Muslim North Carolina student shooting: It's the guns, stupid!Baltimore Post-Examiner

Muslim shooting: It’s the guns, stupid!

Whether a gun killing is a hate crime or not– whether it is perpetrated by a disturbed young man at an elementary school, an overzealous neighborhood watchman, a panicky police officer, or an angry, confrontational neighbor– it is an atrocity that shouldn’t be going on in any decent human community in any civilized country.

The latest weapons tragedy involves the killing of three Muslim- American students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were exemplary students; all were involved in humanitarian projects.  The young women wore hijab, head scarves and clothing that covered their bodies, a Muslim symbol of modesty and privacy.

Muslim students attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Deah Shaddy Barakat (center), 23, Yusor Mohammad (left), 21, and Razan Mohammad. 19. (Screenshot)

Muslim students attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Deah Shaddy Barakat (center), 23, Yusor Mohammad (left), 21, and Razan Mohammad. 19. (Screenshot)

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, their neighbor and suspected killer, was studying to be a paralegal at a technical college and described himself as a “gun toting” atheist.  He’d had disputes with them over parking issues and exposed his gun during one confrontation.  Tuesday evening he killed each with a bullet shot to the head, according to police.

Hate crime, the victims families say. Mohammad Abu-Salha, father of the two sisters, said one of his daughters said Hicks was harassing them because of their obvious Muslim faith.

And their deaths immediately raised the question of whether the students had been targeted because of their religion.  Only when the young women moved in did Hicks start to complain.


Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat , 23, Yusor Mohammad,21, and Razan Mohammad. 19. (Screenshot)

And echoing the language used to protest shootings of African Americans in the U.S., Muslims around the world took to social media with the hashtag#MuslimLivesMatter. The Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the local Raleigh-based Muslims for Social Justice called for a federal investigation into possible hate crimes.

Not so, says Hicks wife, who is suing him for divorce; it had nothing to do with hate,  she said noting he was an atheist; it was merely a conflict about the parking spot.

Atheists condemned the murders, one tweeting: “Still sick over the #ChapelHillShooting. Whatever the killer’s motive, we atheists need to address anti-Muslim prejudice in our community.”

Ripley Rand at the Chapel Hill press conference. (Screenshot)

Ripley Rand at the Chapel Hill press conference. (Screenshot)

“We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated, and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case,” said Chris Blue, Chapel Hill police chief.

Ripley Rand, the United States attorney for the region, said the incident appeared to be “an isolated incident” and “not part of a targeted campaign against Muslims.”

Isolated incident crime? Hate crime?  Religious bias crime?  Parking space issue crime?  Hicks killed them, but he didn’t hate them?

We’re stuck in definitions here when it’s really  all about the guns, the easy access to them, their glorification and a gun manufacturing industry that owns the Second Amendment.

If Hicks hadn’t had a gun, couldn’t easily have gotten a gun, his anger issues had been dealth with, he might have used his fists, a knife or nasty words, but there wouldn’t be three people now dead execution style.

Hicks posted this picture on Facebook with the caption: "Yes, that is 1 pound 5.1 ounces for my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and five extra rounds in a speedloader."

Hicks posted this picture on Facebook with the caption: “Yes, that is 1 pound 5.1 ounces for my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and five extra rounds in a speedloader.”

It’s the guns, stupid!

A point that Australia got back in 1996 when an unstable young man gunned down dozens of people at a popular tourist destination, Port Arthur, Tasmania.

Australia has a frontier history and a strong gun culture  just like the United States, but in less than four months of the tragedy, Australia passed The National Firearms Agreement.  The sweeping gun reform program, passed by conservatives, included the world’s biggest buyback and destruction of nearly 700,000 guns, requires justification for owning a weapon, a waiting period, registration, no internet gun or garage sales, and a license renewal every two years.

One Australian farmer who had been strongly against the reform said told John Oliver of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in the segment Australia and Gun Control, that his opposition was “an overreaction…the regulations were quite manageable”  He said that he  had a bit of a duty to the rest of society” to support gun reform.

Have the flowers, candlelit vigils, masses of teddy bears and other plush toys on the sidewalk, speeches for the media, but vow to commit to change America’s gun laws.

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About the author

Karen DeWitt

Karen DeWitt has a long distinguished career as a journalist, covering politics, but also has worked on political campaigns. She compares the later to the labor of a Hebrew working for the Pharaoh. She's covered the White House and the national politics for The New York Times; foreign affairs and the White House for USA TODAY before joining that newspaper’s management as an assistant managing editor. She switched to television as a senior producer for ABC’s Nightline, where she wrote and produced the award-winning, Found Voices about the digitization of 1930s and 1940s interviews with former slaves. She returned to newspapers, as Washington editor for the Examiner newspaper and eventually left to help on local political campaigns. She has several blogs, but contributes mostly to a food blog called “I don’t speak cuisine” at and Contact the author.