Please recall that prudential decisions involving firearms are a matter on which Catholics are free to disagree. If I write here, in this adult-swim corner of the Catholic internet that is Patheos, on the gunlandian cultural perspective, trust me I have no illusions that I’m proclaiming the indisputable truth on faith and morals. Speculation has its time and place, and that’s what any of us writing on these topics are doing: Speculating.
Today, though, I speculate very firmly on the importance of setting aside cultural bias and using common sense. Prudence requires a clear head; when we let emotional attachments or fear-based thinking rule us, it can cause us to make decisions that do more harm than good. Knee-jerk anti-gun rhetoric is an example of that emotionalism used to great harm, but today let’s talk about moments when the gunlandian venison-n-freedom impulse needs to be checked:
1. You are prone to thoughts of suicide. Disordered thinking happens. Fallen world. The trouble with guns (unlike, say, the dangers of rope or bathtubs) is the speed with which one can, in a moment of despair, inflict grave and irreversible harm. Someone who’s bent on suicide is not going to be stopped by time-delay. But someone who actively fights the temptation can be greatly aided by simple precautions that prevent rapid access to the means of self-destruction, such as storing one’s ammunition at WalMart and one’s vintage 1911 in the hands of a trusted friend who covets it, and thus can be counted on not to give it back until your heirs come round wielding a subpoena.
2. You are not committed to safe handling and storage of your weapon. I’m talking to you, idiot at the range, get your finger off that trigger until you are ready to shoot. Also to you, moron, putting your revolver in your unlocked glove box when the kids are in your car and looking at me like I’m the nutcase when you proceed to go back into the house for one more thing. Really? Really?! See “speed with which one can do irreversible harm.” I don’t usually insult people on my blog, but seriously kids: It is not difficult to learn how to safely own and operate a firearm. Use your head for something other than a decoration.
3. You are not committed to complying with your local firearms laws. In case of revolution, I guess you overlook this one. But it’s not 1776, so, um, try to avoid those felony convictions.
And quit looking so smug, pool owners, it’s drowning season out there. You use common sense, too. And we probably should ban cars, but I’m attached to my road-trip love, unable to think rationally about that one.
–> Terrible accidents happen. It’s okay to own something dangerous. It is okay to weigh the balance, and decide that a dangerous and not strictly-necessary activity does more good than harm. Even something so utterly unnecessary as swimming for pure pleasure, absent any health or safety-training needs. Even something so foolish as driving a car for “vacation” despite the real risk that you’ll never make it home alive. But if you are likely to use that item recklessly, you are not a good candidate for possessing that item.
The fourth topic is the cultural one that has arisen in the priest-carry decision. Gunlandian that I am, absent any specific ruling from a legitimate authority within the Church, I look at this issue this way:
- A person, even an ordained person, might find himself in a situation where he has a grave duty to use lethal force to protect innocent life.
- A handgun is eminently suited to carrying out such duty.
- Therefore, one might prudently determine that carrying such a firearm is indeed the proper course of action.
I look at it with such cold reason because I know so many guys (and girls, but let’s talk men, because incarceration data and limits on the sacrament of ordination both point that way in this conversation) who both carry a handgun and are the very picture peacefulness. People who would never appoint themselves citizen-cop, and who would only use mortal force if it were truly the last resort. The emotional argument against priest-carry simply does not resonate when you live in a culture of peaceful firearm ownership.
Artwork: William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons