Gun control in a fallen world

Allison Joyce GETTY IMAGES A Rosary’s cross is seen at a memorial for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary … Continued

Allison Joyce

GETTY IMAGES

A Rosary’s cross is seen at a memorial for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting December 19, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.

If government were good, only God would have guns, but humans abuse God’s gift of human freedom and so guns abound. What can we do about it?

Christians want peace, but perfect peace is not possible in our present condition without tyranny. We must tolerate law . . . a thing that does violence to our liberty while remembering no law is good in itself. Liberty is good in itself, while law is the compromise we make with our inability to be good and free and is only good when it maximizes human liberty and minimizes human vice.

Nothing is so good that humans cannot mess it up and nothing is so bad that God cannot redeem it. If we don’t start with this simple truth when it comes to guns, then our discussion will go no place. Guns can easily kill, though they need not be used to kill.

Killing can be murder and murder is immoral. Guns, therefore, like cars require thoughtful regulation in a fallen world. This is why both guns and cars are already regulated.

No gun control the president will suggest will deserve moral condemnation or praise, because there is no fundamental human right to own a gun as there is a fundamental right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Before guns existed, men were free and if all guns vanished men would still be free.

If men were angels, then every man could own a gun. If men were devils, no man should own a gun. Since no person is either an angel or a demon, and since guns are so easy to abuse, we must measure what to do about them.

Of course, gun regulations, which Americans already have, limit our liberty, but a limit on liberty need not make me a slave. As a conservative, I recognize that this is pragmatic decision between liberty and law. Regulation reduces what it regulates, but it also infringes on my liberty. There is also the pragmatic question of whether more gun control will prevent any of the events, such as the Newtown horror.

Sociology and science can help us answer those questions, but science cannot tell us what society Americans want. Turning to another easily abused good, media, makes this obvious.

The scientific consensus is that consuming violent media increases the tendency to violence, but that agreement doesn’t tell us anything about we should do. Christianity warns that Utopia isn’t coming with direct divine rule so no solution will be perfect.

The awesome liberty to play Halo means that unstable people can easily play Halo. Most Americans think the censorship of such media will not lead to a big enough decrease in violence to be worth our loss of liberty. Christians know that giving the government power is necessary, but that all such power will be abused.

Increasing government power over anything is always dangerous, though increasing my liberty is also dangerous! It is impossible to know when “tipping points” are reached, when liberty surely devolves into licentiousness or law to legalism.

This means there can be no single Christian position on gun control. Christians can live peacefully in societies where there is not right to bear arms and in societies, such as ours, where there is such a civil right. We believe in liberty, morality, and law, but don’t know how to balance those goods.

That is the downside of the gift of God of free wills.

As an American, I believe in an armed citizenry. I also believe that we have sufficient regulations in place and no new regulations, given the number of guns in the society already, are likely to avoid Newtown. There has been no increase in such violence and it seems unwise to pass laws only so we have done something.

If the federal government decides further to limit magazine sizes in an act of therapeutic regulation, however, I think the Republic will no more be in imminent peril, then if it decided to ban certain kinds of violent video games. We were free before Grand Theft Auto and could be free without it.

I hope we do neither, but only because I believe too much liberty and privacy have been lost.

John Mark Reynolds is provost at Houston Baptist University and the founder of the Torrey Honors Institute.

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  • Edward Alex

    great timing media. RUN a bunch of bs polls and arguments as the president acts like a dictator and limits the bill of rights.

  • doggone13

    I really do not see any benefit to assault weapons in our society. What are you going to do, hunt a deer with it. It’s for killing people. That is it’s sole use. There is no infringement on a civiliized society to remove such weapons. Gun shows should be required to have background checks to make sure nuts that have been killing people we at least try to filter out.

  • hamishdad

    Jesus wouldn’t own a gun.

  • hamishdad

    Jesus wouldn’t own a gun.

