33 Responses to Should Catholics Own Guns?

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    Indeed. The passages I quoted from the catechism affirmed that we have a moral duty to protect ourselves, out of the love of self derived from our existence as a gift from God. I personally believe that gun ownership should remain legal and in some places be more accessible.

    On the other hand, you have to consider the likelihood of a trespasser attempting to kill you in your home. What actually is the risk, and what is the risk of having a gun in the house? This is why it is a question of prudence. For me, since I’m not a hunter and have no training, owning a gun would pose a greater risk than an intruder, so until I get the training, a gun is definitely not for me. For my wife, who is trained and has been around guns her entire life, a gun poses much less risk than an intruder, and so a gun is definitely an option for her. How does that mesh between the two of us? Right now, her guns are in storage well away from home. Perhaps in the future that might change.

  • Dale Price says:

    In addition to training/experience, there is also a moral duty to know how “strong” one’s firearm is in relation to the proximity of your neighbors. For example, using a hunting rifle (with a high muzzle velocity) to defend yourself very well poses risks to your neighbors if you miss, and perhaps even if you don’t. The flip side of 2263-65 is that you can’t risk your neighbor’s lives, either.

  • I’ve never liked guns, and haven’t shot one since my Army days three decades ago, but I strongly support the right of people to own guns for hunting and self-defense. I agree with this line from my late father’s favorite western, Shane: : “A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.”

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    Of course, what I didn’t argue in this post is how effective guns are at what they’re purported to do. I’ll leave that to someone else. But, to play devil’s advocate, speaking of a gun as only a tool may mask part of the issue. Does handing a person a tool with which it is easy to kill someone–especially since guns are designed for killing, be it animal or human–make it more likely that a person will kill? Under what circumstances is merely owning a gun bringing a person into the near occasion of sin? I think those are the questions that Catholic opponents of gun ownership would ask. (I don’t think the accidental death ranks near as high, since by that mark we’d have to ban cars before banning guns…)

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “Does handing a person a tool with which it is easy to kill someone–especially since guns are designed for killing, be it animal or human–make it more likely that a person will kill?”

    Depends entirely upon the persons wielding the weapons Ryan. I’ve lived my life almost entirely in rural Illinois. Most of my neighbors have guns of all sorts, pistols, shotguns, rifles,etc. I have never been threatened with a weapon, even though for the past 26 years I have brought legal actions, on behalf of clients, against thousands of people who live in the surrounding area. Some people can be trusted with firearms, just as they can be trusted with knives, axes, etc, and other tools, while other people, including some of my criminal clients, could not be trusted with a paper clip.

  • “Does handing a person a tool with which it is easy to kill someone–especially since guns are designed for killing, be it animal or human–make it more likely that a person will kill?”

    As Donald said, it depends a lot on the person, but for someone who’s got a basic level of moral responsibility and has received at least 20 minutes in training on basic gun safety and respect for what they can do, my experience is that generally the knowledge of what a gun can do as a tool is sobering rather than a motive towards irresponsible behavior.

    Robert Heinlein (hardly an exemplar of Catholic thinking, I know) said, “A well armed society is a polite society.”

    And while that could be taken to refer to the reserve of mutual fear, my experience is more that people who know they bear the responsibility of handling highly lethal weapons remember to be more polite, more careful, and more helpful for it. I’ve been treated rudely in church far more often than I have at the gun range.

    This, I think, is where familiarity with guns is very, very important from a safety perspective. The person you want to fear is not the “gun nut” with the AK collection who’s down at the range every other weekend, but the person who went and bought a gun that he or she has never shot — or perhaps only shot once. That’s the person who’s likely to be quick to reach for it “like in the movies”.

  • Eric Brown says:

    I think, for the most part, agreeable that people have a right to self-defense and the right to defend their families, and therefore, a right to gun ownership. However, I am most curious as to why many second amendment advocates I’ve encountered oppose very reasonable gun control laws.

