I don’t usually post about political issues, but the debate on gun control in the U.S. has so impacted me that I felt I could not keep silent. However when back in January this year, the NRA accusing the President of being an elite hypocrite because there are armed guards at his daughters’ school really made me angry. I don’t think the President’s children are more important than any others, but I do think they are more vulnerable and this type of comment will probably make them even more vulnerable.
It seems to me that the concerns about gun control revolve around our understanding of freedom. Does having assault weapons freely available make us “free”. I don’t think so but then I realize I did not grow up in this country and so have a very different understanding of freedom from the average American.
To Americans the concept of freedom focuses on the freedom of individual choice, which can be as trivial as the right to choose whether I want my eggs sunny side up or over easy, or as serious as the right to bear arms. What I struggle with is that there seems to be little recognition of the often dire consequences our individual choices can have for the society or for the world in which we live. Freedom to do what we want and carry whatever type of gun we want, in my opinion, is not freedom at all. Yes I know the dogma: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” but if guns are not available there are far less gun deaths and we do need assault weapons to go hunting – that I think is massacre of another kind. And in a society with less guns all of us become free from fear.
To Australians freedom revolves around the freedom of society and the recognition that our decisions all have consequences not just for us as individuals but for all of our society and our world. Consequently most Australians are willing to give up their guns for the good of a safe society in which we don’t have to worry about drive by shootings. In the Australian political system voting is compulsory because of the belief that with the freedom of citizenship comes the responsibility of participation in the process that provides our freedom.
All of this leads me to my most important question about freedom “What does freedom look like in the kingdom of God?” Obviously there is a element of individual freedom – all of us need to take on the individual responsibility to kneel at the foot of the Cross, repent and reach out for the salvation of Christ. However our entry into the family of God faces us with serious consequences for how we act in society. Our freedom as Christians means that we no longer focus on our own needs but rather “consider the needs of others as more important than our own” (Philippians 2) It means that we live by the law of love – what James calls “the royal law” (James 2:8). Paul sums this up very well “Do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbour as yourself.”
If we truly loved our neighbours, not just those across the street that we wave at every day, but the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized, how would it change our attitude towards guns? Jesus us calls all of us to be citizens of a kingdom in which love not hatred reigns, in which peace not violence is proclaimed and in which freedom means we accept the restrictions on our individual behaviour to participate in the liberation of all humankind.
What do you think?
I think more Americans than you might expect believe, as I do, that the Second Amendment to the Constitution was a product of its time, and should only apply to muskets and single-shot flintlock rifles.
I’ve never needed a gun for any purpose on Earth, and never will. There are a number of fear junkies in the USA, and they yell a lot, but adults outnumber them.
You are right – and I think the numbers of Americans who want to see something done about guns is rising. I do hope we can come up with a reasonable solution to this
Invisible Mikey, why I do not disagree with you on the heart issue of guns and their place in society, I do have to disagree with what I consider to be a dangerous precedent you are trying to set…i.e. only flintlocks and muskets.
If were to apply a similar logic to the first amendment that you are using for the second, I would have to conclude that free speech does not cover the internet, or any other means of communication that were not around in the late 1700s.
Or, that religious expressions that were not around at that time are similarly not covered by the statement: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The development of technology does not nullify the Bill of Rights, nor does popular polling. In fact, it was explicitly written to protect the minority against the majority…so that even if it was popular by the people or the government.
While I certainly have severe disagreements with groups such as the NRA, I can not agree that only the weapons at the time of the writing of the constitution are covered by the bill of rights. There is process to change our constitution, but it can not just be circumvented on the issues we may not be passionate about.
To do so risks not learning from the lesson of Martin Niemöller, who famously said:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the catholics,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a catholic.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
Thanks for your thoughts, Charles. While I was saying “flintlocks and muskets” basically in jest, what I was serious about is my belief that the Amendment is a product of the thinking of its time. I do not believe it is equally relevant today, and personally I would like to see it repealed, though I don’t think that will happen in my lifetime. Today we have more to fear from heavily armed persons with mental health issues than we do from the remote possibility that our elected government will become a dictatorship.
Besides the need to better track clinical diagnoses like bipolarity and schizophrenia, I would add paranoid personality disorder, a disease exhibited by “preppers” and the most extremist members of the NRA. Fortunately, some of the provisions of the ACA will broaden a doctor’s ability to question patients who appear unstable as to whether there are guns in the home. Previously, that information could not be pursued unless the patient explicitly verbalized an intent to cause harm to self or others.
Thanks for your post, Christine. I’ve thought a lot about all this. Our American obsession with guns troubles me — as an American and as a Christian.
I think Jesus taught that we should not focus on “our rights,” but on God and other people. I think Jesus was about “going the extra mile” for the people around us, including annoying individuals, demanding people, and entities that push us. In His time period, the Jewish people were submitted to the hated, oppressive, tryrannical occupying power, Rome. In the New Testament, Jesus didn’t adivse that His followers use violence when they feel threatened by individual baddies, organizations, or governments.
Americans sometimes claim the 2nd Amendment is about the right to arm ourselves so that we can individually protect ourselves from the outrages of a tyrannical government. I don’t think that’s legally correct. (I think it’s about ensuring that states can remain free to keep armed militias against a tyrannical federal government.) I also don’t think it’s a practical, constructive approach. I’m not sure I could stop a tyrannical government and all its military resources from outrages against my family and me by owning/using guns against govt. oppression. David Koresh armed his “families” in his fortified compound in Waco, Texas against what he viewed as a tyrannical government. Did the guns and paranoia keep them “safe?” Nope. They were, of course, outgunned by the police, FBI, etc. The Jewish zealots in Israel who armed themselves against Rome militarily in 66AD and 70AD — did that keep them “safe?” Nope. They were annihilated. Did the armed revolutionaries in France in 1769, Russia in 1918, on China in the 1930’s lead to more judicious governments? Nope. Those armed uprisings led to horrific civil war, followed by Napolean, Stalin, and Mao.
