I don’t want to talk about guns, and gun control–not again. I can’t bear to have this conversation one more time, because we have been here before, and we know after all the hand-wringing, all the prayers, all the regrets, nothing is going to change. Congress will refuse to pass any stricter gun-control laws, any longer waiting periods, any more robust background checks, any more restrictions on who can buy a gun and when s/he can buy it. As I said we have been here before.
But, I also don’t want to NOT talk about guns; we simply must keep having the conversation until something changes, so here goes.
The New York Times has multiple stories about gun violence on their front [digital] page today, including one that notes that in the US, there are 270 million guns; and between 1966-2012, there were 90 mass shooters. The comparative numbers? No other country has more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters. This article suggests that it isn’t that the US is a more violent society than others [although some might suggest otherwise]; it is simply the sheer number of guns that are present here–in homes, in handbags, on belts and mounted on cars. In plenty of places, you can carry them openly, too; I wonder if this is worse than carrying them in secret, so that their presence goes unnoticed until someone opens fire in a church, in a school, at a movie theater, or at a concert.
I know what people say–this is a “rights” issue, constitutionally so, and everyone should be able to have a gun if he wants one–and apparently, many people interpret this as meaning multiple guns, automatic weapons, and guns that could bring down an elephant, if the shooter were so inclined.
Perhaps you have picked up on the fact that I am not a fan of such liberal gun ownership laws. I am not anti-gun per se, but I think the idea that any sort of restriction or limitation is a fundamental assault [I use the word intentionally] on our freedom is absurd, and misguided. It is true that there are some laws that should prevent certain people who have committed certain crimes [like domestic violence] from buying certain guns–but these are not always enforced, and they are certainly not enough.
From a Christian perspective [and I have said this before], the purpose of human freedom, of human “rights,” is not simply for the benefit and favor of the individual him or herself, especially when that benefit comes at the expense of the safety and flourishing of the community. Our freedom is a gift, to be sure, but it is not a possession; it is something that we are invited to use for the sake of others as well as ourselves, such that we promote and nourish the well-being of all [especially the most vulnerable], and not just indulge our own desires.
The fact is, sometimes, the best exercise of one’s freedom is its restraint. Just because I have the right to buy up a track of wilderness and clear-cut it, doesn’t mean I have the “freedom” to do so: from a Christian perspective, “freedom” means that I am not only subject to none in Christ, but I also am subject to all for the sake of the neighbor. In Luther’s view, Christian freedom is not only “from” something [like restriction], but also “for” something [like the service to one’s neighbor].
One more mass shooting, 26 more people dead. I keep thinking, “surely this one will be the tipping point,” but it isn’t. So, I’ll keep not not-talking about guns and gun violence. We all should.