Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Musings on a Recent Article Concerning Gun Control in America

A friend of mine asked me to weigh in on the gun control issue, especially in reference to the attached article. I don't know why, as I'm pretty sure anything I say won't sway anybody. But, for the sake of rousing rabbles, here was my response (and the accompanying article which spawned the conversation).

This is a very interesting article that will hopefully help open a much needed conversation in Christian communities. However, it ignores some key considerations on both sides of the argument. Keep in mind, I'm relatively undecided on this issue, and the below points are not necessarily meant to sway the conversation in favor or against gun control, but instead are meant to make us think about other relevant factors theologically and practically in our society.

First, and this may be relatively minor, but this article ignores other legitimate uses for guns beyond hunting, such as sport. Many people enjoy skeet shooting, target practice, biathlons, trick shooting, cowboy shooting, etc. These are fun activities that have absolutely nothing to do with dealing death, yet the author claims that all guns are solely for doing just that. It is true that the concerns of a sport do not outweigh the death of thousands, but it is helpful to remind ourselves that even in a perfect society with no violence, there would still be a legitimate place for guns.

Second, this article ignores the obligation to defend others (beyond the “right” to defend ourselves). I honestly see the use of guns to defend the life of others as more legitimate than using guns to defend our own lives. When we use a gun to defend ourselves, we are saying in that moment, our life is more important than the lives of others. We have decided, at least for the fraction of a second it takes to pull a trigger, that the other person's humanity has been negated. We may rationalize this in terms of justice, but ultimately we have decided that our knowledge and power is so supreme in that moment that we can kill.

However, when we use a gun to defend others from oppression, we may very well be affirming God's care for the oppressed. Again, we are making a judgment call to dehumanize our enemy in some way, with the argument that they have done something (or will do something) sufficiently unacceptable that they deserve to die. This is still very dangerous and tricky ground, and I doubt that even the most level-headed individual can make such a judgment call perfectly

Thirdly, a little-known Constitutional note. If we not-so-subtly ignore the recent Supreme Court rulings to the contrary (District of Columbia v Heller - 2008, McDonald v Chicago - 2010) and consider the right to bear arms within the context of a well-regulated militia, then we have the following to consider. Not many Americans realize that all able bodied males between the ages of 17 and 45 are part of the Reserve Militia under the Militia Act of 1903. If read in this context, I think someone could make the argument that every one of these males is required to own, learn to handle, and operate a gun. This is a bit of rabble rousing on my part. :) But if there's one constant to the gun debate, it's that people enjoy rousing rabbles.

Finally, this article (as well as many others) ignores perhaps the most tragic consequences of gun violence: that of the gun suicide. In fact, while there are 3.6 gun homicides out of every 100,000 people in this country, there are 6.3 gun suicides. Based on this figure alone, it would seem that gun suicide is a much greater problem in our nation than gun homicides or mass murders.

Our society has very little compassion for suicides, it is seen as a coward's way out, or even that a person has a right to make that choice concerning their own life. However, those who use such arguments have often never experienced the depths of despair and hopelessness which often accompany such decisions. We, as Christlike disciples, are to bring hope to the world. If we ignore this issue, we fail Christ. Not only that, but gun suicide is not simply a gun issue. While guns make it easier for those in despair to make that final leap, getting rid of them would not solve the problem.

Our mental health facilities are abysmal in this country. Our prisons have become our funny farms as we incarcerate people for being the wrong color, for being homeless, or even for being a bit strange in public. Pharmaceuticals push their products as the holy grails of neuro-chemical engineering, and when pills fail we would rather shove the “problem” off to a jail or prison where we don't have to think about them anymore. We incarcerate more people than any other nation on earth, both as a percentage of our population, and in real numbers. If this is the Land of the Free, we have the most unfree individuals of any nation on earth (and that is without addressing the burgeoning sex slave trade in this country).

Oh, and one final note. It appears that around 400,000 crimes are perpetrated per year with guns, while about 400,000 are stopped with guns (although I also read 2.5 million crimes are stopped each year by guns, but I doubt this high figure). This means that if we outlawed guns, there would be fewer gun violence crimes, but for those criminals who still find a way to get guns, there would be no law-abiding citizens to stop them.

Anyway, these are just some factors to consider. I think statistics can be manipulated, ignored, or highlighted for both sides of the issue. Theologically however, anytime we take a life, we are making a judgment call with such irreversible and grave consequences that I think such a call should be reserved for God only.

So those are my thoughts, what are yours inter-webs buddies?
#GunControl #GunViolence #AmericanGuns

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