Gun Laws, None Dare Call it Time

Gun Laws, None Dare Call it Time July 24, 2012

Sandy Levinson, at Balkinization:

Some of this blog’s readers will know that I am against our gun laws — we are a violent society and our violence is magnified by the 2d Amendment’s right to bear arms, a right taken far too liberally in our culture. The issue for me, however, is not simply repealing the 2d Amendment or drastically reducing what constitutes the right to “bear” arms, but how Christians participate.

The GOP is in bed with the NRA; the Dems learned from Al Gore’s opposition to gun laws, which many Dems supported, that they can’t win elections with that platform. So today no party is willing to re-examine our gun laws.

The reality is similar with regard to firearms, including the ones used in Aurora. For better or worse–and it seems hard to argue that it is not “for worse”–Americans are simply unwilling to accept the possibility of significant constraints on gun ownership. Events like the one in Aurora are, therefore, simply the price we willingly pay for “taking rights seriously,” as Ronald Dworkin would put it (though surely not with regard to the Second Amendment), just as the slaughter of innocent victims of drunk drivers is the price we similarly pay for the only minimally-regulated sale of alcohol. (We could also talk about the price paid for honoring the First Amendment, which on occasion can certainly increase the probability of murder, as with incitement to kill abortion providers).In any case, let me suggest that something along these lines is what a truly honest discussion of Aurora might look like, but we have no national leaders, in either party, willing to conduct it.

Michael Bloomerg has shown, once again, why he has no prospect at all for national political office, by noting the pathetic inadequacy of both the Obama and Romney responses. The inability to have an honest discussion about guns (or alcohol or drugs) is simply a mirror of our equal inability to have an honest discussion about so many other issues in contemporary American life. The only difference is that we actually pay some attention, for at least a couple of days, to massacres carried out by (presumed) lunatics with guns and not to the deaths that are just as equally caused by presumed “non-lunatics” in other aspects of American poliltics and culture. Perhaps Mitt Romney will suggest hugging one’s child as one explains why there is no way to cover expensive medical care for a parent or the tot him/herself.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Robin

    I think the issue comes down to trust. Just as most pro-choice individuals could admit that there are some cases in which regulation of elective abortion would be appropriate, they look at the groups advocating such regulation and instantly recoil. Even if they could agree to some additional regulation in a perfect world they would not agree to work with pro-life individuals to craft such regulation out of fear of what would be demanded next.

    This is basically where I stand regarding gun laws. If it were up to me, there are definitely changes I would make, but then I consider guys like Bloomberg and his tendency to over-regulate everything, and I don’t see people who are in favor of sensible regulation that I could trust to support on this issue. I see people who favor massive regulation of all areas of our lives. I have no confidence they would pass sensible regulations that still honor 2nd amendment freedoms, so I am left supporting the status quo out of a lack of viable alternatives.

  • Nonsense. Did you hear about the other Aurora shooting? Only two people died. One victim, then the shooter, thanks to the right to bear arms.

    Would I prefer that no one at all have guns? Of course! But banning guns will never ever prevent criminals from getting them. It only prevents law-abiding citizens.

  • Robin

    I should also point out that I am operating from a non-pacifist perspective. I appreciate the fact that if my life or the lives of my family were in danger I could use our pistol as a means of self-defense. If I were a pacifist and did not value that ability I could well understand the inclination that Christians should support the repeal of the 2nd amendment altogether.

  • But I think in the light of a tragedy like Aurora we fail to address the deeper issues. The deepest issue this country faces is not gun control, but the loss of God in our public conscience and the resulting loss in the value of humanity. If you care to take a look, I tried to address the issue here.

  • phil_style

    @Chuck, you don’t have to “ban guns”. What a silly dichotomy.
    What you do is, you license them and require folks who wish to own them to;
    1. Complete some basic safety training and get a license- just like you do with a car
    2. Require character references for those who have licences (fit and proper user)
    3. Allow licences to be revoked when people demonstrate mis-use of weapons, trafficking of illegal weapons and other violent criminal activity.

    This way;
    a) You can still own a gun if you are a law abiding citizen, just as people do in every country I’ve ever lived in – and they can continue to be used for sport etc…
    b) You can vet the purchase of these weapons
    c) You have greater regulatory ability for the police to remove such weapons from known criminals BEFORE they commit crimes.

    Also, that “other” Aurora Shooting was prevented from continuing by an off duty police officer. Licensing would still allow these guys to carry weapons. So that little anecdote loses is evidential value.

  • Larry

    “But banning guns will never ever prevent criminals from getting them. It only prevents law-abiding citizens.”

