I remember when I was a teenager. I would walk all through the woods behind my great-grandmothers house. It was a few miles outside of Gainesville and there weren’t many neighbors. I would walk all through the woods with my 22 caliber rifle taking pot shots at various inanimate objects. Sometimes I would walk out into the open field with a row of trees that bordered it and shoot egrets. Egrets are birds that offer very little benefit. I remember that they would cover the trees so much that they would actually kill them. So, no one minded when I took a 12 gage shotgun and used them for target practice.
So, what is all this about? There has been a lot of discussion about guns and gun laws as of late. Not to long ago the Supreme Court struck down the nations capital’s ban on guns saying that it violated the 2nd amendments provision that Americans have the right to bear arms. Today, at work, I overheard someone say that they thought it was absolutely right for the ban to be lifted because the right to own a gun is a basic human right. What!?! Wait?!? Stop for a second!!! Did he really say “basic human right?” Yes, he did and this has got me thinking. Just a few points.
First, my views on this issue are not completely settled yet, and while I probably would not agree that they should be banned outright, I can not see how owning a gun is a “basic human right” in the sense of shelter, food, respect, etc. But I read an article in the paper where more than one gun rights advocates organization called gun ownership such. So, what, when babies are born should we issue them a gun?
Second, the fact that the argument on this issue seems to be coming from the extremes frustrates me. There are the folks on one side that call gun ownership a “basic human” right. Many of these folks feel that we should be allowed to own more than just a 22 caliber rifle. Check out this story from CNN and notice the picture. These guys are holding flags with assault rifles. Now, why does the average person need to own an assault rifle? And then there are those who think we should just ban all guns whatsoever. But those that say that say that this does little to keep guns out of the hands of criminals I think make a good point.
Third, I feel fine with limited gun ownership and requiring people to have to undergo a background check and to have a permit before they can have a gun. And though I am comfortable with guns personally we do not have any guns in our house. My wife C.C. is just not comfortable with them so we don’t have any. And to be honest, I don’t feel like we are missing much. But living in Abilene does have me kind of scared. This is hunting country so guns are BIG deal to a lot of people and a significant amount feel that persons should be able to have a gun with very little (if any) government interference. But a poll in the Abilene paper revealed that of those who participated 69% feel that persons should be able to openly carry a handgun. Now, I realize that it was a small poll but still, almost 70% is significant. I don’t know, does this bring images of the old west to mind? Are we going to have duels in the parking lot of Wal-Mart? Honestly, it scares me to think that the person next to me in the line at the grocery store is packing heat, be it concealed or out in the open. I mean, I don’t know there knowledge of gun safety and I don’t know there state of mind.
Fourth, I have to confess that I have a lot of Anabaptist in me theologically. What this means is that I tend to gravitate towards pacifism but I have to admit I am probably not consistent. I think we need to be honest. Guns are made to kill things – be it animals or people. That is what they are for. Yes, I know they can be used safely for recreation. I was a Boy Scout and we did a lot of target shooting and gun safety classes. I do enjoy skeet shooting. But this is a side use for guns. Primarily they are for killing things. One of the biggest arguments for gun ownership is personal protection of property and person. Be warned if you live in Texas and you come on someone’s property to rob them. You may get shot and it won’t be illegal. So, under what circumstances would I shoot someone else (that is, if I had a gun)? I honestly would probably shoot to defend my wife and/or daughter if the situation called for it (here is where I am an inconsistent pacifist), but even here I am uneasy. I have heard of people who keep a handgun under the bed for protection. But my thought here is what if I miss the criminal and the bullet ends up going through a wall and hitting a loved one? Do we really need people popping off rounds at night in the dark in a possibly adrenaline dosed situation? Does this make us safer? (But all of this is kind of moot since we don’t have a gun). My plea is this: if you insist on having a gun take a class or something. Know the gun, use it safely, and KEEP IT AWAY FROM THE KIDS! PLEASE! And please don’t get caught up in so much of the culture that worships guns.
Finally, a historical note. It seems to me that the 2nd amendment was written during a time when 1) the need to form a militia for various reasons was a reality and 2) they had not seen the proliferation of guns that we have seen today. They did not have to worry about semi-automatic assault rifles back then. So, it amazes me when some try to use a literal reading of the second amendment to say they should be able to own one. If we want to be literal about it then it seems the most we should legalize is the trusty flint lock rifle. My point here is that the second amendment was written in a certain historical circumstance and that we need to exercise a little common sense today. While banning guns outright may not be the answer, it seems reasonable to me to require a license, a permit, a background check, a waiting period, and maybe even a psychological evaluation and safety classes before one can own one. In other words, I don’t think it a basic human right.