the company, and the culture, came under scrutiny last week after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Late Sunday night in Las Vegas, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on an outdoor music festival from his 32nd-story hotel suite, killing 58 people and wounding nearly 500 before taking his own life. Authorities reportedly found about 20 guns in the hotel suite – including at least four military-style rifles manufactured by Daniel Defense. The rifles appeared prominently in crime-scene photographs by the Las Vegas police.
“Our deepest thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of the Las Vegas incident,” the company said Monday on its Facebook page, its only public statement on the shooting. Company executives did not respond to telephone messages and emails requesting an interview.
So what is the role of faith that the company's founder distills?
Much later in the story, the Journal-Constitution offers just a few paragraphs on that question:
In promoting gun ownership, Daniel and his company often invoke God and country, common sentiments in the firearms industry. On social media, the company recently posted apparent criticisms of professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem, and Daniel told Breitbart News — the nationalist website run by former White House advisor Steve Bannon — he believes the Second Amendment has a divine provenance.
“We are in business, we believe, to be a supporter of the gospel,” Daniel said. “And, therefore, a supporter of the Second Amendment. In other words, not only do we have those Second Amendment rights because God gives them to us, but also the Gospel.”
Where does Daniel attend church? What does the pastor say about God and guns? Exploring such questions might lead to a bit more insight.
A reader who shared the story with me said:
This comprehensive piece ... about Georgians and guns is fascinating and curious. It says Georgians, like so many people, believe guns are an aspect of religion, the gospel, tools to be employed in righteousness. We are to look out for family and friends and the way to do it is pick up the gun. Check it out. It raises theological questions, like killing in the name of the Lord and more. Might be worth a comprehensive piece, checking out how our church leaders, and members, feel about this…
The Journal-Constitution piece raises excellent questions that would make a compelling religion story for some enterprising journalist.