    Every criminal is a law-abiding citizen *before* they become a criminal.

    Keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens means fewer guns in the hands of brand-new criminals.

  • phil_style

    “Every criminal is a law-abiding citizen *before* they become a criminal.”

    Not true unfortunately. Violent crime tends to escalate over a lifetime. MOST shootings are the result of gang warfare and violent acts carried out by known violent offenders. The occasional mass-shooting by a socio-path or other is often not predicted, but the vast majority of shootings are not in historical isolation. You can prevent known violent offenders from legally carrying firearms with a licensing regime.

  • Simon Hall

    Guns is one area where most conservative Christians definitely don’t want to know WWJD. From my home in the UK, American Christians’ obsession with the ‘right’ to shoot each other is strange, at best. If the 2nd amendment protects so many people, why not compare gun death rates in the US and the UK, which has some of the most conservative gun controls in the western world? (The difference is a factor of 30)

    And as for fearing over-regulation, haven’t you read the old testament? In case you haven’t noticed, it’s hardly a libertarian charter…

  • phil_style

    my last comment #6 – I admit that the first crime someone commits is their first.. my point is just that a shooting is not very likely to be someone’s first crime.

  • SamB

    Before I became a Christian, I was a passionate defender of the NRA interpretation of the 2nd amendment. I lived in a rural area where most everyone I knew owned mutilpe guns, mostly for hunting. I believed that guns made our community safer. I never really ever thought about someone who lived for example in an inner city whose children were at risk from drive by shootings, where many people lived daily in fear of people with guns. I still live in a rural area, and I have guns though I haven’t hunted or shot one in years. I have thought about people who live in fear of gun related violence, and I have come to the conclusion that we must realize that the availability of guns is a problem that should be addressed. As a Christian, I am dismayed that so many of my brothers and sisters place such value in the second amendment to protect us that they seem unable at all to consider the fear that others live in. The apostle Paul wrote that those who believe in their hearts that Jesus rose from the dead were being saved. I understand saved to mean they are active in God’s process of new creation and the transformation to the likeness of Jesus. They can live differently in the world because they do not fear death. They can demonstate to the world that their is another way to live. Is that not what we are called to do? I question if we truly believe in our hearts that Jesus really was raised from the dead.

  • Johnny

    Phil, actually I’m pretty sure most gun crimes are not gang-related. They are domestic. Law-abiding citizens with bad tempers have guns in their homes and pull them out when a squabble escalates. Americans are more likely to get shot by a family member or friend than a stranger. It may be different in big cities but here in flyover country it is borne out time and time again in our local news. Nearly all our shootings are domestic disputes.

  • Mike H

    I do want to correct the notion of American Christians defending the right to “shoot eachother.” You can be Pro Second Amendment and still hold a non-lethal self defense mentality. Guns are also used for hunting and sport/target shooting (shooting is part of the olympics).

    The discussion has to happen, but we cannot have preconceived notions on what the solutions are at this time. All ideas, and solutions must be considered and/or brough to the table. This means your idea, whatever your view is on the issue, might not be the best solution. Also, the rules of normal discussion need to apply here… if you’re pro Second Amendment (read in the most liberal sense) do not paint people who disagree as people who are trying to take away freedom. If you’re against it, or against the liberal reading… don’t view all people on the other side as fear mongerers that don’t care about the victims. It is not helpful to the discussion, and it merely sets up a straw man that solves nothing.

    Unfortunately the England stat is not the best to use in conjunction with the United States. England had similar gun laws before their ban, and the murder rate’s shift is a very low statistical change (sometimes higher than previous years without the ban, although 2009 was a twenty year low. All I’m saying, is that England with guns is less violent, and without guns is also less violent than the US.

    It is worth the time to look into, but both sides to the debate might have to give a little as well as address other factors.

  • Mike H

    *brought… sorry

  • Mike H

    *England had similar gun laws to some states/cities within the US Prior to the Ban.

    Sorry, can’t seem to type or write clearly today

  • @Simon Hall: The UK has the highest violent crime rate of any country in the world. Violence has nothing to do with guns. Violent people will use whatever is available.

  • RobS

    I think the trust thing is big that Robin mentions. On most issues, all parties and people fail to come to the table with the attitude of trying to solve a problem for the greater good. Everyone sees a slippery slope toward one side or another and true problem solving for the greater good is thrown out the window.

    To change the culture of “politics” and make it more “problem solving” for the country (with true Statesmen trying to lead), we could make some big gains.

