Men with Guns

What can we say about the killings in the Sikh temple in Wisconsin and the slaughter in the Aurora movie theater and the string of a dozen similar massacres over the past ten years  that hasn’t been said several times? I tend to focus on the guns. If these men had not owned these weapons, for which they had no real need other than to reinforce the illusion of authority and dominance they give their crazy owners, they could not have killed all these innocent people. All legal private guns should be stored at the local policed station, and the owners should have to check them out when needed to shoot a bear or a deer in the front yard and then returned.

I am no stranger to guns. Growing up we had my father’s U.S. Army .45, a sacred relic of World War I where he had used this weapon to single-handedly wipe out a German machine gun nest and win the Distinguished Service Cross. At summer camp we learned to fire .22s just as we learned to swim, row, fence, play tennis and ride horses over jumps. In the antiaircraft artillery I learned to fire the M1, the 50 cal. machine gun and 40 mm canon. But, when invited to join a jackal hunt in Tunisia in my college years,  I declined my host’s rifle and the opportunity to shoot a jackal.


But today I am appalled by the American gun culture, by that moment in movie history in Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” where we see the bullets go in the front and out the black of their victims in a gush of bloody gore. By today’s movie ads for the “Bourne Legacy,” in which Bourne sticks a gun in our faces, and “Total Recall,”  in which the male  lead totes one pistol and the female hauls a sub-machine gun with one hand and a pistol with the other. By the assumption of cowardly leaders that one dare not question the notion   that the gun is as much a part of the human body as one’s sexual organs. And it’s up to the freedom of the individual to do what he wants with either one.

In a recent article in The New York Daily News, “Son of Sam,” who murdered six women 35 years ago, has become a born-again Christian and pleads with us to “take the glory out of guns.”  Columnist Mike Lupica talks with a policeman, Sgt. Kevin Brennan, who took a bullet in the head a year ago and is still recovering. The mayor, police chief, and Sgt. Brennan have done their best in this “year of the gun” to disarm thugs, but the guns keep pouring into town. Read Lupica's column here.

New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer reminds us of the suggestion by the late Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan that it is too late to get rid of the city’s gun supply; it should tax bullets ten thousand percent. A pack of 20 would cost $1500. (Chris Rock jokingly suggested "bullet control," making a bullet cost $5,000.) Then Dwyer points out that the City of New York recently sold 28,000 rounds of spent shell casings to an ammunition dealer in Georgia where they will be reloaded as bullets. The mayor got snappy when questioned.

What would happen if every priest and bishop were to take to the pulpit, newspapers and  TV and radio stations week after week and  proclaim that gun control is just as much a life issue as protecting the unborn, as contraception, same-sex-marriage and other issues  that have preoccupied their attention in recent years? Then call for the banning of assault rifles and the nationwide educational campaign condemning the social sin in which the arms manufacturers, members of the American Rifle Association, and pusillanimous politicians are complicit.

Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.

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Mike Brooks
6 years 7 months ago
@Beth said: ''It seems to me that that we are under the spell of some unnamed power, and it's the same story that has been going on throughout human history.''

I recall being taught about ''the unamed power'' in cathechism; then, it was named, ''the Devil,'' and it was the personification of evil that has always existed and continues to exist today.  I don't how or why the Devil suddenly disappeared, but I think it was during the 1960s when the concept of evil was deemed by the secularists as non-existent; that there is no evil, just bad upbringings or something like that.

I'm not currently afraid of the government, but I believe that there are evil people who may one day infiltrate our government, either through force or through election.  The people of Germany elected an evil person in the 1930s; gun control laws were in effect, and the targeted population of the regime had no guns, no anticipation that violence might be used against them, and thus, no sense of arming themselves.  We know how that turned out.

Gun control takes guns away from law-abiding people and leaves them in the hands of the government and the criminals, subjecting the vast majority of the population to the evil of criminals and government oppressors.  Christian teaching of morality might have an impact on the use of guns by criminals, but we have a long way to go to rid the world of evil people and evil government.  In the meantime, it seems like a smart thing for people to arm themselves in preparation for the unthinkable.
Marie Rehbein
6 years 7 months ago
"Reading some American history would clear up that misconception. A good starting point would be Chernow's Washington: A Life. (Available for Kindle.)"

