Opinion: Gun control and the right to self-defense in a Culture of Death
Those in favor of gun control are right about one thing: there is no excuse for inaction. But they are wrongheaded in acting toward stricter but ultimately futile regulations.
As the nation continues to mourn the victims of the Uvalde massacre, and with old wounds aching over the sentencing of the Parkland shooter and the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist trial, Catholics should be the ones who offer answers when it comes to gun violence.
Some legislators want to focus on gun ownership and gun control. But the remedy won’t be found there. Rather, the remedy is spiritual. The nation must realize that saving lives begins with returning sanctity to life in all its stages. And sometimes, as counterintuitive as it may seem to say so, it might, at times, actually take a gun to do that.
A common response to the continual tragedy of school shootings in the United States is to assert that if there are no guns, there will be no shootings. But this perspective is both impractical and misguided. Christians are still called to defend the lives of the helpless—and sometimes an opposing firearm is the best tool to accomplish that. To a virtuous person, the Second Amendment bestows the real potential to be a lifesaver. In these dark days, exercising the right to keep and bear arms may even be considered a responsibility where it is permissible.
As the Left makes arguments that gun control is about saving lives, Pope Francis and the American bishops have taken this tack as well. Though the USCCB’s emphasis is certainly on sensible measures (such as reasonable background checks), the push to have Congress tighten the legislation around the buying and selling of firearms ever since Columbine seems a little too in lockstep with the liberal sectors of government—such as their support for banning assault-style weapons and limiting handgun ownership.
In the wake of Uvalde, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago was particularly direct:
The Second Amendment, unlike the Second Commandment, did not come down from Sinai. There is an understanding that we all have in our hearts, engraved in our hearts, a natural law about the value of human life. And there is no amendment that can trump that.
His Eminence is both right and wrong. Yes, the right to bear arms is not a sacred right, as is the right to life. But there is an often-neglected angle of argument concerning that truth that responsible citizens bearing arms can save lives, and at certain times and situations, it does take an amendment to protect the lives that Cardinal Cupich affirms is a duty of natural law.
But, in fact, the criminals and even the criminally insane will often get their hands on firearms. Severe legislative restrictions, however, will keep many honest citizens unarmed, and that can lead to more unnecessary deaths as well. The bishops might say that being anti-gun is being pro-life, but allowing for the increasingly common scenario where the strong will take evil advantage over the weak is not pro-life at all.