    Here in Virginia, we have Washington, DC with their “single party system” (to say, it’s 90% Democrats setting the agenda), and therefore very restrictive gun laws yet sadly a high murder rate. They just blame the suburbs (& even as far away as New York and New Jersey) for making guns available in any way. Without piling on big amounts of statistics or demographic evidence, it’s likely that many of the victims and perpetrators in such violence suffer from fatherless homes. Poverty, substance abuse, health issues, education, authority issues and other problems often follow.

    Politics aside, it’d be great if we could have a groundswell of support for even basic things, like having fathers & mothers all involved with their kids to develop healthy families. Maybe some other side benefits could occur as well.

  • T

    I agree with phil style @ 5 that there are many sensible restrictions that we could put in place to make it more difficult to obtain guns.

    That said, while these kinds of shootings or mass-murders get us talking about it, I have a hard time believing that laws would have stopped this murderer or many like him. He was working on a PhD and had rigged his house with various traps. He planned this for an extended period of time. He used gas and guns at the shooting. Someone like that could have used home-made bombs and done just as much if not more damage. Supposedly his semi-automatic gun jammed up on him, so maybe we should be glad he chose guns over bombs.

    What sensible gun restrictions can do is work against the vast majority of gun-violence which involves more common criminals and crimes of passion.

  • scotmcknight

    T, thanks… as always. And sensible gun laws will also help create a different culture where violence-in-shooting will be less and less one of the options. Why do the Scandinavian countries not suffer from our violence and gun crimes? They are no more redeemed (sorry, Swedes and Danes, it just ain’t so) but they have created a culture where that kind of violence is farther from the mind.

  • Luke Allison

    I have a few thoughts about this:

    1. I like guns. I was in the Army for 5 years. Guns are fun to shoot at inanimate objects. That said, there is no reason why citizens should own assault weapons. They are made specifically for the purpose of easy killing in a tactical situation. Nothing else.

    2. The old “criminals will get guns anyway” argument doesn’t fly with someone like this. He wasn’t a criminal. He was a pathetic upper middle class phd student who most likely had never met a real criminal in his life.

    3. I’m disheartened by the fact that little is likely to change as a result of this. Perhaps this is the most disturbing thing to me: we will put up crosses, candles, flippin’ teddy bears. We’ll talk about how terrible it is, how “unimaginable” it is (despite the fact that these sorts of things have happened like every 6 months for the past fifteen years), we’ll transfer all blame to this one particular pathetic individual, who will in turn never give us any concrete reasons as to why he did it…..and then we’ll be equally shocked when the next one occurs. We’ll talk about demonic strongholds and God’s will, we’ll talk about insanity and mental illness. But I guarantee us all that nothing will change when it comes to gun laws. Nothing will change when it comes to how we prevent something like this from happening. That is depressing, and I am determined to pray to the God of the universe and ask that something change. Will you all join me?

    4. Rather prosperous nations like Israel and Northern Ireland have learned to live life under the threat of violence all the time. Perhaps that’s what we as a nation need to get used to. Interestingly, despite all the fervor over the fact that this took place at a screening of the Dark Knight Rises, this was a movie that actually had something to say to us if we’d listen: the veneer always looks the most beautiful when the underbelly is rotting. The more we convince ourselves that our culture is really fine, and that the real problem is random acts of violence like this one, we’ll continue to uphol the status quo. Maybe that’s the most powerful word the Bible has to say to us: the status quo is corrupt. Rome is a whore. Babylon is demonic. Peace means nothing when it’s bought by capitulation.

  • Larry

    Quoting from one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers:

    “”Strong illegality wouldn’t have stopped [Holmes],” Ozimek says, pointing to the home-made IEDs in his apartment. Let me ask you a question, Adam – why didn’t Holmes use a fully automatic, military-issue M4 instead of the civilian AR-15? Hell, why not full-on light machine gun, like the M249, capable of rattling off around 1000 rounds per minute, complete with canister and a hundreds of rounds of ammunition? Why didn’t he use military-issue hand grenades and booby trap his apartment with claymore mines? Does Ozimek believe that it was some kind of merciful choice that Holmes made, deliberately forgoing the additional lethality he could have brought with him to the theater if he were simply “determined” enough to get it? Or does it seem more likely that the strict regulations in place to prevent dissemination of fully automatic, military-grade assault weapons may have had some impact on his weapons of choice?”

  • James

    In England they took the guns, and the violent criminals simply moved to knives, hammers, and other readily available instruments. So what are they doing now? Debating the ban of chef’s knives. All this, as has been pointed out, is missing the deeper social, psychological and spiritual core issues. It’s just a painting of the leaves on a dead tree green, hoping to it will produce fruit, which of course, will fail.