Maybe I should have said that in my opinion solidarity of purpose was the most important factor that made the colonists successful in their opposition to British authorities.  Had each individual colonist only defended his own holdings at the moment that a British contingent presented itself at the door, there would have been no Revolution.  Had the colonists kept their weapons only in armories instead of also in their closets or pockets or over their fireplaces, they would have been just as successful.  Furthermore, the Revolution was followed by the establishment of a "united" states, not by a free for all.  Clearly, the founders were of one mind that it should be thus; that there should be government, even if the degree of centralization was under debate.

In other words, Gerelyn, it's not that I am misinformed and believe that all were of one mind in the 1700's.  I am simply saying that armed individuals are not to credit with what came to be the "United" States of America.  In my opinion, it is inappropriate to regard the government as an oppressor in a democracy and to fail to protect the public out of an unsubstantiated concern that the government will become a hostile dictatorship that can only be opposed by individuals armed with guns and that controlling guns signifies that we are on the road to a hostile dictatorship.
Marie Rehbein
6 years 7 months ago
Gerelyn, While it is possible, and even likely, that I will read the book you recommend, I do not see how a biography of our first president connects to the topic at hand.  I suspect there is a point you believe the biography supports, but you have not stated what that is.

Do you disagree with the idea that those who oppose gun control are anarchists at heart?  That is in a nutshell what I mean to say.

Since it is unlikely that the discussion will continue into the time after I have become informed in some way that you believe I am not, perhaps you could state how it is that this biography contradicts my opinions (which I could support in a scholarly fashion if the forum were such that it invited such lengthy dissertations).
Marie Rehbein
6 years 7 months ago
Gun control is not going anywhere until the chronic fear of powerful governments oppressing citizens goes away.  It is argued that the impetus behind the second amendment was that the citizens should be able to take up arms not only in support of their government against others who would overtake it by force but also against their government should it become overbearing.  In the fantasy, "the people" will defend their freedom with guns, even though the reality is that "the people" live at the mercy of the armed lunatic and not the oppression of the government.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
6 years 7 months ago
1)  I'm so happy to hear that you're considering reading the great book I suggested. 

2)  I understand that you don't understand how it can illuminate the dark areas, but it will.  I promise.  (It supports my points that it's wrong to think the colonists acted in ''solidarity'' and that the founders were of one mind'', but the historical context is so wide and so deep, that to pick out one or two strands from the 900-page book would not be respectful of the author or of the Father of Our Country.)

3) Do I think those who oppose gun control are anarchists at heart?   I have no idea what that means.  You'd have to define every word.  Explain what you think ''anarchists'' are.  What does ''oppose'' mean?  Not interesting to me. 

4) I think you'd have a hard time supporting the opinions you've expressed here ''in a scholarly fashion.''   

5)  I hope you'll send me an e-mail when you finish the Chernow book.  

Crystal Watson
6 years 7 months ago
I am for gun control, but maybe part of the fascination with guns too is the idea that they seem to be the "great leveler" ... in theory they allow a relatively weak person to defend themselves with supposed parity. 
Marie Rehbein
6 years 7 months ago
Gerelyn, I don't think putting on airs about a book you have read addresses the question of gun control in any way.  If you are not interested in this subject, why were you reading Mr. Schroth's opinion? 

Oppose means to be against gun control, in the manner of the National Rifle Association, for example.  Anarchy is what would result from the absence of government.  People who do not want gun control and who mistrust government to the degree that their reason for opposing gun control hinges on the potential for government to oppress them basically do not want a government. Period.

