Obama Sticking to his Guns….. or Sticking it to Guns

I was minding my own business this morning when I received an email from my Senator—- who is Rand Paul.  In just about his first act in office as a newly minted Senator he decided to rant and rave because President Obama has banned the re-importing of about a million antique  M1 rifles.   It appears that South Korea would like to give us back these antiques— so gun collectors at gun shows can sell them all over the U.S. and make a profit.   Just what America needs— more guns sold cheaply.

One wonders if Rand Paul bothered to ask whether the gun manufacturers in America really want the market flooded with a million of these old guns?  Is that really good for new gun sales?  Probably not.   In any case,  Rand Paul had the gall in this email message to suggest that somehow someway what our President did was a violation of our right to bear arms.  Really?   Really?

President Obama hasn’t banned gun sales in America has he?   He hasn’t had any Democrats sponsor a bill to make it impossible for private citizens to buy arms has he?    No, he hasn’t.    He has just prevented the importing of old used guns.    Hooray for common sense.   We don’t need any more guns in this country and we certainly don’t need to import them.  We have plenty of new and used guns EVERYWHERE  in this country.

And here is where I say, I am not happy with my Senator, who claims to be a Christian, suggesting that our President is being unpatriotic in what he did.   I don’t really think it is ethical to gin up the gun lobby people and gun toting Americans because of this single act.   Frankly, America doesn’t need any more mementos of war.    What it needs is more reminders that ‘blessed are the peacemakers’  (and no,  Jesus was not making a euphemistic reference to a really large gun).     What it needs is less guns and more strict gun control laws so the Gabrielle Giffords of this world don’t get shot in the line of duty, as public servants,  by crazy people toting guns that they can too easily buy at all sorts of stores in America. Frankly I am on the side of the police on this issue.  We need much more strict gun control laws in this country, so our police actually have a fighting chance against drug barons and all sorts of other people who wish to do us harm.

I think  Rand Paul needs to spend less of my Kentucky tax dollars on such issues, trying to raise money for the NRA, and more on figuring out what makes for peace in our country, and less violence.   I think he needs to spend a little more time reading the Sermon on the Mount and perhaps watching the movie  Witness.   Then he can get back to me about his moral outrage at the Presidential decision to not allow the importing of a million old guns.   Frankly, Rand has no right or rights to be outraged about this decision, and as a Christian, he should have applauded it.    It’s time to start beating some of those swords of ours into plowshares anyway.

  • http://saintsandsceptics@blogspot.com graham veale

    I love statements like …

    “to distort the Word of God and deny the US Constitution” .

    As if they were somehow equiavlent.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Jeffrey thanks for your thoughts. Any time you are dealing with a genuine and possible interpretation of a difficult Biblical passage, and one which indeed has been offered in the past by various church fathers, we should not be throwing around the ridiculous phrase ‘distorting the Word of God’. Pay more attention to what Graham says, as he is largely right on the political issues. Secondly, the fact that you have not heard this interpretation before means you need to do more studying. I didn’t invent it. Thirdly, I suggest you study the lives of Ghandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Both brought massive social change through the message of Jesus about non-violence, and without killing anyone. So its definitely possible, not a utopian fantasy. The ones doing violence were the one’s resisting the non-resisters!! Please do not bring the Holocaust into this discussion. The military might of exactly no Western country did anything to stop this. It happened in spite of all the guns we had and all the threating remarks we made. By the time the Allies got to Treblinka and places like that, it was too late. I am not saying there are not lesser of two evils choices to be made in life by governments. I am simply saying Christians have no calling to be part of the violent ones.


  • Wiglaf

    @ 48 graham,

    1.) The only thing that is pragmatic is the obedience to the Word of God. Anything else is man being wise in his own eyes.

    3.) if you thing using a handgun requires no training, you’re fooling yourself. But, we aren’t talking about handguns versus swords, really, are we? We’re talking about self defense and whether or not it is scriptural. Self defense often requires that the defender be able to protect himself with the same technologically efficient weapon as his/her attacker. If I could possess a more technologically advanced weapon of self defense that would incapacitate my attacker(s) without killing them, I’d choose that instead.