  • Luke Allison


    But you’d have a hard time killing 12 people and injuring 70 with a damned hammer.
    That’s the point: people will committ violence, but the scope can be changed in many (of course not all) of the incidents.

  • David M.

    I agree, Luke. Guns amplify a person’s violence in a way that neither knives nor hammers can.

    James, perhaps a more meaningful use of statistics would be to compare deaths by violence per capita between the U.S. and England. If the number of deaths and injuries remained the same in England after the imposition of more restrictive gun laws, then that would cement your point. Otherwise, the person debating you can say that no one argues that guns make people more violent, only that they make violent people more deadly.

  • T


    I’m with you that taking guns won’t make everyone non-violent. But to say that there’s no meaningful difference for a society b/n an easy availability of assault rifles and and an easy availability of knives is just not rational. I think that Larry in 20 makes a salient point that deserves further thought in that vein.

    I doubt I’m the only one, and it’s probably because my oldest is 7, but I’m still most saddenned about this tragedy because of the killing of the 6-year old. I know that’s probably not right, given that there were many people killed. What do you say to or about the person that killed a 6-year old? Words fail me.

  • DRT

    Sorry in advance for this unflattering response.

    I have been a student of southern culture during my past 13 years living in rural Virginia, and am starting to see some of the connections between this culture items like conservative values and gun ownership.

    Everyone here owns guns. I recently went out and bought a 357 magnum revolver just to see how its done and have shot it in my back yard. It is sort of fun, for about 20 rounds….

    The natives here seem to have a totally different view of their right to bear arms and I have a difficult time understanding it. It seems as if they are insulted if someone tries to even talk about the regulation.

    Enter this study Insult, Aggression, and the Southern Culture of Honor:
    An “Experimental Ethnography”
    By Cohen, Dov; Nisbett, Richard E.; Bowdle, Brian F.; Schwarz, Norbert Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 70(5), May 1996, 945-960.

    Now it starts to make more sense to me. Here is the abstract:

    Three experiments examined how norms characteristic of a “culture of honor” manifest themselves in the cognitions, emotions, behaviors, and physiological reactions of southern White males. Participants were University of Michigan students who grew up in the North or South. In 3 experiments, they were insulted by a confederate who bumped into the participant and called him an “asshole.” Compared with northerners-who were relatively unaffected by the insult-southerners were (a) more likely to think their masculine reputation was threatened, (b) more upset (as shown by a rise in cortisol levels), (c) more physiologically primed for aggression (as shown by a rise in testosterone levels), (d) more cognitively primed for aggression, and (e) more likely to engage in aggressive and dominant behavior. Findings highlight the insult-aggression cycle in cultures of honor, in which insults diminish a man’s reputation and he tries to restore his status by aggressive or violent behavior.

    I would imagine that it would be nearly impossible to imagine a southern man who would be willing to have his perceived ability to restore his status taken away from him by pacifist northerners or southerners. He would certainly need a substitute.

    The culture must change before gun laws can change.

  • Luke Allison

    There’s an interesting post over at indiewire putting some of this into perspective:

    Check it out.

  • Luke Allison

    David M,

    There’s a physical limitation issue: James Holmes is a physically inept human being who could never engage with someone in hand-to-hand combat. But with guns, literally anybody can become a killing machine. I used both M-16s an M-4s in my military experience. They fire a .223 caliber round, which is only a little bigger than a .22, but with a huge charge behind it. It barely kicks at all. A child could learn to shoot it with relative accuracy. It’s terrifying. It’s purely for killing. Nothing else. So why do we defend it like it’s a treasured part of our life? Nonsense.

    You’re correct in comparing deaths by violence per capita between the US and other countries. The statistics speak for themselves.

    I will, however, say that I think an engagement from a handgun would have put a stop to this man’s rampage much quicker. I guarantee you he would have changed his focus pretty quickly if bullets were coming back at him. In the grand scheme, despite the horror and the loss, this could have been a lot worse, like the school takeover in Russia. His magazine malfunctioned (a very common occurrence which shows me he’s not nearly as smart as they’re making him out to be), and he surrendered peacefully (I sort of wish he had tried to take a shot at a SWAT officer, just so we don’t have to watch the ridiculous trial that is bound to happen).

  • Fish

    What’s interesting to me is how many pro-gun people also describe themselves as pro-life. If you are willing to tolerate murder by gun as the price of freedom, is that different than tolerating murder by abortion as the price of freedom? Either way, innocent people are dead as the price for a live person’s freedom.

