A touching photo of Marshal Micah Torrance, Mark & Lucas McCain, representing the way the government, the children, & the citizen should co-exist and flourish. Amen! But don’t for a moment think that Lucas McCain’s rifle wasn’t close at hand!
“GUN CONTROL” AND VIOLENCE
In two earlier “meditations” on gun control I focused mostly on the challenge the “gun control” question presented to christians in relation to the violence in our society. The posts were in some ways my process of thinking out loud regarding seeking to be open to God’s will in relation to the problem that “gun control” hopes to alleviate. This is why I think I was misunderstood in some cases, because I was not “meditating” on the issue in relation to constitutional rights. I even said that it is a very christian thing to do to give up rights if that is God’s will, so if those rights were the main issue to a reader, naturally they would think I was missing the main issue. So let me summarize my other posts by saying that my concern was to try to come to a christian response to the violence in society. Now, with the awareness that some may think I do not consider the violence in our society as a huge and important issue, I will concentrate on what is probably and certainly is potentially the greater problem.
(Important note: throughout this “meditation” I will use the term “gun control” mainly as signifying the ideology that “guns are the problem rather than people” and the theory that by lessening access to guns violence will be lessened. I also recognize that many gun owners are not necessarily against some measures of “control” such as closing loopholes, requiring background checks, and other restrictions that would not erode the 2nd amendment right.)
“GUN CONTROL” AND TYRANNY
I think that most of the people that have opposed “gun control” are doing so mainly because of the threat to the 2nd amendment. I believe that this does not necessarily mean that they are unconcerned with the “violence” issue. I believe that this is their concern:
- More “gun control” will not alleviate the violence, at least not significantly enough to merit the following:
- More “gun control” will move our nation closer toward the removal of the rights of the 2nd amendment.
I believe that the current controversy within the citizenship regarding the issue is because:
- One side sees the violence as an escalating and immediate threat and therefore the greater problem.
- One side sees the tyranny as an escalating and immediate threat and therefore the greater problem.
I am fairly sure that behind each of these views is a “matrix” like complex of perception that is being expressed in each, and that each “matrix” could be critiqued. According to my ability for thinking I will merely try to examine these expressions and try to present a few reasons I think that tyranny is (and should always be thought of as) a threat, and also the greater threat.
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all
(William Shakespeare, Hamlet)
“THE ILLS WE HAVE…”
In my use of this illustration “the ills we have” are the violence in society today. As I said above, I think they are terrible. I also think they have been magnified by the government for political purposes. There are valid arguments and statistics that demonstrate that the “gun control” solution to the problem will not work and will only further erode the 2nd amendment rights. As with other government solutions, when they do not achieve the original goal, the usual answer is to escalate laws and measures which further erode the rights. A downward spiral of governmental “solution” that inevitably brings loss of personal freedom, becomes the working method and certainly makes it easier should there be a governmental desire for some “final solution.” That this spiral has been in operation, at least since the Civil War, has been adequately demonstrated by Robert Higgs in his book Crisis and Leviathan.
I may sound callous but to make a point let me ask what could be the worst case scenario if the gun lobby “wins” and violence is not substantially alleviated and even grows worse. (Please remember that the claim that gun control works to curb violence is not a proven fact) Can any of us imagine that the scenario could be anything remotely approximating the evils perpetuated by governments that have oppressed their own people and other peoples because they trampled upon basic human rights? (Think of the U.S.S.R., Communist China, Nazi Germany)
Another thing to consider is that the erosion of constitutional rights is not merely a hypothetical danger of paranoid conspiracy theorists, it is a present reality. Violence is not the only escalating and immediate threat, tyranny is also, and tyranny certainly presents a greater danger. Following is a video and an editorial discussing the freedoms we have not been enjoying since 1986 (or was it “1984“?)
Are the possible ills of tyranny something that we “know not of”? Would we be “cowards” if we do everything we can to try to prevent experiencing those ills? Therefore I am differing in my use of Hamlet regarding the “undiscovered country.” To Hamlet death was the undiscovered country. But for humankind tyranny is not the undiscovered country (a huge understatement!). Of course the perennial danger is that those that have not personally experienced tyranny, and are ignorant of even recent human history, may be doomed to discover it personally.
