I’m starting to think that there’s enough common ground in the gun debate to enact legislation that will make a real difference. While it’s still easy to become polarized on the issue, several voices emerging from the aftermath of the recent shootings have surprised me. Some liberals are acknowledging that the right to gun ownership is here to stay, and some conservatives are acknowledging that stricter gun control is needed.
One such conservative voice is Mark Tooley from World magazine. He has this to say: “Rejecting all restrictions on gun ownership and use does not comport with a traditional Christian view of a dangerous, fallen humanity. Persons who are immature, deranged, malevolent, suicidal, and psychopathic should not have ready access to guns and other instruments of mass murder.” And the liberal New York Times has featured several columnists saying that overturning the second amendment is off the table. So at least some opinion leaders are willing to move off their positions a bit. I appreciate the courage they’re showing because it may mean offending part of their fan bases.
Try this: sympathize with the opinion opposite yours for a moment. If you’re in favor of gun control, can you see how someone who has been attacked or had their house broken into might have a visceral fear of having that happen again? And how having a gun in her purse makes her feel safer every day?
Likewise, if you reject gun control is it so hard to see why, given the 123 gun-deaths* that occur in this country every day, one could feel that our country has gone mad and needs to disarm? And how the idea of armed guards in every school and store and church makes them feel as viscerally unsafe as you do?
Validating each others’ fears is a helpful exercise.
Interestingly, both sides are reacting to the same fundamental problem: the human capacity for evil. Conservatives tend to locate evil in the individual, and so they stress individual responsibility and personal solutions to violence – like carrying a gun. Liberals tend to locate evil in the group, and so they stress social responsibility and government solutions to violence – like gun control legislation. Both approaches seem valuable to me, and both seem dangerously incomplete without the other.
Does scripture give us any insight on the matter? I think of Matthew 26:52 – He who lives by the sword will die by the sword. It just seems incongruous that Jesus would ever carry a gun; rather, that’s the strategy Mohammed adopted. (I’m not being inflammatory; it’s well-established that Mohammed was a military leader). However, the Old Testament commonly allowed the Israelites the right to self-defense. It’s stretching thing too far to say that no weapons were permitted by God.
Generally, I think scripture leads us toward restraint in gun ownership. Having lived in a high crime neighborhood for years with nothing more lethal than a Golden Retriever, I know I’d feel much safer with fewer guns around. I also feel sympathy for the police who have to try to keep order in a land awash with guns. But I’d like to hear from some gun owners about their take on the matter.
Here’s an idea I’d like feedback on: what if we applied the same standard for getting and maintaining a gun as we do for getting and maintaining a driver’s license? There’d be a 3-6 month training period, an exam, and regular renewals required. Also, the gun license would go to a national registry like drivers licenses do. And as with driving, certain infractions could result in suspending the gun license — mental illness, misdemeanors, etc. But I would raise the age for gun ownership to 21. Such a standard doesn’t infringe second amendment rights. There are SO many levels to the problem of violence in America. I’m ignoring them in this blog for the sake of brevity. But I’ve given a reasoned and respectful opinion, as is my responsibility as a thinking Christian, and done so in a way that invites other reasoned and respectful opinions. Your comments on this blog are encouraged.