  • Tom F.

    I am largely sympathetic to somewhat tightening up gun laws. But I think it doesn’t make any sense from a political perspective. Sometimes politics is messy, and you have to pick your battles.

    Tightening up gun restrictions would expend just as much political capital as the health care reform did, if not more. If EITHER party did it, they would immediately face a monumental challenge from either their opponents (if Democrats did it) or in their primaries (if Republicans did it). We have too many other problems in our country right now. And we seem to have an ever diminishing supply of political capital and ability to get even slightly controversial things done. You will have to choose between the attempt to balance the budget in a reasonable compromise between both parties or tighten gun sales, because I doubt there is enough political will to get both done. Change is going to have to be targeted in this area at the grass roots level for a long time.

    Sometimes change can come from the top, but on this issue, people who are passionate about this issue need to build grass-roots support, and need to change a lot of people’s minds before it would be a good idea to try and pass any new laws.

  • napman

    The problem is what are sensible restrictions? Holmes is reported to have passed background checks. I am waiting to see what these sensible controls look like and how they comport with the 2nd Amendment.

    The deeper problem is what is happening in a society that produces gun violence. What is needed is a less violent culture and people. Strict gun control laws I believe are a trailing indicator and not possible in a country with a second amendment, at least as it is currently interpreted.

  • napman

    Fish @28

    Not sure it is the same thing. No one I know believes that act of owning a gun is inherently a moral evil. For those who are pro-life, the very act of procuring an abortion is a moral evil, with the possible exceptions of saving the life of the mother and pregnancies brought about through rape or incest.

  • JHM


    I agree that “sensible restrictions” are kind of hard to nail down.

    I’m from the West and have shot guns since I was a kid. I’ve shot black-powder cartridge competitively, hunted, etc. from a young age. My older brother makes guns, my dad has reloaded ammo forever. My 7-year old niece has her own gun. Needless to say, I love guns.

    All that said, it seems like common sense to me that people might need to show that they are responsible and able to safely handle firearms in order to buy/own them. It also seems to me that the level of restrictions on firearms in an urban setting would be much different than that in rural areas.

    That is why I don’t think this issue should be solved at the federal level, but rather on the state and local level. I do think it makes sense to take a look at our current gun laws (there are a lot of restrictions out there already, btw) and see if we can be smarter about how we go about things.

    I seriously doubt that the Aurora massacre would have been significantly different with increased gun control given that this guy could have easily used an explosive device (it’s fairly easy to do with household materials) to do a similar amount of destruction. Violence is an issue, no doubt, but I think the human elements are more important than the particular tools used.

  • Luke Allison


    “I seriously doubt that the Aurora massacre would have been significantly different with increased gun control given that this guy could have easily used an explosive device (it’s fairly easy to do with household materials) to do a similar amount of destruction”

    I completely disagree. The very nature of this crime implies the need for the shooter to have personal feelings of power and control. He’s not making a political statement, he’s not trying to just kill a bunch of people, he’s trying to “feel” something. It comports with numerous other mass shootings: powerlessness, shame, inadequacy, etc.

    I’ve heard this type of argument that you’re making so often, and I don’t think it holds any weight, along with the “he would have figured out how to get a gun illegally anyway” argument.

    The fact is, we know something about borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, etc. This is not a Timothy McVeigh, full of indignation at the country’s moral failings. This is more like a private little temper tantrum from someone lacking in empathy and socialization. So reducing the ease with which that temper tantrum and the need to be noticed/feared/respected can become fatal en masse is of paramount concern.

  • JHM

    Luke Allison,

    Right, my point wasn’t that it didn’t matter, my argument was that his psychological situation was more important than the tools he used.

    From what I’ve seen so far there’s pretty much nothing short of an outright ban that would have prevented Holmes from getting these weapons, he did it over a period of months and didn’t have a criminal record. You could argue that he shouldn’t have had a 100-round magazine (I would largely agree) but he didn’t obviously didn’t need it as it jammed early on. He didn’t need an assault rifle to do that amount of damage.

    My point is, I don’t know what gun law could have prevented him killing multiple people if his mind was set on it. If that’s the case, then this tragedy makes a pretty weak case for increased gun restrictions.

  • Wyatt

    The issue is not guns and it’s not one of a so-called “gun culture”. This is about mental illness and how we treat mental illness.

    What about all the ammunition and liquids and explosives he was able to obtain to build IED’s and booby-traps? What about that stuff? Are we going to ban those too?

