Everybody is talking about how Craig Hicks, the man who gunned down the three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is an atheist. The family of the students, of course, is convinced that the shooting was a hate crime — as American Muslims, they've been living in an unquestionably hateful environment. Just the same, I'm fairly certain that religion had little, if anything, to do with the murders.
Why would an atheist specially target Muslims? If Hicks felt threatened as an atheist, you'd think he'd go out and shoot some Evangelicals. Really, in the USofA it's the Christians who give atheists a hard time. One of Hicks's neighbors characterized him as "an equal opportunity hater" — he was markedly unpleasant to everybody, especially those who used designated "visitor" parking spaces.
Less commented on than his atheism was his gun collection, an arsenal large and diverse enough to warm the heart of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA. Quite a few of Hicks' guns were stored fully loaded, including the military style semi-automatic rifle. Was he planning mayhem?
Probably not. The arsenal was was far in excess of what he needed to kill a few dental students — but just the right size for a victim of severe paranoia. The NRA will disagree, but I believe Hicks's gun collection indicates a serious psychological defect.
Okay, maybe he was paranoid about the threat of "Muslim extremists" mounting terror attacks against his condominium and its designated parking spots — but, if so, why kill dental students, two of them female. If he was saving North Carolina from encroachment by the Islamic State, surely he could have found himself a group of scarier Muslims to shoot.
There well may be some real hate crimes being planned, and law enforcement should do its best to prevent them — but we'd all be a lot safer if the cops took a hard look at the owners of arsenals. They don't call them gun "nuts" for nothing.