“Those that proclaim themselves to be the sole measure of realities and of truth cannot live peacefully in society with their fellow [wo]men and cooperate with them.” –Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
Each of us, man and woman, young and old, of all races, nationalities, religions, and abilities, is meant to exercise stewardship over what God has given us. The exercise of good stewardship requires that we make sound moral decisions. I believe that declining the right to bear arms is a sound moral decision that each of us should make and then we must act. Like faith, moral decisions without works are dead, and we have enough death all around us. From the time I went to bed last night until I turned on the news this morning 5 more people had been shot in St. Louis; five more victims of gun violence.
I have never owned a firearm though I grew up around firearms of various kinds. Everything from a Derringer my mother carried in her purse to the gun my father brought home from WWII. There were guns in every room of the house and a reloading station in the basement. I knew how to use them all and how to load my own rounds. I learned to shoot a gun at a young age and then learned about guns in greater detail at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy. My father, who was a NRA member, never understood why I was opposed to guns. After the murder of my twin brother, we rarely discussed guns or my belief about the dangers they pose and the implicit responsibility we must accept for violence involving their use if we choose to own one or many.
I frequently wonder if we give enough thought to what it means to make a moral decision. I worry that we are so stuck in ideology and bound with fear that we cannot find the peace necessary for rational contemplation of the very serious issue of gun violence and violence in our culture. Whether one agrees with my stance or not I invite you to walk through the six-steps in considering the morality of gun ownership. Fill in your own blanks and take the time to contemplate what you learn.
Six-Steps in Considering the Morality of Gun Ownership
- Gather the information on injuries and deaths related to firearms.
People will give various reasons for wanting a gun. They list the least benign as a desire to kill Bambi or Thumper. Some genuinely claim a need to defend self or family. The only group I would consider paranoid is those that fear the government. Whatever the stated reason one must consider whether the purchase of the gun to achieve the end is morally right? Do the circumstances (living in a dangerous neighborhood, traveling alone in an unsafe neighborhood, going to school) affect the act? The more I deliberated the more I reflected on Matthew 5:21-26:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
- I identified the ethical problem. The ethical dilemma was between the individual rights or good versus that of the community.
It is certainly true that guns are sometimes used for self-defense. This year there have been 922 times guns have been used for defensive purposes. Of course, that pales when compared to 40,387 gun incidents in the same time period. Is the fear one person has for his or her safety more important than the safety of those around who are by all evidence at greater risk due to the presence of the gun? We are one of the nations with the greatest number of guns per capita and we are one of the nations with the greatest gun violence. People can cite urban vs. rural, and this city or that, but in the end we are one nation.
- What approaches can I use to analyze the problem?
I first approached the problem from a veil of ignorance, which is to say if I were the person who was the least powerful and the most vulnerable what would I want? I concluded that while I wanted to live and be safe. For that to happen it would be best for no one to have a gun. I also wanted all those around me to live and be safe. The risk to others from a gun in the house was greater than the risk to others and me without one.
I then took another approach using an adaptation of the Crisis Conceptual Nursing Model, which is a mechanism I’ve used to assess disaster risk and planning within nursing. When considered within a framework it is easier to see that there are actions that can be taken, provided the public or individual has the will to do so, to keep oneself safer.
- After gathering the information, determining the moral dilemma, and using a framework to logically examine the problem it was time to make a judgment to determine which means are best under the current circumstances.
There really are only a few practical alternatives: 1) accept the status quo, 2) actively advocate for a rational change in gun laws, and 3) decline the right to bear arms and encourage others to do the same. I do not see repealing the 2nd Amendment as a practical alternative and thus it is not included. The 2nd Amendment is too engrained in the culture, has too big of a lobby supporting it, and would not be supported by the majority.
Once I made the decision to decline the right to bear arms it was time to act. A moral decision occurs when the intellect and the will come together, but without action serves little purpose. First, I am acting for myself in pledging never to own a gun. I decline the right to bear arms. Second, like many other pledges people may take I will develop a pledge to share. Third, one day soon I hope to invite others to join me in taking action.
- Evaluate the process and outcomes
The final step is always to determine if the choice and the action was effective. Only time will tell.
I pledge that I will never own a firearm of any kind. My heart will be guided by love and there will be no door opened for fear. When that door of fear is cracked it lets in evil and blots out reason. Not just the reason that comes from a well-developed human conscience, but the reason imparted through faith. When fear enters evil works to darken our souls to the inherent value of all life. That evil convinces us that property is of such great value that we can ignore the commandment not to kill and choose things over people. Fear causes us to listen to evil telling us that there are good guys with guns and that no harm will come from this instrument of death. Arm yourself with reason and faith and there will be no need for a gun.