Blog Template Theology of the Body: The Christian's "Right" to Bear Arms

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Christian's "Right" to Bear Arms

Christians, having been definitively made juridically and ontologically dead in Christ, (we hope) logically have no "rights." We have an intrinsic dignity that God grants, and which society should recognize. We also have responsibilities to our families and our society, all of which are subsumed to our primary obedience to Christ. -For the record, I do not quite know how the ultimate duty to "go into the world to make disciples" accords with the right to own and carry an AK 47; I do not understand how one purports to hold baptizing the bodies of sinners and shooting them as simultaneous prerogatives.

Here are some helpful thoughts on point:

"This woman, a person seeking to embrace a life in Christ, was deeply concerned that if gun control legislation were enacted, she would have to surrender a significant part of her lifestyle—a part that she had considered to be not only not sinful, but wholesome. In addition, she saw her right to possess guns as virtually a sacred one. How could members of the church she planned to join possibly be against something that was sacred? What she failed to perceive was the relative nature of the Second Amendment. While I believe that the way she used firearms was not inconsistent with her new-found faith, this cannot be said of all gun use.

The right to private property (in this case guns) is not absolute. An individual’s right to own and bear arms, as well as actually to use them, must be balanced by the greater social needs of a society and its citizens’ right to safety. There are good reasons why restrictions may need to be placed on the possession and use of firearms. With regard to certain types and classes of firearms, even the possibility of possessing them is bad for society.

The framers of the Bill of Rights envisioned the Second Amendment during a time when the United States was a fledgling nation. In all probability, they could not have imagined the levels of violence that confront Americans in today’s society. We live amid what has been termed a "culture of violence." While there is some evidence that violent crime may have lessened recently, Americans still murder each other with guns 19 times more often than do the people of the 25 other wealthiest nations. In addition, among the 36 wealthiest, the United States has the highest proportion of suicides from guns. While it is claimed that guns may be necessary to protect oneself and one’s loved ones, they may just as likely be used to provide criminals or mentally ill people with easy access to the means to cause irrevocable harm.

I believe that the government has a responsibility to its citizens to limit access to certain types of firearms, as well as to set the parameters under which its citizens may exercise their Second Amendment rights. An analogous example commonly cited is that of the restrictions placed on owning and operating a motor vehicle. Cars are registered and licensed, just as are their operators. "Rules of the road" stipulate how a driver may use his or her vehicle. These rules place limitations on drivers, not as a punishment, but as a way to ensure the welfare and safety of travelers. While the "rules of the road" may vary from state to state, they are largely consistent in order to make the roads of the nation safe. Obviously, these rules are sometimes broken, and people are injured and killed. And sometimes they may seem not to apply, such as the rule that requires a stop at a red light at 2 a.m. when no other car is in sight. Yet we would be far worse off without them. Sensible regulation of firearms is just as reasonable."

- More from The Most Rev. Michael W. Warfel here.