BreakPoint: Gun Control

Will it be the Conscience or will it be the Constables?

Americans have always had constitutional rights that allow them to exercise certain freedoms. But do we still have the moral ability to maintain those rights?

Mass shootings are now, tragically, a regular feature of our news cycle. Each new attack on innocent children, students, church members, or concertgoers hits us it seems before we’ve recovered from the last one. I hope and pray we never become numb to the horror of these crimes.

In fact, after the recent shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a shooting that left 17 dead, the fury and passion to do something seems to have reached a critical point. Certainly, those who wish to restrict guns in America are louder than ever.

Now, in full disclosure, I’m a Second Amendment guy. I own guns: I support the right to bear arms. But I’m also a student of history and worldview.  Rights always come with responsibility. And people who are incapable of enjoying freedoms inevitably lose them.

I know I’m going to get angry emails about this, so let me be as clear as possible. I’m not saying here what should happen. I’m not saying that America should ban guns. What I’m saying is what always happens when a culture morally breaks down. Chuck Colson used to say that if a people will not be governed by the conscience, they will be governed by the constable. The loss of conscience always leads to the loss of freedom.

John Adams, our second president, said that our Constitution is meant only for a “moral and religious people,” and “is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” That would include the Second Amendment.

Increasingly, Americans display a shocking lack of conscience. I’m not just talking about mass-shootings by lonely, isolated, disturbed young men. I’m talking about historic levels of suicide, the epidemic of opioid overdoses that have more than doubled since 2010, and the poison we pump into the minds and hearts of our children in the name of entertainment. If we’re not killing each other in this country, we’re killing ourselves! Folks, something is deeply wrong. America is deeply sick.

Liberals who want to ban guns often say we’ve evolved beyond our Constitution. Evolved? No, we’ve devolved below it. We’re no longer a people moral or religious enough to sustain the freedoms of self-government.

Alexis de Tocqueville famously wrote on his visit to America that religion and local voluntary associations serve as glue to hold our democracy together. Almost 200 years later, that’s simply not true about us anymore. We’re now a society of isolated individualists—where drug addicts, the suicidal, and yes, the lonely, disturbed young men—easily slip through the cracks.

Political conservatives, hear me on this: It seems obvious at this point that government and police officials failed the students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And they should be held accountable.

But the deeper sickness eating this country alive will lead to more and more demands for gun control. Freedom is unsustainable without virtue.

Political liberals, hear me on this: The problem isn’t guns. Ban them, without addressing the real problems of our society, and we’ll find the next high school killer using a car or some other weapon of mass destruction. And the rest of us will be unarmed and unable to defend ourselves.

America is in a dark, deeply divided place—a place Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn accurately described in a 1978 speech at Harvard as a place with “little defense against the abyss of human decadence…such as the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror.” Even strict laws, Solzhenitsyn said, are powerless to defend a people against such moral corrosion.

If the devolution of our collective conscience continues, the replacement of constitutional rights with constables might be inevitable. But even constables won’t be able to govern, or protect, a people without a conscience.

 

Gun Control: Will it be the Conscience or will it be the Constables?

As John has highlighted, rights come with responsibility. Without a moral or religious foundation to sustain the freedoms of self-government, we are left to deal with the consequences but not the root of the problems in our society. For further discussion, check out the resources listed below.

 

Resources

A World Split Apart
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn | Harvard University | June 8, 1978
The Conscience of Society: The Role of the Church in a Democracy
  • Chuck Colson | BreakPoint.org | July 4, 2005

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • ET

    I agree in principle, but here is a little perspective. All crimes (FBI crime statistics), out of wedlock births, and teen pregnancies, and teen sexual activity (Guttmacher Institute studies) in America have dropped dramatically since peaking around 1990. This drop includes gun violence despite skyrocketing sales of firearms and loosening of gun restrictions.