    @ 50 BW

    Graham is NOT largely right on political issues. So there.

    Study the lives of MLK and Ghandhi? Why? Because they were ever so obedient to the word of God or because they fit in your view of how humans are to behave? Did you know MLK owned guns and applied for a concealed carry permit? There’s a difference between non-violent protest and self defense. Did you know that the early efforts of the Nazi’s after gaining power was confiscating guns from civilians? You can’t engage in a campaign to exterminate the Jews if all those Jews have their own guns after all.

  • Wiglaf

    ‘‘Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.’­’
    — Mahatma Gandhi, “Gandhi, An Autobiogra­phy”, page 446

  • Wiglaf

    Perhaps MLK would have survived if he and his men were permitted to be armed, but blacks were usually denied a permit to carry concealed…or the permit was not even available because CCW was illegal.

  • Wiglaf

    Did you ever notice how Jesus didn’t need a sword? He could just walk through an angry, stones carrying mob without a scratch? Do you think Jesus, as He Himself said, that he was unable to defend Himself?

  • Jarrett Cooper

    @ Dr. Witherington,

    It would’ve been good if you posted up the e-mail you received from your senator so we (posters) could make a more informed decision.

    I first want to strongly state that I agree that Christians should not be calling for violence and should avoid such things (even further we should be peacemakers).

    However, I need clarity on this quote, “I am not saying there are not lesser of two evils choices to be made in life by governments. I am simply saying Christians have no calling to be part of the violent ones.”

    I’m having a problem with this. So, are atheists (or any non-Christian) suppose to fight our (government’s) wars? I do believe in the just war theory.

    There’s been some people (for example, Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, etc.) that would not have listened and submitted to reason, or to pacifism. Fact is we’re faced with living in a world where people can go killing hundreds of thousands of people. (In fact the above men killed millions and millions.)

    The question remains, when you have people killing hundreds/thousands/millions of people — playing peace maker and turning the other cheek is not going to stop such atrocities.

    When Jeffrey brought up the example of the Holocaust, he wasn’t speaking about guns, per se. Rather, it’s about the fact that if it wasn’t for violence Hitler’s regime would have not been stopped.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Hi Jarrett:

    I don’t believe in just war theory. I think you can make a case for a justifiable war, and perhaps that is what you mean, but all wars involve innocent lives lost, caused by both sides, and that is never just, however well intended. Wars always involve evil and excessive violence by any side. Wars always involve a suspension of any sort of normal human ethics. So no, there is no such thing as a just or holy war. Maybe a justifiable war.

    I am saying that Christians have a higher calling to bear witness to the Prince of Peace, and you can’t do that clearly or very well while you are killing your enemies rather than loving them.


  • Jarrett Cooper

    Thanks for the reply Dr. Witherington,

    Yes, I don’t think violence is ever something virtuous. However, the just war theory need not only apply to “wars” (e.g. WW1, WW2, etc.). One can appeal to the just war theory in protecting another from a particular crime. For example, a cop gets called in about a rape occurring and he yells and pleads with the criminal, but to no avail. His only solution is to use violence. The violence doesn’t need to result in death.

    The point being is that it is an argument against pacifism. To quote one philosopher, Alexander Pruss, “[. . .] it seems pretty clear that it is practically impossible to have a decent, self-sufficient community enduring over time without lethal violence to contain violent criminals.” To make his statement more modest we can take out the word lethal and keep everything else the same. So, pacifism (use of no violence) actually becomes problematic. (Unless everyone becomes pacifists, but in such a fallen world– renders it unlikely)

    I agree with your last paragraph.

  • Sadguy

    Too many posts … too much emotion. It’s just guns. Not only that, it’s old m-1 rifles, which were really cool old guns. My dad had one that he purchased from an NRA source, and he taught me how to shoot safely with it, how to hunt, and how to have some common sense.

    I only read this post through hoping there’d be enough info in there for me to be able to buy one. I’m not a killer or a criminal. I don’t want to shoot people. And if I did, I wouldn’t use an antique. But it sure would be fun to still have the freedom in the USA to buy a cool old rifle like this and go out to the nearby desert and play.

