Why Gun Control is a Religious Issue
I am not a political person. I do not follow, say, political campaigns, or the ins and outs of various pieces of legislation, as closely as some of my friends do. But I am a religious person. Many of my political opinions, then, are formed by my religious ideals: for example, a commitment to help the poor and marginalized, a desire for a peaceful world, and a respect for the sanctity of life from natural conception to natural death.
That is why I believe that gun control is a religious issue. It is as much of a “life issue” or a “pro-life issue,” as some religious people say, as is abortion, euthanasia or the death penalty (all of which I am against), and programs that provide the poor with the same access to basic human needs as the wealthy (which I am for). There is a “consistent ethic of life” that views all these issues as linked, because they are.
All of these issues, at their heart, are about the sanctity of all human life, no matter who that person is, no matter at what stage of life that person is passing through, and no matter whether or not we think that the person is “deserving” of life. The issues just mentioned of course are very different. To take the most obvious example, the agonizing decisions surrounding euthanasia, with which loving families are sometimes confronted, are not to be equated with the twisted decisions of a mass murderer. But they are all, in one way or another, actions that impinge on the sanctity of human life. God gives life to every person, and that life is holy.
In the wake of last week's tragedy in Colorado many were moved to prayer. With them I mourn the loss of all who died in the shootings. I pray for the victims, that they may rest with God; for the victims' families and friends, that they may feel God's consolation; and for the perpetrator, that he have true remorse and somehow be reconciled with God and with those to whom he brought such misery.
But our revulsion over these crimes, and our sympathy for victims, may be more than an invitation to prayer. Such deep emotions may be one way that God encourages us to act. Simply praying, “God, never let this happen again” is insufficient for the person who believes that God gave us the intelligence to bring about lasting change. It would be as if one passed a homeless person and said to oneself, “God, please help that poor man,” when all along you could have helped him yourself.
These shootings would not have happened if the shooter did not have such easy access to firearms and ammunition. So religious people need to be invited to meditate on the connection between the more traditional “life issues” and the overdue need for stricter gun control. The oft-cited argument, “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” seems unconvincing. Of course people kill people; as people also procure abortions, decide on euthanasia and administer the death penalty. Human beings are agents in all these matters. The question is not so much how lives are ended, but how to make it more difficult to end lives.
Pro-life religious people need to consider how it might be made more difficult for people to procure weapons that are not designed for sport or hunting or self-defense. Why would anyone be opposed to firmer gun control, or, to put it more plainly, laws that would make it more difficult for mass murders to occur? If one protests against abortions clinics because they facilitate the taking of human life, why not protest against largely unregulated suppliers of firearms because they facilitate the taking of human life as well?
There are some cogent arguments against restricting access to firearms. People enjoy guns for sport and hunting. The Second Amendment permits the private ownership of guns (though I doubt that the need for a “well-regulated militia” envisioned by the framers of the Constitution translates into easy access to assault weapons.) But there is nothing to say that more stringent gun control laws that could prevent such horrible crimes cannot be judiciously balanced with constitutional rights.
The Christian outlook on this of course has less to do with self-defense and more to do with the defense of the other person. Jesus asks us to love our enemies, not to murder them; to pray for them, not to take vengeance; and he commends the peacemakers among us, not those advocating for more and more and more weapons.
Was Jesus naïve? I wonder about that. I often marvel how some Christians can say that in one breath, and proclaim him as the Son of God in the next. Apparently, some believe that the Second Person of the Trinity didn’t know what he was talking about. But Jesus lived in a violent time himself, under the heel of Roman rule in an occupied land, when human life was seen as cheap. Jesus witnessed violence and was himself the victim of violence—the most famous person to suffer the death penalty. It was not only divine inspiration but also human experience that led him to say: Blessed are the peacemakers.
Why am I saying this now? Not because I want to score political points. But because this week’s shootings horrified me, and reminded me of the need for religious people who stand for life, and for churches who stand for life, to stand for life at all times. Why haven’t I written as much on other life issues? Because the Catholic church’s stance on most of those issues is well known. By contrast, religious leaders have seemed relatively silent on this other life issue. Perhaps it is the kairos, as Jesus said: the right time, in this case for religious people to pray about these issues in a new light.
This stance will most likely be unpopular politically. Some on the political right will object my stance on firmer gun control. Some of the political left will object to my stance on abortion. But that doesn't bother me, because I am not political. I am religious. And so I am for the sanctity of life. Therefore, I am for stricter gun-control laws that will protect lives, not end them.