I don't think I would have any problem supporting the thesis in a scholarly fashion that the Revolution was successful less because of firearms and more because of colonial sentiment.  Essentially, I believe individual gun ownership was not a significant compared to the willingness to fight for a common cause.  Just as I believe that the success of the communist Vietnamese against our much more advanced military did not hinge on the individual communist Vietnamese individuals owning guns.
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 7 months ago
I am so glad to see this article. The LACK of clear (and courageous) writing on the topic of gun control is weird to me.  What and who are we afraid of?  The government???  Or is the government also beholden to this dark and insidious evil? It seems to me that that we are under the spell of some unnamed power, and it's the same story that has been going on throughout human history.  Isn't the task of Christianity to break that spell, speak truth to that power?
Fernán Jaramillo
6 years 7 months ago
BadBruce says "I assure you that if they did not have guns they would have found another method to kill." How silly!
Stanley Kopacz
6 years 7 months ago
As far as I can tell, the second amendment was directed at the fear of a standing army. The founders, or some of them, were afraid of military dominance over the civilian population and the government.  Thus, a well-armed militia.  How this plays out now in an age of sophisticated weaponry, I don't know?  Perhaps deweaponizing the public needs to be preceded by cutting back on the biggest military in history.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
6 years 7 months ago
"The most important factor in the American colonists resistance to British domination was their solidarity."


Reading some American history would clear up that misconception.  A good starting point would be Chernow's Washington:  A Life.  (Available for Kindle.)

David Smith
6 years 7 months ago
Beth, it doesn't take courage to say that here - it's the party line.

Marie touches on what must be behind the determination to keep the government - governments - from controlling gun ownership. Government in, I imagine, most of America has a very poor reputation for honesty, transparency, competence, and benign behavior toward individual humans.  It's perfectly reasonable, I think, that many people would feel that their symbolic disarming by this creepy creature of a government would amount to surrendering to an enemy.  

I don't feel that way, but I respect those who do.

As for guns causing these occasional deadly manic outbursts, nonsense. People kill plenty of people using plenty of other tools. Would Fr. Schroth be happier if any of these victims had died in bomb blasts, instead of in gun blasts?  Well, probably a little, but I'm pretty sure he'd be up here again, demanding that the government prevent the open sale of fertilizer and any other possible components of possible bombs. An upsurge of knifings would lead to calls for controlling access to knives.  And so on, until you'd need the FBI's permission to carry a plastic fork.

Societies move naturally, it seems, toward increasing government control.  In a few generations, we'll likely have strict gun controls. The thing, to my way of thinking, that will have been gained by this happening a little more slowly than many would have liked is that it's almost always better to legislate after a long cooling off period than in the heat of public passions.
Gerelyn Hollingsworth
6 years 7 months ago
Hi, Marie: 

Your idea that ''the founders were of one mind'' is as off-target as your opinions about individual colonists. 

I hope you'll read Chernow's book.   It won a Pulitzer Prize. 

(Fills in the gaps that are growing wider as the Republicans continue their assault on education.)
Jim McCrea
6 years 7 months ago
Way too many men with guns have forgotten (or never learned) what any army draftee was taught early on: "This is my rifle, this is my gun. The first is for fighting and the second is for fun."

Testosterone overload does strange things to strange men.
Robert Reynolds
6 years 7 months ago
In New York State, the police have no duty to provide police protection to any particular individual. The Courts in New York have held that "generally, a municipality may not be held liable for the failure to provide police protection because the duty to provide such protection is owed to the public at large, rather than to any particular individual" (Conde v. City of New York, 24 AD3d 595, 596 [2005]; see Cuffy v. City of New York, 69 NY2d 255, 260 [1987]).

As the Chair of the Public Safety Committee of Manhattan Community Board 12. I will be holding a Public Hearing in September 2012 on NYS Senate Bill S1427 & S1863 with an emphasis on self-defense education & firearm training for women.

Bill S1427 PURPOSE: This proposed constitutional amendment would provide within the New York State Constitution for a right of the people to keep and bear arms for traditionally recognized purposes

Bill S1863 PURPOSE: This legislation would remove a gun licensing officer's ability to deny or restrict the issuance of licenses to law abiding citizens who have successfully undergone the state's strict application process and appropriate New York State and Federal Bureau of Investigations fingerprint background check required under law. In addition, this bill will conform New York State law to current ATF requirements regarding background checks for firearms transfers.