    Millions of rifles and handguns are locked away in safes and used for nothing more than fun … only ignorance of this fact allows you guys to freak out = on either side.

    Let it go … two politicians did what politicians do … seek votes by preying upon the ignorance and fear of morons w/o regard to what’s best for their constituents.

  • http://saintsandsceptics.googlemail.com Graham Veale

    I think that “justifiable” is a better term than “just”. There are very few wars that meet the criteria of Just War – perhaps the first Gulf War.
    However, if Christians benefit from the security provided by standing armies, can we still argue the position of the Early Church – that a Christian should not join an armed force? As Jarrett argues, a modern police service is also an armed force.

    @Wiglaf. I am not arguing against a legal right to self defence. I am not arguing that a civilised society should not allow its citizens to possess weapons.
    I am arguing that you are being simplistic in your approach to this question. Any government must balance the right to self defence against the need to keep public order. To illustrate the point crudely, it might not be a good idea to allow the citzens of Los Angeles to possess .50 cal machine guns to protect their live an property. A few stray rounds would do more harm than good; more innocents would suffer than be saved.
    It would not be a good idea to allow private citizens to form militias that can outgun the local police force. If you think that this would preserve freedom, think Basrah or Fallujah. The opposite of tyranny is not chaos. Freedom is not the equivalent of anarchy. The Israelites were not free from terror in the era of the Judges; yet they were free to possess swords and to form militias.
    I am from Ulster, and I thank God that we did not have a laws that gave every citizen the right to a firemarm prior to the outbreak of the troubles. And every private militia made our troubles infinitely worse.
    The point about firearms is that they require very little training. A six year old that discovers his father’s gun is a lethal force. So a large supply of firearms in an urban population like Los Angeles creates different problems than a large supply of swords in Caesrea Phillipi. Different situations warrant different responses and different laws.


  • http://saintsandsceptics.googlemail.com Graham Veale

    @ Sadguy

    I don’t think that I’ve been emotional in my response.

  • Wiglaf

    @ 59 Graham,

    Regarding your illustration, I’d say that it can too easily be used to eliminate handgun possession all together. One can OWN a .50 caliber machine gun in LA and recognize the civil and criminal penalties for causing harm to innocent life or personal property with it if bullets go astray. That is one reason why people who carry handguns for self defense will use hollow point rounds and why people in apartments might choose to use a shotgun with bird shot rather than a slug. Law abiding citizens don’t get possession of guns and then suddenly lose the capacity to think through the consequence of poor choices with its use. Unfortunately, the media often engages in this irrational scenario. Look at Tucson. One person arrived at the scene ready to pull his gun for defense of himself and others. The media immediately assumes they were all “lucky” that he somehow didn’t start shooting because the shooter was already incapacitated and the person picking up the gun was just moving it to a safe place. What the media chose to not say was that he wouldn’t have shot anyone unless he knew his own life was at risk. Gun owners know you just don’t start spraying bullets into a situation like this without assessing and confirming what the situation is. That’s a good way to ruin your life and the lives of other innocents.

    On justifiable war, I totally disagree with you. There was no justification for the U.S. intervention into Kuwait. Of course, that goes for Vietnam and Korea as well. The U.S. does lots of meddling. It seems they are always “suspending human ethics” as Ben says, in order to push their “pragmatic” agenda. Foolishness if you ask me.

  • http://saintsandsceptics@blogspot.com graham veale

    OK, having talked to former RUC members with experience with of fully automatic weapons, that’s just nonsense. And even the idea that a highly trained Royal Marine could use a .50 cal in an urban environment without serious risk to civilian life is beyond caricature.
    This isn’t a serious or informed discussion, and therefore, I’ll very politely take my leave.

  • Wiglaf

    @ 62 graham,

    And thus, you chose to miss my point entirely and create a strawman in the process. HAVING POSSESSION of such a weapon and USING that weapon are two different things. If I USED a .50 cal machine gun for self defense in an urban environment, then I would be showing a blatant disregard for the lives of innocent people. People in the U.S. have .50 cal BMG Barrett semi-autos that they take out to the DESERT to practice – not in an “urban environment.” If I OWN a .50 cal machine gun, then I’d take it to a proper venue to practice and would only use it when, hypothetically, the chinese invade America, for example.