  • false gold

    As try as I may, I cannot get over my disdain for some idiotic Americans, you ask why the rest of the world hate you, well, hate is a strong word, but why they hold you in contempt ? It is your stupidity, you sense of entitlement, your seemingly inability to grasp the simplest of concept outside the box and your failure to think for yourselves
    Second amendment, the idiots’ mantra, what about the right to feel safe and secure, will you idiots feel happy if you know that someone next to you on the train, on the job, has a semi automatic? you would be the first to call the cops, much less if you know that most people are armed in such a manner, ask your self this, would you feel safer than now?
    Should not your right to be “free,” that is, feel safe matter? Or the right for some men to think that they are RAMBO? . If you have to talk about rights, the rights of the majority should also are taken into account as much as the rights of “little” men, searching for the holy grail, that is the miracle grow to feel “BIG,” I could see how they would feel “big” with a “big” gun. FOOLS. Yes.
    Do you need a semi automatic rifle to kill a deer, what is the use for such a weapon, are there secret plans for a revolution that you are arming yourselves with weapons whose only use are multiple kills?. Educate yourselves people, the world is watching.
    PS. Some of your elected officials are so much more mentally challenged than you, that you really shouldn’t feel too bad about acting, talking and just being stoopid.
    Oh, and Obama isn’t the first president to pass or try to pass a sensible bill to limit Americans ability to be better armed than the military.
    Yes idiots, Armed men to patrol your schools and what happens and whom will you blame when any of these men go ballistic and it is WHEN not IF, and make the CT Massacre look like a picnic, I wonder whom you will blame.
    I know, Yes, not your self but OBAMA for not doing more to control GUNS. Seriously Americans, Think for yourselves.
    Oh and Du

  • cricket44

    Except he didn’t so your complaint is meaningless.

  • cricket44

    “I believe too much liberty and privacy have been lost.”

    Except for the liberty and privacy I’ve seen you actively write to be taken away from some.

    Uh-huh.

  • john1234523

    I think you mean that I oppose extending the benefit of marriage to same sex couples and protecting the life of the unborn.

    That is correct. I do not think marriage is a right any more than I think owning guns is a right. I do not favor government keeping people form living together and calling themselves whatever they please.

    The right to life is, I think, something that is absolute for the innocent.

  • john1234523

    My friends who own semis use them for shooting range enjoyment. Not my deal, but none have ever harmed anyone which is more than we can say for a great many ways people get pleasure in a free country.

  • cricket44

    “My friends who own semis use them for shooting range enjoyment.”

    Their right to a cool toy does not trump the right of others to not be shot.

  • cricket44

    I mean that it’s hypocritical in the extreme to bemoan loss of liberty and privacy when you advocate those very things. You’re absolutely fine with women being reduced to chattel so your words are quite empty.

  • twmatthews

    I think the author misses the point of what president Obama was talking about. The initial discussions that I heard were on closing the gun show loophole. I can drive to a local gun show at any time and buy any kind of weapon and no questions asked. This is one area needs to be corrected.

    As to violent movies and video games; action oriented movies and video games are the easiest to distribute internationally since they require the least amount of translation and understanding of cultural nuances. The US is not at the top of the list of per capita purchases of violent video games. We also don’t have higher incidences of mental illness.

    What we do have is readily and easily available guns. We have 10 gun deaths for every one in England with no difference in purchase of violent video games or mental illness.

    What’s the difference? Number of guns.

  • john1234523

    If you think there are no pro life feminists, get out more. Bubbles are bad.

  • john1234523

    If you really think the only difference between us and the UK is number of guns… Read some Trollope.

  • john1234523

    He told Peter to buy a sword.

  • john1234523

    A point I made in my piece… But the evidence is scant that laws the President proposes will do anything. As I said… I hope so.

  • PhillyJimi1

    Blame the video games? Let’s see if there is evidence for that…

    In the 1970′s there were 15 school shooting that happened in the US. School shooting go back to the 1800′s btw.

