Gun Control , Theology and Common Sense

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.

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5 Responses to Gun Control , Theology and Common Sense

  1. This was obviously written before Paris was attacked by armed Muslims. Paris has some the strictest gun control in the world. Even police cannot carry. What happened? 7 gunman killed or wounded over 500 people in 20 minutes reloading 3 or 4 times in the theater to shoot unarmed people lying helpless on the floor before help arrived.

    I wonder what would have happened if people started firing back. Also, San Bernadina gun free zone. The Batman theater- gun free theater. Va. Tech- gun free campus. Army base in Texas- soldiers not permitted to carry arms. Uh, what happened to relying upon the military or police for help in any of these cases?

    The amendment was written to protect a natural individual right of the people to be secure. That is, use arms to protect themselves if they so choose to do so. Any one of the shootings cited above and more would have saved lives had people been permitted to and chosen to carry self protection in the form of arms.

    Re-read the Old Testament. Did God allow the Hebrew people to travel about unarmed or not respond to violence with violence? In fact, they were commanded to wipe out entire populations when they first entered the Canaan or promised land because God knew leaving the pagan populations with already demonstrated violence would attack the Hebrew peoples, his chosen peoples.

    Have humans really changed since then? They had weapons and armies then. They have weapons and armies now. They had sinful natures then. They have sinful natures today. Nothing has changed and recent events indicate that things are getting more dangerous not less.

    We cannot wait for the authorities as they were forced to in Paris. By then, criminal psychopaths whether they be Islamic or Christian will have done their intended damage and innocent lives will be lost before any response can be taken. Guns can kill in the hands of the wrong people. They can also protect in the hands of the right people.

    Insane, satanically inspired people are all over. Sane people should be able to protect themselves against them by choice.

    Re: Muslims. Please do some research on Muslims and their continued attacks on Christians in Islamic held lands. They are merciless and violent as Paris demonstrated.

    • peddiebill says:

      You must be reading different statistics to me.

      The figures I have seen suggest that the US, where for the most part there is no effective gun control, is associated with vastly more mass shootings than is the case in France. The UN figures typically show the US has three times the gun fatalities and many more gun injuries per 100,000 than is the case in France. Have I got this wrong? To my way of thinking allowing the same sort of free access to weapons in France as they have in the US and encouraging the same sort of Bible Belt Gung Ho attitudes would presumably encourage the same results ie killing more civilians – and the question as to whether or not the terrorists are pulling the trigger is not a measure of how safe the people become as a consequence.

      I acknowledge that Texas soldiers are not allowed to take weapons off base and given the high incidence of gun crime by unstable soldiers in the recent past I can understand why such a law is invoked. However there are plenty of law agencies permitted to have their officers carry guns for security purposes. eg in Washington I understand there are 26 agencies so empowered eg police, state troopers, homeland security, FBI etc etc If you have read the news recently there are also plenty of instances of poorly trained police using guns unwisely. Surely the untrained are even more likely to be stupid.

      It is true I don’t know much about it but I would have thought that since ISIS are reported to be carrying weapons made in the US or by US companies one way of reducing the damage might be to invite the Weapons suppliers to contribute to the rebuild.

      It also seems to my naïve way of thinking that the number of civilian deaths in Iraq is vastly more than it ever was before the US invaded to put things right. The sense of injustice this engenders should not be unexpected if only because as a historian once pointed out, bombing cities has a tendency to alienate the affections of the citizens. Perhaps that goes some way to explain why in the aftermath of this invasion (or do you see this as UN supported justified punishment????) there was a threefold increase in world terrorism. My reading of Iraqi history suggests that if the US had not installed a Shia Government in Iraq and deliberately closed their eyes to the subsequent neglect of the Sunnis in the North, the Sunni protest movement (ISIS) would never have really got a foothold in the first place.

      Although you attribute the Old Testament Israelite genocide on neighbouring tribes to the leading of God I would have thought that a more nuanced view was that they were adopting the same “Nature red in tooth and claw” approach as their neighbours. Do you really think that the words at the end of Psalm 137 (ie rejoicing in the thought of dashing babies brains against the rocks because of something their parents had done) is really God inspired gospel?I personally think that Jesus in the sermon on the Mount might be suggesting a better long term solution. Do I have it right that you don’t like Jesus’ words on the subject? You certainly sound as if you are supporting the case for the National Rifle Association’s alternative.

      You finish by inviting me to do some more research on Muslims and their continued attacks on Christians in Islamic held lands. I will do so, and even suggest my published book “Anatomy of Terror” might indeed have begun to deal with that topic. Just one question. How many Muslim civilians have been killed by the Christian nations? More than what the terrorists think they are doing in return?

    • dave says:

      Blaming all Muslims for the attack in Paris, or calling all Muslims merciless and violent, is quite the stretch.

      There are plenty of resources on the internet questioning the official narrative for the Paris attacks.

      Here are two from James Corbett:

      If you accept the official narrative for the attack: If France is supporting and training the rebels (including groups like ISIS) to overthrow the regime in Syria, then is France in some way also responsible if (supposedly) those rebels they trained execute an attack in France?

    • dave says:

      Re: Muslims. That is quite the incredible stretch to declare all Muslims as merciless and violent.

      Perhaps you are unaware of the questions about the official narrative for Paris.

      (this is my second attempt at this post; I wonder if the first time the link caused the comment to be discarded)

      If you accept without question the narrative about armed Muslims in France, but if you also accept France and NATO are actively training and arming rebel groups to overthrow Assad in Syria, then if some of those trained actually execute an attack in France then is France in some way also responsible for that attack?

      • peddiebill says:

        Totally agree with Dave. With well over a billion Muslims worldwide the number of terrorists with Muslim affiliations is very small. Don’t forget TerryF that Christianity has also had a good share of “Christian” advocates of violence eg the Ku Klux Klan, those nutters who advocate water boarding, the Oklahoma bomber, those who sold nerve gas to Saddam Hussein and barrel bombs to the Saudis to use in Yemen- (whoops sorry…. that was the US government).
        Note to Dave: Sorry that your earlier comment was blocked. This must have happened automatically because I don’t recall seeing it arrive. In any case having now just read the Corbett Report link I would encourage visitors to my site to follow your suggested link. It opens up some interesting points.

        Perhaps we need to step back a little to remind ourselves that stupidity does not lend itself to self analysis. The standard US government response to requests for legislation against gun violence is to take the line of least resistance. While many in the community recognize the fear engendered by gun violence the standard mantra is that only a gun can stop a bad person with a gun. In addition to listening to this widespread attitude, the political decision makers are manipulated by a host of lobby groups (including the conservative Churches of the Bible Belt, the NRA and the Industrial Military complex) to the point where gun control is rejected as a possibility.

        To independent commentators the result seems total nonsense. Bill Bryson in his recent book “The Road to Little Dribbling” contrasts British attitudes to gun control with those in the US. In this instance Bryson says he had just read a news item in which Congress was reported as passing a bill prohibiting the US Department of Health and Human Services from funding either direct or indirect research leading to any form of gun control. Bryson’s comment on this is worth quoting in full.

        Let me repeat that but in slightly different words. The government of the United States refuses to let academics use federal money to study gun violence if there is a chance that they might find a way of reducing the violence. It isn’t possible to be more stupid than that. If you took all the commentators from Fox News and put them together in a room and told them to come up with an idea even more pointlessly idiotic, they couldn’t do it.” (The Road to Little Dribbling P379)

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