The following two articles were featured together in the February 11, 2015, edition of the Orange County Catholic, published by the Diocese of Orange in California, in a spread which at first glance appears to be a balanced look at the pros and cons of gun ownership, asking:
WHAT SHOULD CATHOLICS THINK ABOUT GUN CONTROL?
[Great, a Pro/Con analysis…right??]
The language in brackets was added by me, and as you will see I added bracketed comments after each and every paragraph of the articles, reproduced below. The feature was insulting to both Catholic laity and priests who carry guns.
As a Catholic I hesitate to complain, but we have a responsibility to speak out when our leaders stray from the Magisterium—especially when they urge families to forego life-saving self-defense in such a misleading manner.
Article 1 of 2: PROTECTING THE INNOCENTS WHILE RESPECTING FREEDOM
[Title of this article sounds innocuous enough, almost like it could be pro-gun…but wait!]
By Liz Quirin, editor of The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.
The constantly quoted “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is being shouted across the United States in one way or another. People line up on both sides of gun issues, some packing firepower and marching to state capitols to voice their opinions about their Second Amendment rights.
[Reality check: It is extremely rare for gun owners to voice their opinions by “packing firepower and marching to state capitols.” We have Facebook, like other people. Yet recently, an extremely unconstitutional and unworkable new “background check” law that prohibits, for example, hunters from handing guns to friends, and instructors from handing guns to students (see here and here), compelled over 1000 gun-owning Washingtonians to gather at their state capitol in what turned out to be the largest felony civil disobedience rally in our nation’s history. The author unfairly uses this rare example of demonstration to ridicule all gun owners as disloyal (an Alinsky tactic straight out of “Rules for Radicals“). “Tea party” demonstrations filled with gun owners are known to be more friendly and orderly than leftist progressive socialist rallies, at least if you count things like murder, rape and defecation on police cars.]
And while good people who love their guns are marching, others who use them to harm their families, their neighbors and others continue to raise the death toll in this country day by day.
[Again, the only “marching” I see is not among my fellow gun owners but among the relentless propagandists trying to disarm families. And what is this “love their guns” nonsense? Yes, we can like certain guns as hobbyists and there are collector-types out there that have no interest in self-defense or even the Second Amendment; however, the vast majority of gun enthusiasts are in love rather with the freedom and family that guns protect. As the Supreme Court recognized, the self-defense weapon of choice for Americans is the handgun and from a physical idolatry standpoint there is not a lot to love about handguns. They are small and extremely underpowered compared to long guns, and one of the most popular designs—the Glock—is downright ugly! Yet we love what Glocks can do—save our families—and Glocks do it as well or better than other designs. This paragraph also mentions harm from violent use of guns but fails to mention any benefit from defensive use of guns. Even the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under Obama recognizes “almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year.” In fact, most of the estimates are well over a million per year. The most well-known is the Kleck study. (See html and pdf versions; a critique; and an article by Kleck discussing the study.) Moreover, cops are (1) less law-abiding than private armed citizens, and (2) more likely than private armed citizens to shoot innocent bystanders. As for the latter phenomenon, part of the reason is the nature of the job—cops are called in to unfamiliar situations during an emergency and must evaluate the situation quickly despite not knowing all the facts, whereas private armed citizens usually act in full knowledge of the facts. However another, perhaps more significant factor is lack of training. Contrary to the image Hollywood portrays, police officers tend to get substandard firearm training and not practice as much as private armed citizens (including even criminals, whose hit ratios far exceed that of cops). The unfortunate reality for us bystanders, coast to coast—from the NINE innocent bystanders shot recently by NYPD rookies engaging a single suspect less than ten feet away, to the two innocent women wounded recently when eight LAPD officers fired 103 rounds at them along with seven nearby homes and nine parked cars—is that we are all far safer if private armed citizens are allowed to shoot back instead of having to wait for the storm troopers to arrive.]
The gun-control and the gun-rights proponents have been battling it out for years, and those who want to restrict the sale and use of firearms, by and large, have made no headway on any front in that argument. Even after the wholesale murder of children in Connecticut, when people thought they had a good chance of passing legislation to limit sales and access to guns, no federal legislation was passed.
[OK so far, but wait…]
What is the matter with a people that can’t or won’t see the relationship between gun violence and the accessibility of weapons, specifically guns. We don’t need WMD — weapons of mass destruction — because we’re quite capable of annihilating each other — one person, family, neighborhood or community at a time — and usually with more than one gun.
[This paragraph is just bizarre—where has there been a “neighborhood or community” annihilated? Yes, bad people will kill individuals, whole families, and (rarely) even more people in a mass attack with several guns, but why “can’t or won’t” this author see the much more significant relationship between guns and self-defense?]
