Today I picked up my Mossberg 500 Tactical 12-gauge shotgun with a pistol grip and a short barrel. It is not for game. I hate hunting.
There is much blather about guns these days, and not just from the left. Last year one of the deep thinkers at Patheos grunted this very fine argument about the right to own guns: “I think he (sic) real annual mound of 30,000 dead bodies is the central fact. Therefore, I think ‘Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. So let’s give Adam Lanza as much access to the technology of mass death as possible because whaddya (sic) gonna do’ is a stupid argument.”
And just this week the usually very good Evangelical reverend Rob Schenck published a deeply confused piece in the Washington Post about how it is not only anti-life but anti-Christian to own a firearm.
Schenck says he once “believed we had a God-given right to defend ourselves.” Maybe he intended to circle back and make clear that we do have such a God-given right, only not with guns, but he never does. As it is, he seems not to know that the right of self-defense is in the natural law.
Schenck sets up a nice straw man when he “disagrees with my community’s wholesale embrace of the idea that anyone should be able to buy a gun.” Of course, no one in his community or any other community believes that “anyone should be able to buy a gun”; children, felons and the crazy should not be able to buy guns.
He posits the nonsensical notion that “our commitment to the sanctity of human life demands that we err on the side of reducing threat to human life.” Presumably Schenck is joining in the large-soda ban once proposed in New York City.
Because each of us are “sometimes bad,” Schenk says we must be skeptical of the notion that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” Now, certainly there are other ways to stop a bad guy with a gun, but that we are all “sometimes bad” cannot be a reason for not trying, even with a gun.
Schenck says “anyone using a gun for defense must be ready to kill” but that “such a posture” is against the Gospels. Schenk says he reached his new conclusion through “careful theological and moral reflection.” Schenk can be forgiven since his careful theological and moral reflection clearly did not include the study of what the Church teaches.
The Church and Scripture teach “thou shalt not kill” certainly, but that commandment refers to the “innocent and the righteous.” Someone coming at you with murderous intent is neither innocent nor righteous. The Church teaches it is not only your right to defend yourself and your duty to defend others, even unto his death. We shoot not to kill but rather to preserve innocent life, ours and others. If the aggressor is killed, this is not intended but still allowed.
The gun I bought is primarily for home-defense, even though we live in a very safe neighborhood, and our house is wired up with an alarm system. Still, I think it is my responsibility to have a weapon at home to protect my family from whatever threat may come down the street or through a window some night.
Consider self-defense by first examining the death penalty.
The reason the Church will never take the death penalty completely off the table is that she knows there are times when society must protect itself, even a society with an advanced penal system. She knows there are places in the world where people live in a near state of nature, who do not have advanced penal systems and sometimes their only recourse to protect themselves is to execute someone who is a proven danger. And because the Church also speaks through time, she also knows even societies with advanced penal systems may one day find themselves living in a state of nature. To complicate matters further, even advanced penal systems do not prevent criminals from harming more people, mainly fellow inmates or prison officials. The Church can never take away the natural right to self-protection.
More than that, though, I bought this gun in solidarity. When I posted on Facebook that I intended to buy a gun, I was surprised and pleased so many of my friends, Catholic and Evangelical, all around the country, and even in my neighborhood, are heavily armed.
With my Mossberg 500, I stand in solidarity with them and with what I view as a very healthy gun culture in the United States. Our gun culture is one of the things that makes us like unto our forefathers who knew we must be willing and able to, individually and with others, defend our lives and even our rights. That the Europeans do not understand this is yet another reason to buy a gun.
But my reasons go beyond home-defense and solidarity. They are also political. I bought a gun, Obama, and there is not a damn thing you can do about it. My gun is a statement to all those like him who hate the Constitution. This is who we are as a people, utterly unlike that continent of Europeans who have outsourced their own defense to Americans for more than half a century.
Like you, I rely on social order and social structures to defend me and my family against danger. But, I am no longer sure we can rely exclusively on those. I am no longer willing to count myself among the weak, the trusting, or children who rely exclusively on others to protect them and theirs. I think of all those innocents who have been gunned down in mass shootings by nuts or Jihadists and I wonder how many of them in their dying moments wished they had a gun.
When I was a boy, I used to take my father’s military issue .45 and his nickel-plated .38 Detective Special on my bike down to Elm Point Road and plink empty cans. I once had a job in college that required me to sleep with that same .38 within reach. Still, I never liked them. Truth be told, I was and remain afraid of guns. But like all men who have ever taken up arms, I realize there are some things I cannot forgo and one of them is defending my family and standing up for my country. Okay, that sounds a bit melodramatic. Even so, today I bought a gun. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe the shells.
This article was originally published by Crisis Magazine.
Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute focusing on international legal and social policy. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of C-FAM.