Few issues in this country are so divisive as the gun debate. Like so many other divisive issues, this one is more-or-less split across party lines. Chances are if you lean conservative you see gun ownership as a right and generally do not support gun-control laws, and if you lean liberal you support strict gun-control, and may not see gun ownership as an absolute right.
The tragic shooting in Florida has brought this debate back to the forefront of our minds, as it happens in the wake of every single one. The Left, as always, is quick to call on Congress and the President to do something, and the caricatures illustrating fat rednecks, politicians, and the NRA acting in various callousness to the deaths around them are quickly deployed. The Right is no slower in pointing out that the shooting happened in a gun-free zone, that criminals (such as these shooters) do not care about the law, and that we shouldn’t be so quick to “politicize” this tragedy.
Certainly, this debate should not be limited to one aspect of the issue, but I believe we consistently fail to address the underlying worldviews that shape both sides’ beliefs on guns. We are quick to dismiss one another based on the face value of surface arguments, rather than addressing the philosophy and even theology upon which the arguments are based.
Here is my perspective: I am a conservative, and strongly in favor of the view that keeping and bearing arms is an individual, natural right, protected on one level by the United States Constitution and another level by your state constitution (depending on which state you live in). Before I get into “why” I believe what I do, let me give you a little bit of background. I grew up in a household with firearms. I received my first BB gun at the age of 8, and first .22 rifle at the age of 10. I joined the Marine Corps at 19 (as my father before me, and my brother after me), and purchased my first handguns at 22. I have gone through the process to receive a concealed handgun license in three separate states (Texas, Utah, and Virginia), and I have been a concealed handgun license instructor for two states (Texas, and Virginia). For about a year I also had a (small) gun store. I’m a certified NRA Pistol Instructor, and a life NRA Member, and have written gun-related articles for The Washington Times, The Marine Corps Times, and The Truth About Guns. I know a lot about firearms and their use.
My worldview is this: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and ultimately mankind. The first humans sinned, and now we are all sinners. Jesus died for our sins so we do not have to suffer the ultimate consequence, but we are still sinners and therefore flawed. As a result of our flawed nature, no system put in place or run by us will be perfect. None. But, when dealing with multiple flawed parties a really good way to try to keep them in check is through accountability, i.e. checks and balances (like the way our government was formed). People, when left to their own devices, will often do bad things. The more power you give people, the more corrupt they become, and the more bad things they typically do. So, don’t give all the power to one person, or two, or three even. Give it to a bunch of people, and give them various types of checks so there is less incentive to to bad things and more incentive to do good things. And, yes, the federal government has it’s branches, the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. But then there’s that other check: The People. And the people, in order to be an effective check, must have the power to support their will. The founding fathers placed the right to keep and bear arms in the second amendment to our Constitution because they wanted us to have that power. It wasn’t so we could hunt, or shoot targets at the range, or put rifles on display in museums. It was so we could defend ourselves against our own government if need be, and that knowledge, that truth would shape the kind of government and society we have. That’s what it was about, and that’s what it is still about.
Every mass shooting is a horrible tragedy. I hate them, and see them as a social ill that we must confront.
But all the deaths due to mass shootings, and murders of any kind in this country do not come close to the deaths caused by governments throughout history, or indeed the last 100 years.
Chairman Mao killed (by many estimates) 35 to 45 million of his own people.
Stalin killed 9 million to 50 million
Hitler killed around 20 million.
Pol Pot killed 1.5 million to 3 million, or perhaps as much as half the population of his own country.
As many as 1 million Rwandan Tutsis were killed by the Hutu majority government in 1994.
Millions more have been killed in genocides and wars around the world, including indigenous populations in the United States.
People always say, “It would never happen here,” and when it does they say, “I can’t believe it happened here.”
It would be wrong to ignore these mass shootings. We must continue to search for a solution, but to me and everyone with a worldview like mine, stricter gun control is not the option. Getting a gun without going through the hoops created by the gun control laws in place is extremely easy. In order to truly limit access guns to everyone (including criminals), people would have to give up (or have their guns taken) en masse across the nation, and it would have to be universal, and our borders would have to be policed a lot more carefully. And in that end state you have an unarmed populous and the risks posed to an unarmed populous are grave and existential.
There are genuine, logical, deeply held beliefs that inform people’s positions on this issue. Everyone is free to disagree, to have their own opinions, but please: Stop saying that people who do not support gun control are in the pocket of the NRA, or ignorant, or selfish, or that they don’t care about the tragedies we all see happening around us.
We see, we understand, and we weep, but as for a solution we come to a different conclusion, and that is not going to change.