September 12, 2012 at 6:30 PM at Isabella, 515 Audubon Avenue New York, NY 10040. If you live in New York State feel free to take a look at the information that I will be presenting as well as sign my on-line petition included at the link below. I hope that you will come out and support me as I support you. Fraternally.
Bruce Lacillade
6 years 7 months ago
I assure you that if they did not have guns they would have found another method to kill.
6 years 7 months ago
Just a comment. A few years ago when I was in Federal Law Enforcement and stationed in Detroit, I conducted a study on the correlation between firearms trafficking and homicide in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and Detroit, Michigan. That year, Detroit had one of it's banner years, with a homicide rate in the range of 600 (primarily with firearms). Windsor, Ontario had a homicide rate of ''3''. None of which were by firearm. Windsor has approximately 1/3 the population of Detroit. Statistically, they should have had a rate somewhere in the range of 200 or so. Or put another way, when you multiply (due to the population rate) the statistics for Ontario with Detroit this would have (on paper) increased Ontario's rate to 9. Canada has very strict firearms laws. I wonder if there is a correlation?
Marie Rehbein
6 years 7 months ago
RE #8: The idea that Germany's Jews could have averted or aborted the holocaust if only they had firearms is a complete fabrication.

RE #11: I have been in both Detroit and Windsor, and the difference is economic. 

What does it take for men to put down their weapons, and what does it take for them to take them up? 

A man who massacres people with an automatic weapon has no respect for life.  A leader who massacres people with the authority of government has no respect for life.

What did Jesus teach us about responding to evil?  I don't think it was get a gun, and I don't think it was to not let anyone have a gun.
Mike Brooks
6 years 7 months ago
"The idea that Germany's Jews could have averted or aborted the holocaust if only they had firearms is a complete fabrication"

Yeah, well, I'm sure that if the American colonists had been unarmed and the country never achieved independence, I'm sure some Brit would have concluded that the idea that the colonists would have achieved independence if only they had firearms was a complete fabrication.  Americans have faced an oppressive government before; I understand the gun nuts.

I suppose if you want to follow Jesus' example of what to do about weapons in the face of a well-armed oppressive regime, you start an unarmed counter-movement, knowing that the regime will kill you and those that follow your examples after you.  Are we all ready to be Christian martyrs?
Mike Evans
6 years 7 months ago
I too grew up with guns in our household. We used to hunt on a regular basis as a family. But the guns we owned as kids were extremely safe - single shot, manually cocked and very carefully handled after substantial training. There is no sensible or reasonable purpose to own a military firearm with oversized magazine or clip except to inflict serious harm on another human being. And except for a very few ranchers and expert target shooters, there is similarly very little reason to own a handgun, especially one that can fire 15 or more rounds without reloading. The refusal of the congress to renew the assault weapons ban has to do with campaign funding from the NRA.

If you ask the infantry experts, they will tell you the only reason for a rapid fire, semiautomatic weapon is to lay down a fussilade of volley fire to discourage an attacking enemy. They admit that few targets are ever hit, but it makes a fearsome noise. Most soldiers are ultimately killed by well aimed sniper fire or explosive charges from grenades, rockets and boobytraps.

High Noon is for losers.
Marie Rehbein
6 years 7 months ago
@Michael Brooks #15: Michael, The most important factor in the American colonists resistance to British domination was their solidarity.  This factor was not present among the Jews - even though in the Nazi fantasy the Jews were and are well-organized and scheming.

My sense is that if people feel part of a community and recognize their own value, they will not take up arms against anyone unless they are at a crossroads of choosing to defend themselves or face annihilation.  They will not be agressors with firearms shooting up school campuses, movie theaters, and places of worship.

We need to avoid implementing the the kind of policies - especially economic policies - being proposed by some of our elected and campaigning leaders that divide and alienate us from one another so that we can avoid the likely consequences.  When we stop seeing ourselves as one nation (under God or not), we will be destroyed as such; no imposition of oppression required.


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