    24 to 48 hour waiting periods. I’ve encountered opposition to this idea and I’ve been told (I wouldn’t be surprised) that some politicians actually vote against such laws. Common sense would suggest that if a person cannot wait two measely days to get a gun, perhaps it would be prudent to think twice about giving it to them.

    I read in a book about Catholic Social Teaching (I haven’t checked the statistics that were footnoted) that some 40% of gun sales are done privately and background checks are not done. I’ve further encountered opposition to changing this reality on the basis of a slippery slope argument.

    Moreover, laws restricting the number of guns bought in day have found opposition. Does one really need to buy more than twenty guns at a time? I can’t recall the precise number, but I do not remember it being unreasonable.

    I’m just not certain why sensible gun control laws are opposed when the right to own guns is respected while seeking to minimally regulate the flow of guns.

    I am not a fan of guns. There’s a debate in the Texas state government to unrestrict concealed carry laws to enable teachers and students to carry concealed weapons on their campuses and even in classrooms. I don’t think words could even describe my opposition to this idea.

    Thoughts?

  • John Henry says:

    There’s a debate in the Texas state government to unrestrict concealed carry laws to enable teachers and students to carry concealed weapons on their campuses and even in classrooms. I don’t think words could even describe my opposition to this idea. Thoughts?

    Well, ever since Va. Tech….

  • John Henry says:

    Just as a follow-up, I do not own a firearm, and I tend to be ambivalent about the 2nd Amendment. I have mixed feelings about gun control, but as a Va. Tech alum the incident was a particularly jarring reminder that only those who break the law have guns in gun-free zones.

  • Eric Brown says:

    I don’t think a single incidence speaks enough volume to write off other ills that may come of such a policy that we may currently be blind to. I think emotional reaction to such incidences potentially can lead to legislation that doesn’t get fully evaluated.

  • However, I am most curious as to why many second amendment advocates I’ve encountered oppose very reasonable gun control laws.

    Probably a couple of reasons for this.

    On the unreasonable level, gun owners often start to feel fairly persecuted by the gun control lobby, and so their emotional reaction is simply to oppose everything that the gun control lobby advocates, regardless of whether it seems like a good idea.

    On the reasonable level, oftentimes laws which seem to make a lot of sense to gun control advocates do not make much sense to people from the perspective of law abiding gun owners. For example, as you point out a lot of gun sales are private person-to-person sales which currently require no paperwork to be filed in most states. I once made a private gun sale myself. I knew that a buddy of mine had been wanting a Swiss K31 bolt action rifle for some time, and I had a chance to buy one for under $200. It’s a moderately hard to find rifle (a straight pull bolt action rifle that the Swiss army used until the 50s and which the papal Swiss Guard used until fairly recently) and it’s not exactly the crowd killer — the design has not changed since 1931. So after checking with him on the cell phone, I bought it for him, and then sold it to him the next time I was down where he lived.

    Now in states that apply all the same rules to private party sales that are applied to dealer sales, I would have had to drive down to his town, take it to a gun dealer, give it to the gun dealer, who would then run a background check and hold on to it for a waiting period before letting him have it. (And generally charge a $50 to $75 fee in the process for his trouble.) Since these sales are usually between relatives or friends, that seems like a royal pain and rather unfair.

    The solution to the problem of armed violence in schools is to enable everyone to be armed as to even the playing field?

    To be fair, though, that’s not the suggestion. In all states that I’m aware of the licensing process to get a concealed carry permit is intensive enough that it’s very clear by the time you get one that you
    a) have no criminal record
    b) know how to use a gun well
    c) understand thoroughly the (very severe) legal consequences to using a gun improperly

    The change in law that they’re looking at would simply allow people who’ve already gone through that process to continue to carry (if they want) on the premises of “gun free” institutions like universities. I don’t have a strong opinion either way, personally, as you’re going to find very, very few licensed carriers among the student and faculty demographics. But to the extent that we already have a legal process for determining who’s allowed to carry, I don’t have a problem with them carrying in schools, hospitals, etc.