    In the 2000′s there were 18 school shootings. Humm, with the advent of villoent video games in the 2000 one would expect this to spike. With the population growth it is about the same.

    What has changed is the number that are dead. Why because now the insane people who shoot up schools can arm themselves with machine guns.

    So John Mark Reyenolds you theory hold NO water.

    Just like your Jesus it is just fairy tale in your mind. Mr. Reyenolds you make excuses for reasonable laws. If you drive a car like a manic putting other people lives in danger you get you liscense taken away. If society deems someone is mentally unstable we should let them walk into a gun show and buy a machine gun with 10 50 clips. It is just common sense.

  • Secular1

    It has been some time since Mr. Reynolds has written here. So I was wondering what it would be. like. It wasn’t a surprise, nor a disappointment. It is full of drivel laced with christian claims. This is a public policy arena not a religious topic so claims of christian values etc is totally non-sequitur. As usual Mr. Reynolds thinks his variety of fairy tales have some relevance .to the topic.. His fairy tales have as much relevance as Bhagvad Gita or Bhagavatham, or Koran. Which is big fat ZERO.

    He says “As an American, I believe in an armed citizenry.” I just cannot understand why we need armed citizenry. The 2nd amendment has been debauched by the likes of him. The right to bear arms was only in teh context of states being able to maintain well organized militia. In fact all the state Legal enforcement officers are able to carry the fire arms needed, including the national guard. In light of that there is absolutely no reason for ordinary citizen to hold any weapons other than pistols and some rifles for self protection and other recreational purposes. He sounds like that rabies infected rabid radio talk show host on CNN Alex Jones. These fools think that they can ward off the federal jack booted thugs dropping from the black helicopters with their Bushmasters. If it really comes to that those jack booted thugs will squash them like cockroaches. So I cannot understand the romance with the assault rifles and large capacity magazines.

    “no new regulations, given the number of guns in the society already, are likely to avoid Newtown.” Apparently he agrees that we do have too many weapons. Then he goes on to claim that is the reason no new laws will be effective. Perhaps, he is right as long as we do not go and buy back the unnecessary weapons from the citizenry and confiscate from those who do not give up. Especially when these fellows romanticize with the delusions of fighting our own soldiers.

    Continued below:

  • Secular1

    Continuing

    The likes of Mr. Reynolds, do not see any facts that are inconvenient. Ours is the only western democracy, which far surpasses all other countries in annual per capita deaths by fire arms. We do not have any greater per capita mental illnesses or greater consumption of violent video games. It is rank stupidity on part of the gun freaks to not see this.

  • Secular1

    Mr. Reynolds pray tell what is the reason for such disparity in the annual per capita deaths by guns. It is not enough to pose a rhetorical statement.

  • Secular1

    Speaking of bubble, Mr. Reynolds you need to get out of the fairy tale bubbles you live in. What business is it of yours that you feel that you have the right to marry anyone you want, but the same is not available for our fellow citizens, who are LGBT. Why do you demand that everyone else must live by your fairy tale delusions? You guys are no different than teh Salafists of Saudi Arabia, except that teh Salafists can really go through with their fairy tale delusions, as SA is a decrypt theocracy. Fortunately for all of us we do not live in a theocracy a’la Reynolds, Robertsons, Falwell, Grahams, Dolans, Ratzingers, et al. Western societies have progressed along far enough that despite all your tryings we do not regress that far back, the onward march of progress and human zeitgeist moves on, like a steam roller crushing your delusions under it. I have no illusion that likes of you would not turn these United States into medieval papal, Lutheran and Calvinist Europe, if you had your way.

    We let you live out your delusions in your personal lives, because if we did not, we wouldn’t be any different from you. And we could not live with ourselves.

  • john1234523

    I did not, in fact, blame video games. I pointed out the fact that there is some correlation between violent tendencies and violent media. I don’t favor government regulation of such media.