I do not want to be in my home alone with no means to defend myself. If all criminals know that I am unarmed due to government gun control and gun confiscation, the criminals will then be emboldened to break into my home and do whatever they please whenever they wish with no worry about retaliation from me. The local police will not be able to prevent these types of crimes.
Also, most police are law-abiding citizens, but some are not and so I want to be able to protect myself from harm from rogue law enforcement members.
After hurricane Katrina, the police confiscated all registered guns and this left the law-abiding citizens unarmed and so they were preyed upon by the criminals who did not have their unregistered guns confiscated.
In Aurora, it is unlawful to carry a concealed weapon so the law-abiding citizens were unarmed. Notice that no one attempted to stop the criminal. No one had a gun except for him. Criminals will always get access to guns regardless of anti-gun legislation. Anti-gun legislation only disarms law-abiding citizens and this prevents them from defending themselves against persons who desire to harm them.
Many people have a double standard: Rosie O’ Donnell is very vocally pro-gun control yet her family’s body guard is armed. I truly wish that people would either practice what they preach or else stop preaching.
So I thank you for bringing your beliefs for our consideration and for your distinction between a political and religious stance. So when one decides on how to form an opinion on gun control one must descern whether their opinion is a stance of a political party or a religious belief. The choice is ours and says much about who we really are and not who we say we are.
Even the Most Catholic (ever) Supreme Court of the United States says the NRA has the whole Truth.
Yes, it's a moral issue. But Saturday Night Live can't make this stuff up.
Deal is...there is a lot of money on the other end and the big dollar boys will not have it!
We frisk and abuse old ladies in airports for our safety from others with weapons of mass destruction, we ought to manage the distribution of weapons of mass destruction.
It is natural for people to want to take action to prevent horrible things from happening. But a lot of people in this string of posts seem to be jumping from a pro-life position to the conclusion that gun control would save lives and is therefore the pro-life option. But consider all the people who will be hurt by not having access to firearms: the woman who is being threatened by a stalker, a law-abiding citizen living in a neighborhood where lots of people have obtained firearms illegally; heads of households charged with protecting their families.
You have to logically think through your position and its consequences; gun control does not mean fewer innocent people die.
Of course it's a religious issue. Of course it's a common sense issue.
It's just that it's so... 'American' (in the way you use it: excluding Peruvians, Cubans or any other natives of the continent)...
I have often heard the argument you made .It is ridiculous.
Fr Jim Martin never said that the government should go house to house and confiscate all guns.Maybe he should have.
The argument during the Civil War and before it was complex as is this.Lincoln was not for the direct abolition of slavery but for the "ultimate extinction" of it.
If America moved towards the abolition of Guns they could have them down to European standards in about 10 years.
Then you would not need some hero with a gun to save everybody.It is not utopian thinking on his part, in fact nothing in the article is even remotely idealistic.
Utopia?Europe.The rest of the World for crying out loud.
If Europe had guns like the States does we would have regular massacres too.
Do you really believe that these homicidal lunatics would be put off by others having guns?Despite the fact that most of them are gunned down anyway?
The reasoning is that what happened last week was a "lack"of guns, can you just picture the French and German governments relaxing laws now to help people "protect" themselves?What is the worth of handguns in America?The total worth?Buybacks ,governmental buybacks with the revoking of the license afterwards.
"There are some cogent arguments against restricting access to firearms. People enjoy guns for sport and hunting. The Second Amendment permits the private ownership of guns (though I doubt that the need for a 'well-regulated militia' envisioned by the framers of the Constitution translates into easy access to assault weapons.) But there is nothing to say that more stringent gun control laws that could prevent such horrible crimes cannot be judiciously balanced with constitutional rights."
Though I'm much less temperate than he is about the vast numbers of guns in the U.S. - something that many in other parts of the with strict gun control laws find non-sensical about us - I think Fr. Martin has tried to strike a fair balance in suggesting greater restrictions on access to assault weapons. Just what is it about an assault weapon that makes it a necessity for protection from criminals or for an enhanced hunting experience? If the Colorado shooter's assault weapon had not jammed, the death toll in the Aurora tragedy would likely have been significantly higher. Unfortunately, both of the main presidential candidates in the U.S. this year are afraod to take on the NRA about this issue. That's a political tragedy IMO.