    Mass shootings have not increased over the last two decades (https://news.northeastern.edu/2018/02/schools-are-still-one-of-the-safest-places-for-children-researcher-says/) but may have increased since the decades prior to 1990. What has changed is this. In the past most school shootings involved only one or two victims (may be driven by gang violence), and the incidence of these shootings have dropped while the incidence of mass shootings (4 or more victims) increased some (but not over the last two decades). But in total gun violence in schools as in society have dropped dramatically.

    In terms of crime America is far safer now than when I was a child in the 70s and 80s, yet many seem to believe it is more dangerous. My opinion is that most of the school gun violence through 1990, which were not mass shootings, occurred in poor neighborhoods with high crime and was ignored by the media. Now mass shootings in nice, mostly white schools get lots of media attention giving people the idea that violence has increased when in fact it has decreased.

  • Albert Tartaglino

    John, I listened to this on WIHS in CT this morning and you are spot on! No worries about angering this listener. I would brand myself as both a fiscal and social conservative. Society has devolved and if we fail to govern ourselves we indeed risk the overreach of the government. Thanks. Al Tartaglino

  • Just One Voice

    Very well said. Former President John Adams’ statement couldn’t be more true. Nor could your statement about freedom being unsustainable without virtue. We must address the heart of the behavior; not continue putting band-aids on a wound that needs to be more deeply addressed.

    For the record, I’m thinking about getting a firearm. I was never in the armed forces, but I still consider myself to have the duty to defend against all enemies, foreign or domestic. I already took some gun handling safety from a friend who knows a TON about it. He trains police officers with guns and also with hand to hand defense skills.

  • Jordan Smith

    I’m probably going to make some waves here…

    I agree with the principle and idea of your article, John. It is true that the USA has changed a lot since the constitution and laws were written for a “moral and religious people”, and that we probably no longer are able to uphold the constitution as it was intended. That being said, should we not take measures, or at least be in favor of measures, that protect the safety of fellow countrymen?

    The Second Amendment is a very strange concept to me: I’m an expat and grew up in Switzerland for most of my life. Europe in definitely in the category of pro gun control, and I admit that I am also biased in favor of strict gun control.

    If the purpose of the second amendment is to give citizens and residents of this country the ability to defend themselves, it can be achieved with a decent 9mm handgun or shotgun. AR-15s and other high powered assault rifles are not meant to be defense weapons (the name is the tip-off). They are offensive weapons with express purpose of killing and maiming human beings.

    As a naturalized Swiss citizen, I was required to serve in the Swiss Army (it is a compulsory militia service). I trained with such a weapon and learned to use it well. The average Swiss conscript on their first day of range practice is able to score a 70% or more at 300 yards (it is an extreme example, but assault weapons extend the deadly range of a firearm to 100 yards or more, which is an incredibly difficult shot for a pistol), so imagine that kind of weapon in the hands of a emotionally unstable teen. I was trained in firearm safety for 8 hours a day for over a week before I was even allowed to see a round of live ammunition, let alone fire my weapon. Depending on the state you live in, the only requirement to legally purchase and own such a weapon might be that you are over 18 years of age (according to any kind of gun safety standard, this is sheer and absolute nonsense).

    A few years before my conscription, Switzerland introduced a common-sense measure where all reservists would no longer be issued ammunition when we took our rifles home (we would have been issued 60 live rounds, normally, to be used in the case of a national emergency). The number of gun-related deaths caused by service weapons (mainly suicides and domestic disputes) was cut in half nearly immediately. Now, it is still legal to own a gun in Switzerland, there are many avid hunters, and many people shoot competitively with their assault rifles (myself included when I lived there), most conscripts even get the chance to purchase their service weapon at the end of the service, but the number of people killed with guns is dramatically lower than in the US (even adjusted for population and weapon density).

    Once again, if the purpose of the second amendment is to give law-abiding citizens and residents the right to defend themselves, assault rifles is not the option. 18 year-olds with no training and access to military-grade weapons is not the answer. Guns left out in the open, loaded and chambered, within reach of children who know no better is not the option.

    If we could take simple measures that still allow citizens to responsibly own guns for the purpose of defending their homes and families, but limit the weapons that make their way into the hands of criminals, children who know no better, or the emotionally unstable, aren’t we bound to try and find them?