  • john1234523

    Values cannot be determined by science. Reason is a tool to help find our values. Ethics will, however, come from our philosophy of life. Mine is formed from the Christianity that was a cradle for many goods, such as the scientific revolution, we enjoy today.

    In any case, as I said… I can live with gun control and I hope it helps.

  • john1234523

    In fact, as the news shows us daily, citizens can take down or cause trouble, serious trouble, for tyrants. Sometimes this happens peacefully, sometimes not.

    God forbid either happen here and thank God we are far from any such necessity.

  • cricket44

    There are anti-choice women who believe themselves to be feminists. There is no equality when one gender is valued primarily as breeding stock and given no choice in the matter. I’m not the one in the bubble.

  • SODDI

    People like Reynolds NEED those guns, with which they will enforce their dominance in the future they see for America. Their future america is a theocracy, because they believe that christianity and democracy are mututually exclusive.They will institute the death penalty not only for murder, but also for homosexuality, adultery, incest, lying about one’s virginity, bestiality, witchcraft, idolatry or apostasy, public blasphemy, false prophesying, kidnapping, rape, and bearing false witness in a capital case.

    THAT is why evangelicals need their guns. To force others to obey them.

  • SODDI

    The only tyrants I see in America today are the tyrants of the religious right.

    They are not just tyrannical, they are insane.

  • Secular1

    Mr. Reynolds you said “Values cannot be determined by science.”. While I agree with that it is a total non-sequitur. You then said, “Ethics will, however, come from our philosophy of life. Mine is formed from the Christianity”. I do not see christianity is not a philosophy. It is a collection of superstitious fairy tales and a heap of admonishments. The only one rule seems to be teh foundation of every thing therein. That rule is “Anything & everything attributed to have your sky daddy’s approval. must be right and anything and every thing disapproved by this mythical character is wrong” Now that leaves no room for reason or logic. Given that the book which supposedly documents all of them, is also replete with contradictions. So given the contradictions it is pretty much up to everyone whatever they want to pick and choose. So you have the bigoted pond scum like Jesse Helms & Strom Thurmond were of the view that Jim Crow was height piety compared to MLK & LBJ abhored it. OR Jefferson Davis thought slavery was his calling, whereas Mr. Lincoln thought it was an unbearable blight on the republic. As to your tall claim that chritianity being the cradle of scientific revolution is a bit hollow. We had all that despite of it and not due to it. An institute that celebrate the fact that your sky daddy admonished Adam to eat off of tree of knowledge, cannot be the cradle of knowledge.

  • itsthedax

    I might agree with Mr. Reynolds, if I was an idiot, and if i had no knowledge of history. But I’m not, and I wasn’t, so I don’t. The “As an American, I believe in an armed citizenry.” comment is just ridiculous.

    The language of the 2nd amendment was lifted from Article 6 of the Articles of Confederation. It was intended to assure the new states that they would retain the ability to maintain state militias under the control of the each governor. This was critically needed due to the continued threat of British attack in the east, and the frontier wars in the west. That’s all.

  • nkri401

    “That is the downside of the gift of God of free wills. ”

    Interesting statement…

    This always the begs the guest ion of why is my “free will” not to get shot at is being triumphed by some else’s “free will” to shoot?

    Is there a hierarchy of “free wills” like full house “free will” triumphs “three of kind “free will”?

  • nkri401

    BTW, can this gift be returned for cash?

  • nkri401

    There are also men who think that other men are inferior so they should be restricted in making choices.

    Thankfully, there are now laws preventing these people from exercising what they think are a divine right to rule over other people.