That is what was going on. The idea of a dictator disarming a population that was ready to be John Wayne as Wyatt Earp is an NRA extrapolation from its own fears. Germany was a very different place, and lessons from the '30s are not applicable, even if they were drawn from fact rather than fiction.
I encourage IAT regular readers to read the comments section on this link: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/priest-pushes-for-more-control-by-calling-it-a-religious-issue-like-abortion-euthanasia-or-the-death-penalty/.
It makes you fear for our country.
In fact, the moral obligation to protect life via self-defense is so foundational to an accurate understanding of the Gospel that, in Luke 22:35-38, Jesus tells his disciples; ''But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.''
The taking of innocent life is a greater evil than the taking of life in sef-defense. In fact, the original Hebrew version of the Ten Commandments forbids ''murder,'' not ''killing.'' By definition, ''murder is the killing of an ''innocent.'' Jesus recognized that evil is real, those who are commited to evil will *find* weapons if they truly want them, and that His followers would occasionally need to defend themselves with deadly force.
I suggest that you abandon the runaway emotion and the false premises and instead adopt the Biblical view that our Lord Jesus advocated!
I had pondered at times whether I would ever be able to kill a person in self-defense or not and I was later given the opportunity to find out.
I was car-jacked and robbed at gunpoint by two men, and believe me, I knew right then in that awful moment that I would not ever regret shooting people who were attempting to harm me or others. All I need is the gun to defend myself and I will.
So the concern is which is greater, the lives lost by the availability of guns or the lives saved. If one is going to take a stand on this issue, then that is what has to be part of the discussion. Certainly there are other considerations besides the enumeration of lives lost or saved or the reduction/increase of crime.
One is the issue of protection from an imperious government. How valid is that? And just what level of self protection is one allowed from criminal predators or the possibility of government intrusion in our lives?
It's the same principle today.
I would never vote for a pol who follows the NRA demands..
I can only imagine what they are going through if I imagine it was one of my own family taken from me so insanely.
I don't believe people are all that political or religious, they just stick with what serves them best.
This from the Nobel Prize winner.
"I believe in people's lawful right to bear arms. ... There are some common-sense gun safety laws that I believe in. But I am not going to take your guns away."
Any talk of respecting people's rights is nonsense.
That said I am open to correction or teaching on this point.How on earth can Americans justify having a police force if you also still need to "bear arms"?How can you justify the US arm-y if the citizens are all swisslike in their self-defence?.In China they use Chopsticks for no other reason than tradition.Fork and Knife does the job better.The first generation of chinese who eat with fork and knife still bring their heads to the food , a natural reaction after a lifetime of using an inferior system. It is a useless struggle.My Chinese friends no longer pine for chopsticks.Why Can't America just adopt the superior european approach to guns?
Again maybe there is a very good reason.The usual is a sophisticated version of "we likes our guns"
(There will always be the problem of illegal attainment, though :/ )
I support the 2nd ammendment, but it must not be seen a simply a license for hedonistic pleasure-killing, but a call for responsible commitment to the community. Communities do need citizens to have arms, not just for the protection of their families, but of their neighbors as well. The best way to ensure this is to create guidelines at the state and local level.
But this is an issue that I and a lot of women (and priests) just don't completely understand. A lot of men really like guns. In a lot of parts of the country, a gun is an important symbol of masculine honor, it confers the ability to take care of oneself and protect innocent people. I know a lot of very good men (and a few women) who belong to the "You'll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers" school of thought. They're not criminals, they're not killers, and they're not dangerous. They just feel naked when they're unarmed.
Good gun control is a question of finding the right equilibrium point. Policies that make it harder for bad guys to get them are good. But policies that make it harder for good guys to get them are bad. What's appropriate in Massachusetts is not necessarily appropriate in Arizona.
James Holmes seems to be a very sick young man. If he hadn't been able to get his hands on firearms, he could have done about as much mayhem with Molotov cocktails. Tim McVeigh killed hundreds with fertilizer.
Does this say that if one is religious, they are obliged to carry a gun? I hate guns and would not have one in my house ever so I would be obliged to disobey such a law.
It would also be highly hypocritical on his part, considering that his Administration has sold THOUSANDS of automatic firearms to rival drug cartels in Mexico (operation Fast and Furious) and is blocking congressional investigation on Attorney General Holder on the issue.