    No. It is about a man who is very ill mentally. It’s about a man who reportedly and recently had a relationship head south. It’s about a man who dropped out of a PHD program funded by our tax dollars. It’s about man who was about to be evicted from his apartment and did basically nothing with his time but play RP games.

    Get off the gun issue and address the real one. Would it have been better that he killed 5 people with a machete or sledge hammer? Would we ban sledge hammers or machetes? Address the mental health issue and how we ignore it and how that neglect leads to garbage like this. Those of us who have family members who are mentally ill have had enough neglect by our churches, communities and government. Quit your whining about guns.

  • RJS


    I agree – the constant gun violence in places like Detroit may make a strong case for increased gun restrictions. An event like the shooting in Aurora makes a weak case.

  • MWK

    Scot #18 – “Why do the Scandinavian countries not suffer from our violence and gun crimes?”

    They do. In 2011 a gunmen entered a summer camp outside of Oslo and gunned down 69 people and injuring many more. I’d say that was worse than what happened in Aurora. Certainly Scandinavian countries are much safer from violent crime then the U.S., but they’re not immune from this kind of thing.

  • scotmcknight

    MWK, the operative word is “our” before “violence.” The number of gun deaths compared to the USA… mercy, it’s embarrassing. And I surely didn’t want to suggest they were “immune.” I’m seeking to make a comparative observation.

  • scotmcknight

    Wyatt, I agree that it’s not just guns, but it is guns too. If we make guns stringently difficult to obtain, and ban assault weapons, etc., mentally ill folks won’t obtain them … that won’t cure mental illness but it will lessen the blow of violent outbursts.

  • JamesG

    @Luke Allison says: “But you’d have a hard time killing 12 people and injuring 70 with a damned hammer.”

    And that’s why some moved on to bombings.

  • I just want to note, as the husband of a brit, that comparisons of Englands gun ban and a gun ban in America are impossible. England is an island, which means control of imports is much much easier than a nation as expansive, and with as many various borders (land, air, sea) as the US.

    A gun ban in the US is just not very feasible.

  • Luke Allison


    Mentally ill people with assault rifles are more dangerous than mentally ill people with sledgehammers. And we don’t know for a fact what sort of mental illness James Holmes is struggling with. There is a huge honor/shame dynamic here….don’t ever downplay that. A physically inept person like this would never be able to kill 12 and injure 70 without a catalyst to his rage.

    I haven’t heard any of the information you stated here about Holmes’ life…where did you read that?

    JHM: Agreed, and understood.

  • Luke Allison

    James G:

    You’re lumping all these types of people together. James Holmes had the capability of making explosives, but he chose to don armor and personally shoot a group of people. It probably was entertaining to him. Just like a game. And he’s god. There’s more to the motivation than merely wanting to kill. He wants to experience killing firsthand.

  • JamesG

    T said, “I doubt I’m the only one, and it’s probably because my oldest is 7, but I’m still most saddenned about this tragedy because of the killing of the 6-year old. I know that’s probably not right, given that there were many people killed. What do you say to or about the person that killed a 6-year old? Words fail me.”

    My daughters are 8 and 4, so I’m there with you on the shock and horror of the crime (and, if I’m to be frank, the shock anyone had a 6 year old there in the first place, given the level of violence in the film they were going to see). As to what I’d say about the person who killed the child? The same I’d say about a person who murders anyone. It doesn’t change that the heart, not the tool is the issue at hand.

  • JamesG

    Luke, I’m not lumping all kinds of people together. I stated what has actually happened in places with bans. They’ve turned to alternative means.

  • Luke Allison

    James G

    But not with nearly as much ease or frequency.

  • scotmcknight

    Eric, now you’re insulting our border control! 🙂

  • There should be two basic principals when we ask what we want our laws to do. First, will this law actually work? The US did not ask whether Prohibition would work, and it didn’t. Prohibition did not stop a single person from gaining access to alcohol; instead, it just created a black-market culture in the US that hasn’t gone away. The “War on Drugs” has just reinforced the black-market culture, and exported it to the rest of the Americas. I have been squeaky clean concerning drugs my entire life, but I’ve known people who either sold drugs or bought them since I was 15.

    A War on Guns will not disarm anyone intent on arming. There are no disarmed societies anywhere in the world, and there are no societies without homicide simply because they don’t have guns. There are several societies within the last 20 years committing genocide with farming tools and sticks. The largest acts of intentional homicide by a single person were caused by people intentionally causing passenger airplane crashes, followed by arson and (at the time) consumer-grade explosive devices.

