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.