Yes the killings are brutal and unforgiveable. We live in a culture of death, no surprise that we will die that way. I appreciate Fr. Martin's comments, truly. But these days the Church has lost its teaching authority in all matters, big and small. If a child victim had shot his abusive priest, who would condemn that? Not me as a Juror. So when we wail about the lack of gun control, we the people, and we the faithful have our fingers on triggers of mistrust, distrust, and disgust. A few weeks ago in Philadelphia over 40 persons were shot in one weekend, and since more have been shot, but not all together. We shrug our shoulders and move on. Life is cheap, we've been taught. And we are starting to believe it.
First, the act of comparing gun control to abortion clinics is so flawed I can not believe an educated person would use the analogy. Abortion clinics' SOLE AND SINGULAR purpose are the extinction of human life. Firearms in private hands are used literally millions of times every year for beneficial purposes from hunting to self defense.
Next, there are hundreds of thousands of incidents of firearms used in self defense every year. Without firearms, there would be far more rapes, robberies, and murders completed. If you doubt me, look at FBI statistics or John Lott's book ''More Guns, Less Crime'' (and he was an anti gun guy before he ran the statistics). ''What about the police?'' you ask. Well, the Supreme Court of the United States has spoken and ruled that the police are under no duty to protect you individually from crime, but are there to catch criminals after the fact, thereby protecting society.
Additionally, the Second Amendment is not about hunting, it is about maintaining the people's last defense against a tyrannical government. Despotic governments have killed far more people in this century than privately owned firearms (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc.). A wise man once said that if every Jewish household in Europe possessed a Mauser rifle, a box of ammunition, and the will to use them, the Holocaust would never have occurred.
Finally, your contention that firearms suppliers are unregulated is a position of such colossal ignorance (I mean that in the real sense of the word, in that you do not know of what you speak, not as an insult) that it is not even worth discussion. The industry is HEAVILY regulated. I have been through so many background checks, it is difficult to count them. I will make the point that the Catholic Church would have been well served to have a similar system in place regarding the placement of priests (rather low hanging fruit, I know, but it is an analogy that while cheap, makes the point).
The problem is the degredation of our culture, the weakness of the humans making up the Body of Christ, and the victories of the Culture of Death and Godlessness.
This issue affects me personally. I attended Arkansas State University at the time of the Jonesboro shootings. I know families that suffered loss in that tragedy. I was playing soccer and saw the ambulances roll that day. Not once did I take the intellectually weak and morally vacuous position that the guns were the problem.
When a tragedy strikes involving firearms strikes in other countries (Australia, Norway) the citizens call for more & better gun control. When it happens here we double down on our pro-gun stance. More death.
It hasn't. Follow this link to an article, based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Criminology: http://www.snopes.com/crime/statistics/ausguns.asp.
Not suprisingly, my family was just in the middle of this very discussion, as I'm sure many American families are, in wake of the tragedy in Aroura. Conversationally, my father asked, "Why wasn't someone in that theater carrying a concealed weapon?" If a law abiding, concealed-weapons permit carrying, Smith & Wesson packing individual had the presence to gun down the shooter, how many innocent lives would have been lost~ zero. I don't believe that loving your neighbor means allowing someone to take your life for no reason, without a fight...as I do respect life as a holy gift from our Creator.
As I think of this very unusual individual, I wonder, "what turned him into a time-bomb?" I am certain that he did not know and receive Jesus. Like the old adage, 'hate the sin, not the person' goes, it is neither the gun, nor really the persons (shooters) that we should hate.
Fear is a giant factor in the cause of violent crimes. Also, it is what causes victims to be submissive. Remember 2001? How many died after succumbing to the fear evoked by a few box cutters? Hence, it is not the gun, per se, but the fear of an unstable person who does not know the heart and will of Jesus Christ.
We cannot love a person who threatens our holy lives as he waves a gun before us, we must love these people before we know them. Reaching out to children at young ages, strangers in our communities, supporting our neighbors rather than shutting doors, spending time with shy kids who dissapear into computer screens, speaking with distant family memberts, visiting elderly/shut-ins, etc. The effects caused by the decline of the American family, community institutions, religious devotion, and attempts at self-sufficiency can be devastating, as we've seen.
Sometimes, the "right" answer, or maybe I should say, the most effective course of action, is not always the one we first think of as being the obvious solution. For example, statistics show that stricter gun laws alone do not equivocate to lower violent crime rates.