There are many things we should never should allow ourselves to become desensitized towards, including, but not limited to, torture, racism, child abuse, and extreme poverty. We should add to them mass shootings. Sadly, it seems that many of us have become so used them in the United States, we do not pay attention them all. For us to notice them, there has to be something special about them such as the place in which they took place, or if there were something unusual about the shooter themselves. The reason why the shooting which took place at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee came to our attention was because of where it took place – at a private Christian school, a place many thought would be free from such danger. But, with over thirty mass shootings having taken place in March of 2023, we should not forget the victims of the other shootings, nor should we be surprised that such violence is being spread all over. If we are honest, we will note, though there are all kinds of different reasons as to why particular mass shootings occur, there is one thing which connects them: guns. We can’t just ignore the fact that the United States has far more mass shootings than any other country in the world, and one of the reasons why is because of the easier access people have to guns in the United States.
Certainly, we should look at why people become mass shooters. What, exactly, causes someone to become violent? We can’t ignore that guns themselves are one of those causes. If there were no guns, there would be no mass shootings. As a response to that fact, some point out that if a person wanted to kill someone and they did not have access to guns, they would find another way to do what they wanted to do. While it might be correct for some, it will not be correct for all. Guns provide an easy way to kill, and semi-automatic and automatic weapons make it easy to kill great numbers of people. Many, without access to guns, would, if they try to kill someone, find it difficult to do so. They certainly would be stopped much easier than someone with a gun. After all, it is easier to stop someone with a sword than it is with an AR-15. We must stop suggesting that if we take away guns, everything will be the same. It won’t, as we see other countries do not have the same number of mass shootings as we find in the United States. Indeed, that argument is flawed. It would be as if a drunk driver said that drinking and driving should be legal because people will always have access to alcohol, and people will get into deadly accidents, even if they were not driving while drunk. To be sure, stopping drunk driving has not eliminated all deadly accidents, indeed, not all accidents are preventable, but it has helped keep them limited.
As long as we do not change the situation, as long as we do not take seriously the fact that easy access to guns in the United States (illegal or not) represents a cause of mass shootings, we will continue to have more and more of them, with more and more innocent people being killed.
Now, how we are to deal with guns is something open to debate. What should not be debated is that we can and should put more regulations upon them. If someone wants to defend unlimited, unregulated possession of firearms with the Second Amendment, it is clear, they are ignoring what is said in the amendment itself. The Second Amendment calls for a “well-regulated militia,” and that is the context in which the “right to bear arms” is contained. That means the Second Amendment encourages the use of regulations in regards to arms, for it is impossible to have a well-regulated militia (however one interprets that) without regulations. The fact that we are having more and more mass shootings proves that what is in place in the United States is not regulated properly. Going forward, we must try to discern what kinds of regulations would help the situation. We must discern what requirements and responsibilities should be placed upon gun ownership. We should even consider whether or not we, as a society, should allow the general populace to have guns. That question can be had alongside discussions concerning the regulations we can and should put in place to fulfill the expectations placed upon us by the Second Amendment. And, in dealing with that question, among the things which should be considered are: limits to the number and kinds of guns one can own; limits to the amount of ammo one can own; routine testing, proving one knows not only how to properly use a gun, but how to be safe with it; and, finally, insurance requirements, which will help pay out for damages done by one who improperly uses a gun.
It is important that we take guns seriously. Our lasses-faire attitude towards gun ownership and use in the United States has only made the situation worse. It is not just politics which leads people to worry about and discuss gun violence. It is people suffering at the hands of violent offenders, at killers, who have made the question relevant to us today. We cannot keep speaking about the Second Amendment as if it allows anyone who wants to own a gun to do so; we can’t ignore that it actually promotes, instead of rejects, the use of regulations.
We must not embrace violence. We must recognize the many causes of violence, and deal with each of them. This is something which Christians, who follow the prince of peace, should be especially concerned about. Christians must do what they can to overturn the violence and death all around them so that they can truly be seen as workers of peace. And this is what is expected of them, for, if they are to be children of God, they are to be peacemakers (cf. Matt 5:9).