    Yes, the main issue is not a gun problem (though we have one), a mental illness problem (though we have one), or a crime problem (though we have one), but a sin problem, and we are called to work with Christ to redeem this broken world. If even a single life could be spared by a tighter regulation, is it not our duty to do something about it?

    The other thing that is mentioned is that people will just find something else (cars were mentioned in the article) to commit these atrocities. True. But it is also a well-known and studied fact that the more obstacles that you put in place, the more people you dissuade from acting (this is a common theme in suicide prevention, crime prevention, addiction relief, etc…). We might not prevent a student from going on a stabbing spree, but at least the intended victims have a chance.

    This is my plea, let us as people who love life from conception to natural death, do as much as we can to prevent any unnatural cause of death. That included regulating how people purchase, own and carry guns (after all, the 2nd amendment calls for such a “well regulated Militia”).

    • Marco

      Dear friend you are in part right, you probably aren’t understanding the reason for the second amendment in our Constitution. It was NOT placed there for hunting nor self defense, it was placed there for the citizens to, if and when the time came, to do the same thing they did against the British. It is there to actually ensure that the people could not and would not be subjected again to tyranny and oppression by a rogue government who would want to subvert the rights and liberties of the citizens. Hence we actually have another document, the Declaration of Independence that clearly states that is is the duty of the citizens to remove, forcibly any such government that would launch insurrection against the people and try to deprive them of their unalienable rights endowed by our Creator and backed up by the US Constitution. Basically the Second Amendment is the Amendment designed to protect all the others. In conclusion the US citizenry has already lost the Second Amendment by allowing the Federal Government to have much more power than it should have. Your argument about the AR-15 is not sustainable for a variety of reasons, One it is NOT an assault rifle. Only the US Armed forces and law enforcement have AUTOMATIC assault rifles. The AR-15 is a high powered 22 caliber rifle which is semiautomatic, It’s nothing more than a hunting rifle made to look like an assault rifle. However, the citizens of the US TODAY could never be able to fend off an all out tyranny by the Government because the citizens are grossly out armed in all ways. Therefore the US Government has practically already disarmed the citizens. The second point is therefore, yes, a hand gun or shot gun are more than sufficient for a person to defend themselves from a home intruder or a common criminal or perhaps even a terrorist but that again was not and is not the sole purpose for the Second Amendment. Just to have a laugh, in the days the Constitution was penned and many years later people had, cannons, yes cannons in their back yards. So, are we going to still insist that hey they only had muskets in those days? The irony is that the citizens and the army had BOTH equal weapons at that time, Is that the actual case today? No it is not! Am I suggesting a person should have a Howitzer in their yard? No! Yet think about it. We are no longer in control of our country and we the people no longer could defend ourselves against a tyrannical and dictatorial rogue government. why? We no longer are equally armed as we once were and should have been. This is was and should be the reason for the Second Amendment, not hunting, not self defense. So now that we have been stripped of the actual power of the Second Amendment we should also give up more of it, such as banning hunting rifles? We are already disarmed and it is not fair anyway that for a few bad apples the many law abiding legal gun owners should lose their right to have an entire category of weapons. Look, let’s use another analogy, driving is not a right it;’s a privilege, why then don’t we ban certain vehicles when they cause deaths because of a few drunk or careless drivers? We would never ban a privilege but now we should ban an entire category of weapons and limit a Constitutional right for every one, even the ones who do nothing wrong? I do not think so! This is why we should have AR-15 actually we should be able to be equally armed but we are not!

    • gladys1071

      I am going to disagree with a few things you have said. You say that we should do as much as possible to prevent unnatural death. The problem with trying to prevent death, is that to do that you would have to take away freedom. The United States is a country that based on individual freedom that is why we have “due process”. The bill of rights is a document about freedom and rights, not a document about guaranteeing anyone’s safety from death.

      I find it sad that people are willing to trade their freedom for a little bit of safety. I love freedom more than life itself. As i remember the founding fathers of this country did too. Their is no guarantee of safety in this world and nobody can insure anyone’s safety from death, that is part of living in a sinful world.