As Edmund Burke said: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.“
But Hamlet’s question is still of some use to us. Which potential consequence of our choice between accepting or rejecting 2nd amendment restrictions would we rather have? The potential harm of increased societal violence or the potential harm of governmental tyranny? Another way to think help us to determine which “ill” is “preferable” is to consider this series of statements:
- The purpose of gun control is to keep guns out of the hands of those with the potential to cause great harm.
- The would be murderers in our society have a potential to cause great harm if they have guns.
- The government of our society has the greatest potential to cause the greatest harm if they have all the guns.
If gun control is a further step towards the abrogation of the 2nd amendment then it is a further step toward taking guns out of the hands of those who do the least harm, namely the law abiding citizens, and putting them all in the hands of those who have the potential to do the most harm, namely the government.
“POWER CORRUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY”
This saying from Lord Acton is known by most, and needs to be applied to this debate. Blaise Pascal said that “Law without force is impotent.” Our rights are a sort of law, but what upholds these rights? The word of the government that they will respect them? According to Pascal, laws (and rights) are impotent without force. The 2nd amendment guarantees a measure of “force” so it is not just a “paper” right, and this one right actually safeguards the other rights by giving actual power to the citizens. If the government is allowed to take away the right of the people to bear arms it gains to much power, and then is liable to the corrupting lure toward absolute power.
“IT COULDN’T HAPPEN HERE”
Many or most American’s believe that real tyranny could never happen here, but we must keep in mind that the reason for the bill of rights is to not allow the chance. These are not rights to be played with, or treated lightly. I am not a conspiracy theorist but history has shown that things can happen swiftly and once wheels are set in motion they can be very difficult to stop. Hitler was democratically elected and came to power on January 31, 1933. On February 27th the Nazi’s burned down the Reichstag, the seat of democratic power. They blamed the action on the Communists. The day after the fire saw the Reichstag Fire Act signed by the body of the Reichstag which read:
Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press, on the right of assembly and association; and violation of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephone communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed. (from Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxas)
Eric Metaxas writes, “Within days the Nazi storm troopers were in the streets, arresting and beating their political opponents, many of whom were imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The ability to speak against them was gagged, the ability to assemble publicly against them was illegal.” (Metaxas, 149) These things transpired even without major restrictions on guns in Germany, although there were restrictions in place. Certainly I am not implying our current Government is like the Nazi party or that President Obama is like Hitler. But we need to bear in mind that the step by step progress of the Nazi’s that led to the eventual impossibility of viable resistance was their key to domination. Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor who spent 8 years in concentration camps wrote:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out- because I was not a Trade Unionist
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew
And then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me. (Metaxas, 192)
This illustrates that we should never be complacent when others are denied their basic rights. We can never think that it does not concern us, because we may be the next to have our rights taken away. To put this in other words, even if you absolutely hate guns, and would never want to personally take advantage of this right, you should support those that do value that right. If you do not, you may not have anyone that supports the rights you do cherish if, for instance, freedom of speech or freedom of assembly are taken away. As the saying goes, “united we stand, divided we fall.”
CONCLUSION: IS THERE ONLY A CHOICE BETWEEN LESSER OR GREATER EVILS?
I have framed this meditation largely as a choice between two evils. I am afraid that the approach of the government to the problem of societal violence mainly through “external” means mitigates against a better solution. It seems to keep the debate focused on raw “power”, namely guns with their uses and misuses. In my earlier “meditation”, mainly in part 2, I discuss the possibility of a more positive means for a solution. I believe that our country needs to remember why the 2nd amendment right is there, and protect it as our elected officials are sworn to do also. That being said, we all need to move beyond this debate and seek to solve the real problems that underly the violence. After all, the citizens of the US have had their guns since the birth of the nation, while the violence we are now experiencing is of recent birth. Moreover, these types of incidents are occurring in other places all around the world so this problem is not limited to the US or caused by conditions peculiar to the US such as our right to bear arms.
I also should probably state that I view the positions I have presented in this “meditation” as fully in harmony with what I understand as God’s will. I see no conflict with the Bible for Christians seeking to preserve the 2nd amendment. An in depth discussion of this question could probably be the subject for another post, but in short I would just say that God is for life and preventing tyranny is usually a way to save many lives.
Comments, questions, critiques are welcome! (Please keep it civil or I won’t approve it, Thank you)
Here are a few links that should be of interest:
Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.