St. Teresa of Calcutta, said we need to stop producing weapons and glorifying their use. She said that instead of embracing guns and bombs, we need to come together, to work together for the common good. She suggested that doing so in and out of love will help produce the peace which we need. Thus, she said in her Nobel Lecture (12-11-1979):
And I think that we in our family don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace – just get together, love one another, bring that peace, that joy, that strength of presence of each other in the home. And we will be able to overcome all the evil that is in the world.
We don’t need guns. We have learned the wrong lesson if we think possessing and using them leads to peace. We should put away our guns, and all our weapons, embracing the way of peace. True peace cannot be established by embracing violence. Violence only leads to more violence, creating a perpetual cycle of violence. We have to break the cycle of violence. We must promote life, and the things which make life have meaning. Promoting guns, promoting gun production, only promotes the way of death.. If all we think about is death and destruction, if we believe that the only way to save ourselves from violence is to engage in violence first, we will never break free from the cycle of violence. Christians, especially, must see through the cycle of violence and promote something else. For they follow the God who has been revealed as love, the God who wants to bring and establish true peace. They are to look to Christ. They should understand that they are to become one with him, so that they continue his work in history. Thus, they are to contribute to the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4 RSV). Swords and spears represent the ways of violence. Isaiah indicated the messiah would have them undone and changed so that the material used in them will no longer be used for violence, but instead, produce goods which help humanity as a whole (i.e., plowshares). Christians have taken on the name of Christ upon themselves,. They are meant to let Jesus live in and through them. They should therefore see Christ at work in them continuing the peacebuilding predicted by Isaiah. They are to transform weapons into instruments which benefit the common good. Those Christians who are more interested in preserving the production and use of guns in the world than peacebuilding betray their faith and what it means to be a Christian. They turn a religion which is meant to promote peace in the world upside down and inside out. They only offer the peace of death instead of the living peace offered by Christ. This is why Pope Francis was right to say in his Meeting With Children And Young People In Pastoral Visit To Turn (6-21-2015):
It makes me think one thing: people, leaders, entrepreneurs who call themselves Christians, and manufacture arms! This gives rise to some mistrust: they call themselves Christians! “No, no, Father, I don’t manufacture them, no, no…. I only have my savings, my investments in arms factories”. Ah! And why? “Because the interest is somewhat higher…”. And being two-faced is common currency today: saying something and doing another. Hypocrisy…. But we see what happened in the last century: in ’14, ’15, in ’15 in fact. There was that great tragedy in Armenia. So many died. I don’t know the figure: more than a million certainly. But where were the great powers of the time? They were looking the other way. Why? Because they were interested in war: their war! And those who died were people, second class human beings. Then, in the ’30s and ’40s the tragedy of the Shoah. The great powers had photographs of the railroads that took trains to the concentration camps, such as Auschwitz, to kill Jews, and also Christians, also Rom, also homosexuals, to kill them there. But tell me, why didn’t they bomb that? Interest! And shortly after, almost contemporaneously, there was the Russian Gulag, under Stalin…. How many Christians suffered, were killed! The great powers divided Europe among themselves like a cake. So many years had to pass before reaching a “certain” freedom. There is that hypocrisy of speaking of peace and producing arms, and even selling arms to this one who is at war with that one, and to that one who is at war with this one!
Jesus promotes peace. He is the prince of peace. Christians need to follow him and help him accomplish prophecy. They need to turn swords into plowshares, which in the modern age, is to transform the material used in guns to create goods which will promote the common good, such as farm equipment. They certainly must not embrace guns in such a way as they become idols whose use and value cannot be questioned. Christians in the United States must not push back against gun regulations, pointing to the Second Amendment, acting as if the Second Amendment prevents them from making such regulations or that it is an absolute which cannot be and must not be reconsidered. The more they honor and promote the use of weapons, the more they turn away from the charism given to them. Once they have turned their back on Christ in this fashion, are they really surprised that the rest of the world would do so as well? Thus, Cardinal Cupich was right when he said, “The Second Amendment did not come down from Sinai. The right to bear arms will never be more important than human life. Our children have rights too. And our elected officials have a moral duty to protect them.”
It is time for Christians to help turn the tables against violence, to speak out and work with others of good will, with those who want to put an end to the needless killing infecting the world as a whole. They have been given a mission in the world which includes peacebuilding; if they want to be children of God, they must now pick up their heritage and do what they can to truly turn swords, guns, into plowshares before more violence, more mass death, is let loose upon the earth.
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