    Second, will the new law be a net improvement? We require fences around pools because a person with enough money for a pool should have enough for a fence, and stopping drownings is a net good. We require drivers licenses to document competency, because a motor vehicle is a very dangerous tool capable of killing. We accept the loss of life caused by automobiles as a cost of the positive benefits otherwise brought on through motorized transport.

    What people forget often is that good people own firearms. More people use firearms to defend themselves against criminal acts (armed assault, attempted murder, etc.) in the United States than are victims of firearms-based crime. If you exclude “victims” who are acting criminally at or near the time of their shooting, the defense numbers go to multiples.

    It is an unavoidable truth that the presence of guns in the hands of good people in the US protect more lives than they cost. Removing these guns removes the protection from the good people.

  • Jerry

    KP (#49) — where do you get the stat that “more people use firearms to defend themselves against criminal acts in the US than are victims of firearms-based crime.” This analysis seems to say the opposite:

  • Jerry

    Sorry should have been #48

  • Simon Hall

    I preached at a church the other day and an older gentleman gave me the politest rebuke ever by telling me that Billy Graham claimed that he never made a point in a sermon without a bible verse to back it up. While I’m not convinced throwing Bible verses will edify the conversation, the lack of any biblical reflection at all from our discourse should give us pause.

    I understand that Wayne Grudem’s book on politics ends up supporting the status quo on guns because Jesus once advised his disciples to carry a sword. (I haven’t read it, I’ve only read about it; I’m open to correction). I’ve had a look around the web and others argue that the Old Testament clearly advocates the use of lethal force in many circumstances and since God never changes his mind we can ignore Jesus’s pacifist leanings and fairly clear prohibition of individual violence.

    I’m not sure that is a convincing argument. If Jesus shows us what the Father is like then we have to admit that God chooses not to use force and violence, but rather willingly submits to it. His teaching, his life and his death all speak of a life that completely eschews violence and instead disempowers it nonviolently.

    Perhaps an argument could be made from Romans 13 that governments can exercise force and violence, but my reading of the situation is that opponents of gun control also tend to oppose the centralisation of state and federal power, so that may not help.

    If you play the ‘OT + God doesn’t change his mind’ card, that’s a dangerous game, because pretty soon we’ll have to stone people for wearing the wrong kind of clothing. Can someone give me a Jesus-centred argument for the ‘right’ of each individual to have weapons?

  • Mark h

    Can we legislate morality? I agree with the many who said the “gun” isn’t the problem. But if it wasn’t for our depravity, there wouldn’t be a need for the type of weaponry on display in this crime, and on the streets of the cities we all live in.

    Is there ever a need for someone to own a semi-automatic rifle? Not from where I sit. Is abortion wrong? All day long. Does everyone have the right to have access to clean drinking water? Absolutely Have we ever changed any of these by creating or repealing laws, or by using force? Nope. Can I improve my situation by moving to another country? Not really, brokenness is everywhere

    it leaves us all longing, doesn’t it. Longing for the fulfillment of the glimpse we have in Jesus. Until then, we pray, hope, and work for the day when all things will be made new.

  • scotmcknight

    Mark, we can’t legislate morality if that means create laws that make people good. But we can make laws that can curb violence. I’m for that.

  • Lance Vaughters

    I find it strange that we would believe that more laws on the books concerning gun control are the answer to curbing violence. Only changed hearts can curb violence.

    In this regard we have failed miserably as a community of saints. Marxists frankly have a better track record in effecting change.

    One of the glaring deficiencies among the community of saints is the notion that we should not be involved in effecting Justice. However, if we were to have done our job as “Christians” , we would be living in a society that had not lost it’s sense of what justice is.
    Somehow the idea of eliminating from the gene pool, those that have proven themselves to be violent and shedder’s of innocent blood, has lost it’s wisdom among modern “Christians”.

    We must begin a return (repentance) to the founding principles of justice outlined in the OT Scriptures if we wish to see violence curbed in our society, lest we be found accomplices against the Kingdom of Christ.

    Grace & Peace,

  • Napman

    Simon #51

    I wonder what a Jesus centerd argument about what 21st century American public policy would look like given such things as: the 2nd Amendment and its various interpretations, the reality of a violent culture and the glamorization of violence, the evil that pervades the hearts of humanity along with the good, the competing statistical models of advocates who are for and against gun control, the complexity and uncertain impact of legislation and regulation with its attendant unintended consequences etc. and you tell me: what is the through line that takes you from the gospels over 2,000 years of human history and competing Christian political traditions and further through the contemporary complexities and gives you a Jesus centered argument that does not itself beg the questin?