  • graham veale

    Well, when they invade, we can pick up on the conversation.

    (Hopefully they plan to invade via the desert.)

  • Jair

    Dear prof. Witherington,
    To some extend I can go along with your view on christians and war/fire arms. But I was wondering what you think of someone like Sam Childers (the ‘machine gun preacher’). I find him very couragous and sometimes wonder if the world (and especially children) would be better off without someone like Joseph Kony. Of course I would like to see someone like Joseph Kony to really accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and turn from his wicked ways, but I can’t stand it that he literally cuts off childrens limbs etc. I think it is a lesser evil to try and hunt someone like him down and that even christians like Sam Childers can take up this cause.

    With kind regards,

  • Luken

    If anything this conversation has proven to me that BW 3 and those that believe as he does in regards to firearms cease using reason and simply adopt flawed arguments based on their misguided prejudices and anecdotal evidences. All of these things fuel their confirmation bias. This shouldn’t be surprising, I guess, from some one such as Ben who is so deeply rooted in the left right paradigm and obviously influenced by an Hegelian Dilectic. Whether he is aware of this or not is besides the point.

    I guess it goes to show that men who are reasonable in one area can be prejudiced and irrational in another. We all have blind-spots (either culturally or cognitively formed) but like cars some men have larger blind-spots than others. To borrow a rule and apply it here: Caveat Emptor


    @ Jair

    I have never heard of Sam Childers before today (and I grew up near where he was raised). Very interesting man. Will be buying his book forthwith. Thank you

  • Wiglaf

    @ 66 Luken,

    Peter Hammond is another Christian in Africa who is very open about guns and the importance of self defense. Here’s a good article:


    “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.” Proverbs 25:26

  • Wiglaf

    @ graham,

    Gotcha. I do not own one. Way too much paperwork and expense for me. Plus, one bullet might cost $5.00. Expensive shooting out of a semi-auto. Can you imagine shooting an automatic? You could spend $2,500 in less than a minute. Too rich for my blood.

  • RobertH

    I understand your point Dr. Witherington, but I disagree with you. I think you are right about saying more Christian and even our “Christian” political leaders need to be better followers of Christ and even that we do not need more guns. But being anti-gun or getting flustered about 2nd amendment defenders will only hurt people. Gun restriction legislation only stops the lawful citizens from owning guns! People who want to commit crimes are going to have guns anyway and what compounds the problem is they will feel safer in committing crimes if people do not have guns.

    So, even though he was probably a bit misguided in this I think you should give him the benefit of the doubt. We need strong 2nd amendment supporters. Especially the ones that are so right on economics!

    Love your pots, btw :)

  • RobertH

    I meant to say, “Love your posts, btw :)” posts not pots lol!

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  • Peternov01

    well i wish i had seen this when it first come out so you could read what i have to say. First off the firearms you talk about are M1 Garands. they are not cheep and a nice used one will sell for well over 500.00 and as high as a few thousand. They are one of the best made rifles ever to be mass produced. Typicaly they do NOT have a removable mag and only hold 5-10 rounds depending on version. Many of thes are still being sold/traded in america today but they are used for hunting/competition shooting, as they are much bigger than anything you could easly carry hidden (they are almost 3 foot long, so no walkup shootings like what happened to Gabrielle, who btw is pro gun and shoots a glock)
    As for the need for more strict gun control as a ex sheriff I can tell you for a fact that me and all the others i knew at the dept were HAPPY to see more citizens with firearms as it tends to reduce crime, if it is known that the population can fight back. Kinda how a bully will not pick on the kids that will stand up to them/fight back.
    Oh one last thing about the Christian thing, I’m amazed at how preachy and high and mighty you are being! I’m gonna guess that you at least have read the bible, and if you have you know that the only one who ought to be judging anyone is Jesus/God. it flat out says “judge not lest you be juged” so basicaly you can say you don’t agree with somone but don’t be trying to push YOUR politics on anyone.
    P.S The only reason this country was able to be founded and you are here and able to say anything you want is because there was ARMED citizens willing to fight for what they belived in.