Perhaps there are times when, as a people, we have to stand up militarily to violent oppression. But I think we should be very, very cautious about thinking that individual arms will solve problems with any government.
I also don’t think deadly weapons are likely to keep us safe or solve problems from individual bad characters. I’m sure there are exceptions, but statistically people with guns are more likely to suffer from gun-related injuries or death to themselves or their loved ones than to baddies attacking them with deadly force (as in a horrible burglary, etc.) And as followers of the Prince of Peace, do we want to rely on use of deadly weapons to deal with individual problems or threats? It seems to me that Jesus chastised Peter for taking a sword to a bad guy’s ear when they came to take Jesus to his trial, torture, and death …
Hunting is something else. If you hunt for your food, a gun is probably useful. If you a member of a state militia, a gun is necessary. But in either case, I think: a)all guns should be registered; b)all gun owners should be required to have a background check, extensive training, and insurance before ownership in allowed; and c)the type of guns allowed to individuals should be limited to what is necessary for the purpose. (Assault rifles are not necessary for hunting.) Automobiles have many uses besides killing; they are not JUST deadly weapons. Yet we are fine with requiring registration, training, insurance, and regulations with cars. We think it’s a safety/responsibility issue. Isn’t ownership/use of a gun a safety/responsibility issue, too?
I share many of your sentiments. Thank you for sharing this.
yes yes yes. Also, for the record, the president’s children attend a Quaker school, and there are not armed guards. They have a secret service detail but they are not in the classroom, and often are not even in the building but outside (or at least in the office, monitoring via CCTV). The security guards of the school are unarmed.
I had heard that which makes the NRA comments even more concerning.
Now this explains some of my own position – Australia banned assault weapons years ago http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/opinion/australia-banned-assault-weapons-america-can-too.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0
One of the problems that any of us (or the gov) are going to have in addressing gun violence via sensible gun control is that in many senses the heart of American masculinity apparently lies in the ability to quickly and effectively kill lots of people. This isn’t to say that there aren’t lots of women who are also gun obsessed and lots of men who aren’t, but I think you’d have to be deep in denial to not recognize there’s a definite connection to our unfortunately deranged sense of manhood and our addiction to personal weapons of mass destruction. These preppers who fancy themselves regular action heroes? Ultimately, it’s about deep set male insecurity. Any thinking person realizes that even the best armed redneck in his backwaters bunker wouldn’t last more than a few minutes against an actual hostile government take over (or zombie apocalypse, which really is just pure stupidity), but said individual can and often does do a lot of damage when pitted against ordinary citizens. That’s the only real damage they CAN do. The rest of us pay for their insecurity and I, for one, am tired of it.
Tim you are right. And on top of those insecurities is the very militaristic world view of the U.S. So many people here have spent time in the military so assault weapons seem like a normal part of life and a great souvenir to have from those days. That is something that just does not exist in many other Western countries with a much smaller military and a much smaller percent of the population who have been involved in this form of lifestyle.
Christine – you talk about some things that I keep talking about (asking) regarding this issue … Do we really want to experience the kind of freedom that leads to a high murder rate? and Shouldn’t Christians be careful not to mix up constitutional issues with kingdom issues? and Is there something unique going on in the U.S. (something societal/cultural), besides less strict gun laws, that is perpetuating violence?
I personally thing that strict gun laws would be one of the first things for us to use to attempt to change our “gun culture”. I also believe that education will play a vital role. In addition to that I think that we have to move past an “individualistic” attitude towards a more “we are in this together” attitude as I think it is much harder to kill someone if there is some sense of connection.
Thanks Liz and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Ironically I was with someone this last weekend who works in the school system in Texas where some of the schools are considering mandating the carrying of guns for administrators and maintenance personel. To me that sends the very wrong message that we combat violence with violence – what are our kids learning? Even more ironic is that at one school where they brought staff together to get their education on how to handle guns, one of the maintenance people accidentally fired his gun, it richocetted off the wall and hit him in the leg. What kind of new gun problems will be exacerbate with this type of action?
Even well trained police officers are more likely to misfire in an emergency than hit their intended target. (interesting article on this: http://swampland.time.com/2013/01/16/your-brain-in-a-shootout-guns-fear-and-flawed-instincts/ )
And you’re right – what’s the message?
But the larger question, as you suggest, is about freedom: how do we balance freedom with responsibility? And how do we balance freedom with the good of the community?
Carol that is fascinating. Thanks for sending the link to this article
i think more people need to leave religion out of this..and trying to get people converted out of this issue. i believe there needs to be more background searches made…and religion and religious people and biblicists need to keep out of it.
I appreciate your perspective but it is often our religious views that affect our stance on issues like this. If we believe in a peace loving God we tend to look for peaceful solutions if we believe in a God of vengeance we are more likely to condone the carrying of guns.
I believe in God..but not a God of vengance..I do believe we always suffer the results of our own actions good or bad tho..either on this side or the other..not talking about the biblicial heaven or hell because i am not biblical ..but rather what kind of lives we create for ourselves and the positive or negative consequences from that.