    It is one thing to have a degree of clarity about the mission and message of Christ as perceived through a faith informed by history. It is quite another to transpose such limited knowledge to contemporary public policy and claim the mantle of our Lord, as so many on the right and left do, for policy positions Jesus is assumed to approve. Of course such claims of the Lord’s approval will always remain assumptions because Jesus himself does not do American public policy and his command to follow him does not provide an intellectual guide to public policy knowledge. I think we can all use a little humility before we claim the Lord’s approval of our political or policy choices.

    I agree with Scot that laws that will reduce violence are good things. Identifying them is a little harder, particularly when the Supreme Court seems to hold that the right to bear arms and the right to an abortion are both grounded in the Constitution.

  • DRT

    I have known a few teens who have died not by disease, and here is why they died:

    – Shot and killed (cousin)
    – Shot while running away (friend)
    – Motorcycle accident (friend)
    – Shot as a suicide attempt (friend of son)
    – Drug overdose (friend of son)

    Pretty much each of the gun ones would not have happened with better gun control laws. It is terribly sad to bury a teen.

    Also, I see some debate as to whether we should severely restrict ammunition instead of the guns themselves. There is a long history here and I personally have worked with the Army on this subject. It is better to secure the weapons and not the ammo. It is pretty clear.

  • P.

    I’ve never understood the evangelical obsession with the 2nd Amendment. I think it’s a hold-over from the the days of Robertson and Falwell. The NRA took its lust for power and money and wrapped it in a flag, secured it with a cross, and said it’s about our freedom. Well, as there are reasonable limits on the 1st Amendment (can’t reveal state secrets, etc.), there should be reasonable limits on the 2nd Amendment. After all, as someone else pointed out, assault rifles were created with the sole purpose of killing – people.

  • KP (#49) — where do you get the stat that “more people use firearms to defend themselves against criminal acts in the US than are victims of firearms-based crime.” This analysis seems to say the opposite:

    I would work a citation war, but the spam filters killed me for too many URLs. Sorry, start Googling…

    Dr. Gary Kleck points out that the NCVS has serious and severe limitations on how it measures self defense incidents. It is not randomized, it is not anonymous, and it is a government agency asking the subject to identify possibly illegal activity by himself.

    Dr. Kleck’s own survey clearly showed that, in 1993, defensive gun uses well outstripped criminal gun uses. This survey supported 13 other surveys disagreeing with the NCVS, and was generally supported by a DOJ survey that estimated 1.5 million defensive gun uses in 1994. To be fair, the DOJ study (“Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms”) authors aren’t supportive of Kleck; the authors of the survey basically say “We got X, which is in-line with Kleck, but X can’t be right because we don’t believe it’s right” ( ). IMHO they can’t have it both ways; you can’t say that everything but DGUs in the study is right, like they do about their other data, but the DGU counts aren’t.

    All of this stuff exists from when I argued against Gun Control back in the early 90s. I’m just not finding newer studies open to the public. The newest I’ve found yet is from 2000, and it’s behind a pay firewall ( ). Feel free to point me towards new studies at your leisure.

  • #47

    I’m not insulting our border patrol, so much as trying to explain the reality (to foreigners) of having 9000 miles of border to protect. (and that’s a waaaaaay conservative estimate)

    I do find the response of my friends disheartening when it comes to the 2nd amendment. I have some friends I grew up with who are either fundamentalist or calvinist who are pro gun and constitutionalist (respectively), and they can’t understand why I don’t take the constitution as Bible truth…

  • Oh, and I did get the joke Scot, unfortunately I don’t have the context for a witty comeback!

    I’ll take a raincheck.

  • Ben Thorp

    Andrew Wilson has an interesting piece on politics in different countries at and says

    “And European Christians like me look on, bemused, wondering why there isn’t an American word for someone whose ethical framework, as my wife puts it, is “life, life, life”: no abortion, no death penalty, no bombing, no torture, no guns, no extraordinary rendition, and no oppression of women or ethnic minorities. Other, perhaps, than “Catholic.””

  • scotmcknight

    Ben, there is. Ron Sider articulated it two decades back: “Consistently Pro-Life.”

  • James

    For those who don’t understand that the UK’s violent crime really is bad, and that you really do need to be afraid of knives and hammers…and that their real crime rate is worse than the US.

    Violent crime is and will always be a heart problem. The rest of the debate is over what band-aid us on a heart attack.

  • James

    “to use…” not “us”