    I look a quick look around for data, and at least in Florida only 0.01% (out of 1.4 million) of those licensed to carry later commit crimes involving guns — so it doesn’t sound like much of a risk to me.

  • Eric Brown says:

    Darwin,

    On the first note, I don’t think inconvenience as reason to oppose those laws. I’m just as sure that criminals obtain guns from private gun sales and that the small inconvenience one might pay in the hobby of collecting guns, if it could potentially save one life is worth every bit of it.

    On the second matter, I see your point, but Florida’s demographics are not the same as, say, Los Angeles, Houston, or Chicago. Statistics of Florida don’t immediately apply to the rest of the country.

    And on the same level, I think numbers of student/faculty gun carriers will change depending on the demograpics and the state. I think much more would have to go into analyzing such a policy.

  • On the first note, I don’t think inconvenience as reason to oppose those laws. I’m just as sure that criminals obtain guns from private gun sales and that the small inconvenience one might pay in the hobby of collecting guns, if it could potentially save one life is worth every bit of it.

    I see your point, though at the same time — if Criminal A has a gun he wants to sell to Criminal B, and the state in question requires that private party sales be made through a dealer, I strongly doubt that the criminals in question would feel they needed to go over to the dealer and subject themselves to a background check and waiting period. I’d have to look the statistics up, but according to nationwide statistics slightly over half the guns used in all crimes are already obtained illegally.

    So I think often gun owners (myself included) feel like these laws simply make us jump through useless hoops, while doing very little to actually keep guns out of the hands of criminals. That said, if a law really would be successful in keeping guns out of criminals hands, I personally think it’s worth some inconvenience to achieve that.

    On the second matter, I see your point, but Florida’s demographics are not the same as, say, Los Angeles, Houston, or Chicago. Statistics of Florida don’t immediately apply to the rest of the country.

    Agreed, though due especially to the drug trade Florida has plenty of crime in some areas. Still, though I’d have to hunt for more data, I think you’ll find that people with concealed carry permits are absolutely the safest people you could possibly deal with in regards to guns. (Also, it’s hard to compare as Chicago, DC, New York, and Los Angeles all have incredibly restrictive gun laws compared to most other parts of the country. The concealed carry approach has not been tried in any of those places.)

    Gun training, background check, and knowledge of the world of trouble you’d be in for mis-using the gun ought to be roughly the best combination of factors for reducing people’s likelihood of committing crimes.

  • John Henry says:

    “I don’t think a single incidence speaks enough volume to write off other ills that may come of such a policy that we may currently be blind to. I think emotional reaction to such incidences potentially can lead to legislation that doesn’t get fully evaluated.”

    Well, sure, but emotional reactions work both ways. If we already have concealed carry permits under state law which allow people to carry everywhere else in the state, why should colleges and universities be different? If you think there are ‘other ills’ that we are blind to here, shouldn’t we see those ills everywhere else in the state?

    If you are against concealed carry laws, then maybe the question is irrelevant, but otherwise I do not see why a university campus is significantly different than a block away from a university campus. If anything, university students and faculties are less likely to be criminally dangerous. To me the suspension of an otherwise valid concealed carry permit on university grounds seems more emotional (no guns in our pristine intellectual utopia!) than rational, but I would be willing to revise that view if there is empirical support for the ban.

  • S.B. says:

    Wow, I can’t believe this thread has been up for nearly a whole day, and Michael Iafrate hasn’t posted a kneejerk leftist response. (For someone who seems to think the most important thing in the world is to question the assumptions and beliefs that come naturally to you, he never shows the slightest openmindedness about questioning his own leftist beliefs. Anyone who disagrees with him is the enemy.)

  • Ryan Harkins says:

    I don’t think a single incidence speaks enough volume to write off other ills that may come of such a policy that we may currently be blind to. I think emotional reaction to such incidences potentially can lead to legislation that doesn’t get fully evaluated.

