Here’s a common complaint that happens to be true: The anti-abortion movement has a lot of gall to brand itself “pro-life” when its members are often as staunchly opposed to gun control as they are to abortion. Why are they so deeply invested in “life” until birth, at which point the baby should pick itself up by its tiny bootstraps and start contributing to society? Filmmaker Abigail Disney actually asked this of Rob Schenck, co-founder of Operation Rescue. What resulted was her electrifying documentary, The Armor of Light, in which Schenck begins his journey of conservative gun-control advocacy.
Helping convince Schenck of the rightness of the cause is Lucy McBath, whose seventeen-year-old son, Jordan Davis, was killed in 2012 in Florida by a man who cited the state’s “Stand Your Ground” laws as justification for opening fire on four unarmed teenagers at a gas station. Says McBath, a woman of faith (and supporter of abortion rights), “We have replaced God with our guns as the protector,” an observation you can see zap Schenck right in the heart.
Disney follows as McBath fights for gun law reform and Schenck begins speaking to groups whose beliefs in unfettered access to firearms are strongly tied to their Christian faith. At a meeting of anti-abortion activist leaders, Schenck is stunned to hear Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, sincerely say things like, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” and “an armed society is a polite society” — ridiculous words originating with NRA president Wayne LaPierre. Seeing these men argue the same issues you hear rehashed over and over on cable news, but with the vehemence of religious belief behind them, is so uncomfortable it’s almost unwatchable. But one difficult meeting doesn’t stop Schenck; after all, as he puts it, “Fox News and the NRA are not spiritual authorities.” Taking McBath’s words to heart, he tells the Evangelical Church Alliance’s annual conference of ministers, “When we champion the Second Amendment over and above the word of God, then we must be very careful that in respecting the Second Amendment we don’t violate the Second Commandment.”
Schenck and McBath have an uphill climb; as of this writing, the U.S. has seen 1,000 mass shootings in the nearly three years since the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But perhaps with allies who are relearning to fear God rather than their neighbors, the gun law reform movement stands a chance. The Armor of Light is keeping the faith.
The Armor of Light
Directed by Abigail Disney and Kathleen Hughes
Opens October 30, Landmark Sunshine and AMC Empire 25
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 27, 2015