  • cs9243

    “Killing can be murder and murder is immoral. Guns, therefore, like cars require thoughtful regulation in a fallen world”
    This is a foolish argument. Cars are necessity, guns are not. Guns are used intenttionally to kill people. You do not use your car to kill people it happens by accident.
    “Guns can easily kill, though they need not be used to kill”
    I agree with you that guns can easily kill, that is why guns need to be regulated. If you don’t want to kill someone, you do not need guns.
    It is not wise to bring God in this debate. God said ” thou shalt not kill” .
    In my opinion,killing is justified only in warfare and may be for self defense. Only 30% of people own guns in this country for self defense. Our safety is government’s responsibility.
    God would never allow guns and killing each other

  • mormonpatriot

    I believe Mr. Reynolds was actually saying what we all know when we reflect on our situation in the world- that we are free to choose what action we will take in response to the situation in which we are placed. There is a wonderful scripture in the book of 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, that is, chapter 2, verse 14″:

    “And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.”

    This comes from a prophet, who, as a father, gives counsel to his sons on making correct choices in life. He is saying that men are meant to be free to act for themselves – that is their nature. But we should also remember that we can give up that ability by allowing others to make decisions for us. Doing that makes us, in effect, only something to be acted upon.

  • mormonpatriot

    Do you believe this really? I am a Mormon, or in other words, a Latter -day Saint. I am probably more conservative in most of my views than most people who comment here.
    I will tell you without hesitation or minced words that I believe wholeheartedly in democratic ideals and in Christian principles both. They are completely in harmony with each other. God wants those who do right, and are not forced to do so, but rather choose to do so. The only nation on Earth who allowed this kind of moral freedom 200 years ago, at least on paper, was the United States, and many nations have begun to follow suit since.

    The kind of enforcement of Christian principles you’re talking about could only happen with a neglect of the most important principles of Christianity, reminiscent of the Crusades. There is no love, no charity, no understanding, and no choice in the system you imagine “People like Reynolds/evangelicals” desire for America. I may not be an evangelical, but the majority of those evangelicals I know of and have met do not strike me as anything but good people trying to do their best. So check your sources, and don’t spread hate, SODDI. Hate breeds hate, not Christianity.

  • mormonpatriot

    While I agree with Mr. Reynolds’ conclusions for the most part, I want to use this opportunity to point out several items contained in his argument that I consider to be myths.
    -

  • mormonpatriot

    1. In a perfect world, only God would have guns
    - I honestly don’t know where this came from in his reasoning. Guns are useful instruments, and have their place as tools. A perfect world is defined by the presence of only perfect people. who could all be trusted with a gun. Therefore, there would be as many guns as were needed as tools.

    2. There is no fundamental right to own a gun as there is a right to life.
    - These are two rights which are very much related! The right to defend one’s own life is very basic. It is surely part of that right to have the tools wherewith to defend oneself. There is really no sufficient substitute for a gun; it is a great equalizer, almost regardless of who the victim is.

    3. Guns require regulation because they can be used to murder, which is immoral.
    - Were government to be the only and/or the most effective means of restraint in society, I might agree with this. But reasonably government only has the power to regulate and punish, not to control the way a person thinks and acts, which is the real issue behind gun control. What really can change how a person thinks and acts are the fundamental institution of the family, religion, and the associated moral foundation. It is not government’s place to control every aspect of our lives which may place us in danger. We should stop trusting in government to be the corrective force for our society’s problems. This is the real cause of our dissatisfaction with government, for we’re asking things of it which take more and more liberty in exchange for increasingly disappointing results.

  • SODDI

    Those are tenets of “christian reconstructionism” and “dominionism” as espoused by an evangelical fanatic named Rushdoony and adhered to by many evangelical preachers and political leaders like David Barton, Mike Huckabee, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

    I have no doubt that evangelicals who follow the above luminaries also believe that the United States government should be overthrown in favor of a white christian theocracy. They just keep it on the down low. And they will lie about it if pressed, much like Pat Robertson lied about it.

    Maybe YOU ought to check a few sources.

  • nkri401

    mormon,

    I realize you are sincere and I am as well,

    You really don’t see how ridiculous the “free will” concept is contradicted even by junior high logic class.

    Like how can a God create a being even more powerful than God?