While there are those who say that trying to control guns, and thus gun violence, is a futile job in America, so wedded to our firearms are we, most of us want some controls over laws that allow assault weapons, concealed carry, open carry, no need for background checks, and so on. I’m one of these. In fact, I’d be happy if America went to the British or Scottish system of gun control—or one even stricter.
But this seems nearly impossible in a country where so many people love their guns, and especially where the courts repeatedly interpret the Second Amendment as allowing people to carry rifles into grocery stores. (The best article I know of describing the misinterpretation of the Second Amendment was one by Garry Wills in the NYRB in 1995 (free online). Here’s Wills’s last paragraph:
The recent effort to find a new meaning for the Second Amendment comes from the failure of appeals to other sources as a warrant for the omnipresence of guns of all types in private hands. Easy access to all these guns is hard to justify in pragmatic terms, as a matter of social policy. Mere common law or statute may yield to common sense and specific cultural needs. That is why the gun advocates appeal, above pragmatism and common sense, to a supposed sacred right enshrined in a document Americans revere. Those advocates love to quote Sanford Levinson, who compares the admitted “social costs” of adhering to gun rights with the social costs of observing the First Amendment.
We have to put up with all kinds of bad talk in the name of free talk. So we must put up with our world-record rates of homicide, suicide, and accidental shootings because, whether we like it or not, the Constitution tells us to. Well, it doesn’t.
Well, it’s been 28 years since that article came out, and gun laws are even laxer and mass shootings are now a weekly occurrence. While I do what I can by way of signing petitions and writing and the like, in today’s America there seems to be no practical way to control guns.
But here comes Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren of the NYT, doing her weekly shtick, which is to say what’s bloody obvious and makes people feel good, while at the same time extolling her Christian faith—and accomplishing nothing. To her credit, she is a staunch advocate of gun control. But her question in the article below (click screenshot to read) is weird: why should Christians do things differently about gun control than anybody else? The answer, I suppose, comes at the end: Christians, following Jesus, are supposed to be peaceful and loving people, and therefore should control guns and the carnage they produce. She fails to give a reason, though, why Christians differ from secular humanists or any empathic people in this respect. She simply quotes the Bible.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Click the screenshot to read:
1.) We need to change American society and the laws.
To reduce gun violence in the United States, we need legal change and we need social change. Both take time. And both demand a level of unity and sustained attention that is unusual in our day. Reducing gun deaths in America will require focus, persistence and cooperation over years and decades from people across a broad swath of political and ideological communities.
It is unlikely that guns will ever be banned in this country, but there are legal steps we can take to ensure responsible gun ownership. We need any and all laws that can make a difference: restrictions on the types of guns that can be sold (such as banning AR-15-style weapons), requirements of licensing, insurance and safety courses for gun ownership (as we do with driver’s licenses and vehicles), universal background checks, red flag laws, storage requirements and stricter age limits for gun ownership. We need to make it harder to get guns, which makes it easier to ensure guns stay in trustworthy hands.
DUH! It’s like nobody ever thought of those things, eh?
2.) The social change requires bipartisan consensus that gun proliferation is bad.
We desperately need unity across the aisle to change the culture around guns. At the very least, given the needless destruction guns are causing each day, reasonable conservatives and progressives can surely agree that we need to approach firearms with sobriety, concern, maturity and restraint. We can all unite against foolishness, recklessness and political posturing when it comes to firearms, stand against the glamorization of guns and denounce any cavalier treatment of them.
Has she ever heard of the Republican Party? Does she have any idea of the schism between those who love guns and those who despise them? What is a “reasonable” conservative when it comes to guns? And if this consensus is so obvious, why hasn’t it happened?
The paragraph above is anodyne, saying what’s completely obvious. Of course you need bipartisan consensus to change the laws! And of course it’s not feasible to create all this change now. (It may be impossible to create hardly any changes in gun laws.)
Finally, it’s Time for Faith:
3.) We need religion to help us get rid of guns. Yes, you heard it right. Of course Warren has to drag Jesus in here as a solution.
Furthermore, to achieve the social and cultural changes necessary to reduce gun violence, we need individuals and communities of faith — not just progressive people of faith, but all people of faith — to stand against the idolatry of guns in America.
Why not “all people” instead of “all people of faith”? Does she realize that Christians are among the most avid gun nuts in America? Is she somehow evoking the Bible and seeing that people worship guns as they used to worship golden calves, and that we need to see that those who worship God should be the most eager to abandon gun “idolatry”? She manages to note that black churches have “led the way in a fight against gun violence,” though I’m not sure it’s true—her evidence is anecdotal. But I’m prepared to believe her given that blacks are by far disproportional victims of gun violence in America.
In the end, amongst the homilies and bromides, Warren seems to be saying that Christians should be leading the fight for gun control because the Bible tells Christians to be peaceful and loving, and if you’re like that, you don’t want guns:
As a priest and as a Christian, I have long believed that Christians are called to love our neighbors and seek, in the words of the biblical book of Isaiah, the “welfare of the city.” To do so, we must understand our context, our culture and the needs of our particular time and place. What does it mean to be peacemakers, to love our neighbors and to affirm the value of human life in this moment? The unavoidable conclusion is that we in America’s churches can no longer claim to worship the “prince of peace” while tolerating the preventable obliteration of America’s children.
I guess it meant something different to be a peacemaker back in the days of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the extirpation of Central Americans. And the Bible is hardly a textbook of neighborly love and peace. The Old Testament repeatedly describes the God-approved decimation of entire tribes, not to mention the killing of individuals for making fun of bald men, and so on. Re the New Testament, in Matthew 10:34-36, the Prince of Peace says this:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
Now liberal Christians interpret this, maybe correctly, as saying that Jesus realized his message would divide people. But it certainly doesn’t paint the Prince of Peace as someone keen to reach across the aisle. In truth, Warren is doing what liberal Christians always do: insert their secular values into the Bible and then pretend that they came from the Bible. You don’t have to be religious to favor gun control.
Why do they pay this woman good money to churn out this pap every Sunday. Do they think her words are profound? Worse, does she think her words are profound? This stuff would never get by in a regular op-ed column, which would be spiked on the grounds of EXTREME TRITENESS.