Thursday, December 20, 2012
I appreciate -- and have learned from -- the comments made in response to yesterday's post about Catholics and gun control. One category of response is relatively straightforward: this sort of law can't be crafted in a way that will be effective. I get that, and I'll defer to others with more expertise than I have to sort out that debate. Two other categories of response intrigue me.
The first amounts to variations of "owning and shooting weapons like these is a hobby that is highly valued by many Americans." True enough. My friends and family members who own guns enjoy them, and I have no doubt that they will continue to use them safely. But what if a hobby also presents a readily foreseeable likelihood that the misuse of the item on which enjoyment of the hobby is premised will cause widespread death and bodily harm? Chicago has long banned the sale of spray paint; many cities, including my own, ban its sale to minors. This has made it more difficult for my 12 year-old daughter to enjoy her hobbies, none of which involve (as far as I can tell) "tagging" the property of others. I think the spray paint ban is entirely reasonable even though it infringes on others' ability to enjoy their hobbies. Graffiti presents nowhere near the public problem that gun violence presents. I'm not saying that the Bushmaster enthusiast's interests carry no weight in the analysis; I'm just skeptical that those interests should carry as much weight as some seem to assert. (Again, I'm assuming for the sake of this argument that such laws could, in fact, be efficacious in preventing at least some gun violence.)
The second category of response simultaneously looks back to our proud history of rugged American individualism and forward to either a post-apocalyptic or totalitarian future. It boils down, in my estimation to, "Sometimes you just may need to kill a lot of people in a relatively short time frame." (How often does a large group of people invade someone's home?) I am a big fan of Niebuhrian realism, but this line of argument seems to veer into outright cynicism not just about the future of civilization, but also about the Christian's place in it. Christians should work toward a tolerable justice, of course, but there's a strain of "self-survival at all costs" to this line of argument as well, and I'm not yet sure what to make of that.