    • ET

      Regarding, “If even a single life could be spared by a tighter regulation, is it not our duty to do something about it?” I hear a lot of people making the same argument to limit other constitutional freedoms including freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Where does this stop? Liberals claim speech they disagree with is hate and incites violence. Thus they want to limit speech in the name of public safety.

      And as I noted in my previous post gun crime in America has dropped dramatically over the last thirty years even as gun ownership has soared and gun restrictions have loosened. That correlation does not prove that guns prevent violence, but it shows that America’s gun culture is not the cause of gun crime. And comparisons to Europe are tricky because data is collected differently and the situation is not identical (A lot of American crime is gang and drug related). I see far more danger in undermining our constitutional freedoms than I see in gun crime, especially since America is safer now than at any time since I was born in 1965.

      There are plenty of things we can do to further reduce gun violence that would not threaten the 2nd amendment, but we have not done; partly because the debate immediately goes to gun laws that incite intense polarization. Then nothing gets done.

    • disqus_MG7XgmMuEx

      Thanks. I think that your comments are an excellent complement to the article, and I appreciate your willingness to post them. My only objections are ‘If even a single life could be spared by a tighter regulation’ and ‘do as much as we can to prevent any unnatural cause of death.’ One of the consequences of tighter regulation is that those who need firearms have a tougher time getting them, and there are cases of persons who were attacked and killed while waiting for approval. Regulations must be balanced as best as possible. Unfortunately, our decadent culture can’t understand balance or compromise. Rights exist in the context of community.

      Nevertheless, I thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts from a pro gun-control perspective. I appreciate your acknowledgement of the deeper cultural issues and I think that it makes your comments complement the article very well.

  • Go back to the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, very rarely did we go thru such violent incidents. There were plenty of guns and plenty of opportunities to use them. So what happened? We have for sure drifted from God in our culture. Ronald Reagan wisely said, “If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

  • Joel Stucki

    Bravo!

  • Bill Knapp

    why is the murder rate – especially the gun related murder rate many times lower in western cultures of the English speaking world – Australia, the UK, Canada, NZ …. ???

    is one of the US “idols” got something to do with worshiping guns ?

    • ET

      “is one of the US “idols” got something to do with worshiping guns?”

      Answer: Probably not.

      1. all crime including gun crimes have dropped dramatically in the US over the last 30 years despite skyrocketing gun ownership and reduced restrictions on guns. This is the opposite
      of what would be expected if gun ownership was the problem. I don’t think Americans ‘worship’ or ‘idolize’ guns any more than they do their other constitutional freedoms of speech, religion,
      etc.

      2. Unlike many other countries, most US violent crime is concentrated in specific sections of a few cities. And a lot of that crime is related to gangs and drug trafficking. I don’t know why violent crime varies so much from country to country. Mexico has far more restrictive gun laws than the US yet more gun violence. Some European countries have low crime while others have high crime. Corruption is very rare in Sweden, but more common in the US. Why are Swedes more honest than Americans? I doubt it is related to 2nd amendment rights. Culture is complex and simplistic ‘answers’ usually make things worse. Example, there are plenty of things we can do to reduce gun violence that would not threaten the 2nd amendment. But immediately attacking gun owners (the vast majority of which are law abiding) only intensely polarizes the situation then nothing gets done.

      Regarding crime concentration see

      https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/09/americas-uneven-crime-spike/541023/

      https://crimesciencejournal.springeropen.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s40163-017-0069-x?site=crimesciencejournal.springeropen.com

  • Frank Hitch

    Great article, especially the reference to John Adams,
    Thanks. I met a state police officer who worked on a team that caught most wanted and remember he said there are bad people in the world so I told him a passage in Ecclesiastes 11; Because a sentence against an evil deed is not executed swiftly therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are fully given to do evil. (If I recall correctly). He asked where that verse is found so I gave him the reference. It seems this verse helps explain how lawlessness can be restrained.
    Frank Hitch