Now that the so called Christian nation of the US has finally achieved the equivalent of a mass shooting for every day of the year I wonder if it might not be time to insist that the international community pause to reflect on the underlying implied theology or at the very least be asking how the current US position on guns relates to common sense.
Someone strikes you, what then? Popular wisdom according to the National Rifle Association seems to suggest you should strike back, harder if necessary and further,that forceful response by community-sanctioned use of privately held weapons will ultimately win the day. In the United States the pioneer self image of the gunslinger law enforcer is still apparently alive and well. This combines with the highly prized Second Amendment of the right to bear arms to be interpreted to mean every citizen has the right to possess any type of weapon to be used for self defence.
As an outside commentator I must say that I am singularly unimpressed with the US modern interpretation of the right to bear arms. My reading of US history tells me that in the War of Independence the US had no standing army and the only way a community could be mobilized to deal with outside threats such as the occupying Colonial army of Britain was to encourage each male citizen to have an available weapon (ie the Second Amendment on the right to bear arms). This made perfect sense for their day and other less militaristic states have followed this principle. For example in Switzerland after compulsory military training soldiers are considered to be reserve soldiers and encouraged to keep their standard supply Army issued weapon (securely locked away) at home should Switzerland ever be attacked.
Common sense suggests that since the US today has a highly trained powerful standing army, the right to bear arms must be reinterpreted. Surely although clearly designated reservists might be expected to have weapons at home, the original intention of the Second Amendment was certainly not to encourage untrained civilians to have access to highly dangerous automatic weapons. Here the pragmatic question might be to ask if the Swiss version of right to bear arms results in a calmer and less dangerous community in terms of resulting gun deaths.
In practice virtually all of the mass shootings have arisen because potentially dangerous individuals have found themselves with ready access to weapons. While this is unacceptable, in no way does that suggest that citizens will be safer if more guns are encouraged into private hands. We note in passing that contrary to a popular misconception that virtually none of these mass shooting events have been perpetrated by Muslims. I have not read the latest statistics but I do know that a few months back when only 207 mass shootings had occurred for the year in the US, that only one had been identified as caused by a Muslim.
When it comes to safety in the home the current best practice advice to householders is that even when weapons are close at hand eg in a bedside cabinet, the ammunition should be safely locked away. This is excellent advice since more gun accidents kill or wound householders (including children) than do the actions intruders but the known existence of bedside weapons encourages the intruder to be armed and has the practical problem of getting to the ammunition in time to meet the perceived threat. I understand it has been calculated that on average in a city it takes less time for the Police to be called and arrive at the scene of a home invasion than it takes for a householder to get to and load a weapon from a locked ammunition cabinet.
It is certainly core early Israelite mainstream teaching to want to hit the offender hard. So for example we read: Exodus 21:25 “burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise”.
In Leviticus 24:20 w read “fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury” Deuteronomy 19:21 is equally clear: “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot”.
It is interesting to note that there are some followers of the Muslim faith who still consider such a law is appropriate and if we are looking for results we would have to admit that when this is strictly applied as Sharia law (eg the beheading of murderers in Saudi Arabia) that the United Nations surveys on the occurrence of shooting deaths record far less incidence of murder than would be the case in the US. At the same time with a social cohort far more mixed than that in Saudi Arabia it is unlikely that the same “eye for an eye” laws would be acceptable or even be seen as potentially effective in the US
Perhaps there was a time that communities were isolated, populations localized and the people in such communities had common religious and cultural histories, when such a crude basic law may have offered the only viable alternative.
The largely untested alternative is the one attributed to Jesus in the gospel of Matthew.(verse 38,39) 38″You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye an a tooth for a tooth.’ 39″But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.…”
I would be most interested to hear from others as to whether or not Jesus was simply being unrealistic in what he is said to have proposed.