Gun Control, the Second Amendment & Christian Pacifism

Gun Control, the Second Amendment & Christian Pacifism October 4, 2015

I am a gun enthusiast. I own several guns—rifles, handguns, shotguns. If you’re not a gun aficionado you likely cannot appreciate the tactile pleasure associated with picking up a finely crafted gun. Balanced, solid, and ergonomically designed to create oneness between the shooter and the firearm. I suppose you either get this or you don’t.

I don’t know if President Obama can appreciate my affection for guns. But that’s really not relevant to support nor refute what I am going to explore in this post because the issues transcend personal preferences. However, let me state that from my vantage he is pressing for gun control measures that are necessary for contemporary American society. However, in the wake of the most recent school shooting some well-meaning Americans have blamed President Obama for politicizing the tragedy at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. I disagree. This accusation may be analogous to blaming President George W. Bush for politicizing Hurricane Katrina by authorizing federal aid to the victims. This violent American crisis deserves immediate attention as did the people and infrastructures in the wake of Katrina demanded governmental intervention. There are at least three major reasons why I, as a gun owner, would support appropriate gun control measures.

First, Constitutional Viability
The Constitution is not a static document, it is dynamic and maintains elasticity sufficient to withstand multiple interpretations of core internal constructs over time. And, of course, this elasticity is sufficient to accommodate amendment itself without compromising the essence of the general governing tenets therein. An example of Constitutional interpretations that shifted over time may be found in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Originally it did not heavily apply to state governments. Different interpretations that resulted in states falling under the canopy of the Establishment Clause developed over decades to eventually apply to states in essentially the same ways as at the federal level. In fact, it was not until 1833 that Massachusetts became the last state to de-establish its state religion. Similarly, gun control measures could be employed without compromising the Second Amendment or Constitutional footings. The Constitutional parchment is open to such needed changes of interpretation and application.

Second, Social Contract Considerations
Social Contract theorists such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau explored how mankind emerges from a state of nature (aka: “the law of the jungle”) into a civil society where citizens may preserve their life, liberty, and property. In basic terms, two primary elements are involved: members of an emerging society must grant consent to the formation and maintenance of laws and government; and members of that society must forfeit absolute freedom in order to safely enjoy limited freedoms. Simply, consent and forfeiture of absolute freedom are the only things that stand between a civil society (peaceful coexistence) and the state of nature (law of the jungle). When citizens determine that the protective manifestations of the social contract are in jeopardy they may voice concern and move to balance that which is out of balance. The ongoing rash of mass murders at the hands of gunmen at American elementary schools, university campuses, military bases, movie theaters, and other places where the public gather has moved millions of Americans to work to stabilize a real imbalance. The free and open access to firearms in the United States has resulted in levels of societal chaos that threatens the lives and liberties of all Americans. This problem may be remedied without breaching the core intentions of the Second Amendment. The Constitution is sufficiently elastic to bear it but Americans must be willing to forfeit certain freedoms to enjoy the ongoing success of the protections afford by the social contract in the United States. I sense that this is at the core of President Obama’s direct words on the heels of the Oregon shootings. After all, we are the only nation in the first-world to consistently endure these murderous tragedies.

Third, Christian Pacifism
Christianity is a gospel of peace and pacifism. Jesus taught that peacemakers are blessed. That if your enemy strikes you on the cheek, turn to him the other cheek also. Carry the bag of an occupying soldier twice as far as he asked. In a phrase, do not revile. In fact, upon Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane, Peter rose up in defense and cut off the ear of Malchus the servant of the high priest. Jesus commanded Peter to sheath his sword and healed Malchus’ ear explaining that he must drink the bitter cup His Father would have Him drink. Of course, Jesus’ own passion was a searing and lengthy crucible of returning peace for violence. Crucifixion—arguably the most vicious medium of human torture in the history of the race—was accepted by Jesus. At any moment He could have saved himself and destroyed his tormenters, but He didn’t. Such is Christian pacifism—and there are very few exceptions to this high bar of Christian teachings and ethics. So while the government of the United States is not “Christian”, the vast majority of Americans are. So I am left in a quandary as to why so many God-fearing Christians, in the face of the New Testament narratives, are so hawkish and so hesitant to consent to create laws to correct imbalances relative to gun violence in America. Careful laws that restore peace and make every effort to block random acts of gun violence. In other words, even if you don’t accept legitimate studies that conclude that prohibiting open access to guns results in fewer violent deaths by assailants, why not trust the pacifistic tenets of Christianity as you consider this almost ongoing national tragedy?

Well, as a gun enthusiast that thoroughly enjoys my guns, but in the face of so many lethal mass murders, I am ready to consider alterations to my earlier open-ended interpretations of the Second Amendment. Furthermore, I am prepared to forfeit some freedoms that have been attached to the Second Amendment to this point in American history. Finally, as a Christian I will not be militant toward proposals intended to curb violence relative to criminal acts and firearms. Such a course would likely align with the pacifism Jesus promoted in the teachings and gospel narratives found in the New Testament. I am ready for these adjustments because my love of country and her citizens, my Christian faith, not to mention peace, order, and preservation of life, are just far more important than my love for guns.

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