    The question isn’t necessarily are we reacting to a single incident (though I agree that many, many, many reams of paper with worthless blots of ink have been forced through legislatures everywhere in response to single incidents), but whether the single incident is indicative of a larger trend. Part of the problem with trying to learn if arming the campus deters shootings is that there isn’t much evidence one way or another. But from the one incident that we have, we can speculate that either a) having guns nearby did nothing to deter the shooter, as he still shot and killed several people or b) having guns nearby allowed several students to halt the shooting before it became a massacre.

    Frankly, I’m of the opinion that allowing guns on campus and keeping legal in all places the right to carry a conceal weapon are suitable deterrents for crime. Attempting a crime becomes like playing Russian roulette. Will there be a bullet in the chamber, or won’t there? Granted, some will take the risk anyway, just as some will still obtain guns illegally and commit crimes that way. At this point, I feel it becomes a number game determining which methods decrease deaths the most.

    The problem, of course, is that no gun law is going to solve all the problems. Fallen human nature, and all that. I know from personal experience that it is very, very frustrating to have to deal with inconvenient legalities, and it isn’t because they’re inconvenient. Rather, it is like being treated like a criminal when I haven’t committed any crime, while the legal nonsense does nothing to prevent real criminals from doing what they will, anyway. That sense of being judged before any crime has been committed has, I think, more implications than simply us crying out in frustration about punishing those who obey the law, while doing nothing to stop those who break the law.

    However, I don’t feel that such limitations as: licensing, background checks, waiting periods, and bringing a gun by at least the county office after a private sale are beyond reason. Mark is exactly right when he describes guns as instruments of killing. While I disagree with him as to whether or not a Catholic can/should own a gun, I do feel that it is important to keep in mind that a gun is a weapon. The gravity of that fact demands a healthy respect for guns. To that effect, I believe every gun owner needs to be licensed (just like anyone who drives a car needs to be licensed); I believe a background check is important, especially since it is against federal law for a felon to own a gun, or to provide a felon with a gun (so a bit of cya there); I think a waiting period is a good idea to help with those few cases where someone might need a day or two to calm down before he actually receives his gun; and I think a gun should come with a title, like a car, that has to be transferred to the new owner with a minimum sale of $1.00 (so you can then go down to the county office and pay your $0.06 tax).

  • blackadderiv says:

    24 to 48 hour waiting periods. I’ve encountered opposition to this idea and I’ve been told (I wouldn’t be surprised) that some politicians actually vote against such laws. Common sense would suggest that if a person cannot wait two measely days to get a gun, perhaps it would be prudent to think twice about giving it to them.

    I remember watching an interview once with a woman who had sought to buy a gun in a locality with a waiting period, and then was attacked and raped during the waiting period. In that case, at least, a waiting period turned out to be pretty harmful.

    Now you might say that such occurances are rare. And you’re probably right. But then cases where someone goes to buy a gun in order to kill someone and then changes his mind about it during the waiting period aren’t that common either. In fact, it is not obvious that cases of the former type are not more common than cases of the latter type. And unless one can establish that the latter sort of case is more common than the former, then the justification for the law would seem to be rather weak, even aside from considerations of inconvenience.

  • Foxfier says:

    blackadderiv-
    I’ve heard of a couple of cases where the dead woman was found with a card that indicated she had a restraining order aginst the murderer, and that she was to pick up her handgun the next day….

    Yeah, worked great, eh?

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “I’ve heard of a couple of cases where the dead woman was found with a card that indicated she had a restraining order aginst the murderer”

    How true Foxfier. I’ve often been in court when judges issue orders of protection. The judges usually admonish the petitioners that the orders of protection are merely pieces of paper and that they still need to take precautions for their safety. The police will often tell people that they cannot guard them twenty-four hours a day. A gun is often the only means by which a physically weaker potential victim, usually a woman, has any chance against a stronger assailant.

  • Anthony Rowe says:

    I can think of a few people in the old testament who, not only owned weapons of killing, but were commanded by God to use them swiftly.

    *picks up the indiana jones whip he got for christmas and wonders… wwjd*

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