And yes, it isn’t the gun but the person wielding it that is wreaking havoc, and often those people have emotional or mental issues. Consider those who suffer from mental instability and find ways to procure guns and destroy families and communities.
[OK, it’s obvious this author, while trying to sound very balanced and reasonable, is heading into the murky water of background checks, but note the hyperbole again: crazy gun owners “…destroy families and communities.” Mass attacks are rare and often stopped by a private citizen before they become mass attacks. After shooting as many as he can take with him, the mass shooter typically commits suicide; where confronted before or during the attack, such a shooter is stopped by a police officer 25% of the time, by an armed private citizen 25% of the time, and by an UNARMED private citizen 50% of the time. Looked at another way, shooting rampage deaths are much lower on average (2.3 deaths) when stopped by a private armed citizen rather than the police (14.3 deaths). Again, the solution is not restricting guns but encouraging their use in self-defense.]
If citizens who are truly concerned about life issues as well as their rights to carry arms would think about the need to find ways to recognize and assist people who are unstable or have a history of mental illness, something can be done.
[Unstable, mentally ill people are always a concern for gun owners. We know there is potential criminal and civil liability if we provide a firearm to the wrong person, though the mass shootings which come to mind are extremely rare. The way to find these people is to encourage training and open carry (not legal anymore in California), not to ghetto-ize gun owners, pretend guns are not there when concealed, or shun the gun as a topic for discussion. Neighbors need to be accountable to each other for carrying responsibly and safely. Concealed carry is an important option at times, tactically, but open carry is ultrasound for the Second Amendment and is the only long-term solution for widespread deterrence, education, and accountability. Fears about open carry may be assuaged upon reviewing the many types of retention holsters available. Yes, we need to try to keep unstable people from harming others, but in ways that actually work—not at the expense of self-defense against private violence, including mass shootings, and not in ways that encourage the public crimes of terror and genocide.]
Unfortunately, I doubt this will happen. We are more reactive than proactive in these cases. Families often know when relatives need help, but that help seems elusive or unattainable until tragedy strikes.
[The Left, including apparently this author, wants you to be afraid of gun owners within your family. They often repeat a false statistic that half of all homicides occur within the family. In fact, only about 10% of homicides occur within the family. A free society requires strong families and we only get there with personal responsibility. If you are in a dangerous situation, it is up to you to get yourself and the kids out of that situation.]
Maybe Catholics of goodwill and open minds could take up discussions at their parish centers over coffee and doughnuts after being reminded that we are all Gospel people, that we need to keep that in mind before we strap on our guns or hoist them over our shoulders to march to state capitols to demand our rights, to stop gun control advocates from establishing parameters for ownership or at least strengthening the rules for background checks before handing over a lethal weapon to anyone.
[Ahh here we are, the thesis of the article: GOOD CATHOLICS MUST ADVOCATE BACKGROUND CHECKS (and “parameters for ownership”) when they meet at the parish hall for donuts and coffee. What a pompous lecture this paragraph is, and very closed minded! Apparently, “Catholics of goodwill and open minds” (after being reminded we are all Gospel people, so no strapping on guns and certainly no marching!) must of necessity welcome gun control, at least in the form of “background checks before handing over a lethal weapon to anyone” (the crazy, extreme type passed in Washington that interferes with gun safety instruction). This author supposes that good Catholics will ignore Congressional testimony that universal background checks will lead to universal gun registration, and when that fails, gun confiscation—because of course, criminals do not register guns any more than they suffer the inconvenience of background checks. Europe’s strict gun control, including strict background checks, is a miserable failure—so much that it convinced terrorists to switch back to guns! Good Catholics might more profitably discuss this fact: more Americans die every year from auto-erotic asphyxiation than die from so-called “assault rifles”.]
Families of nine students and adults killed at the elementary school in Connecticut, along with one survivor, filed a lawsuit to hold the Bushmaster AR-15 gun manufacturer liable because that was one of the guns used for the massacre at the school.
[A cop once told me, “Guns are dangerous—and that’s a good thing.” Should Bushmaster make guns that are not dangerous? Knives are used to kill people five times as often as rifles; indeed as I write this, ISIS beheads twenty-one Christians (presumably with something long and sharp). Speaking of ISIS, law enforcement is now recognizing the importance of an armed citizenry in the global fight against terror. After the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, the head of Interpol, Secretary General Ronald Noble, had this to say: “People are quick to say ‘gun control, people shouldn’t be armed,’ etc., etc. I think they have to ask themselves: ‘Where would you have wanted to be? In a city where there was gun control and no citizens armed if you’re in a Westgate mall, or in a place like Denver or Texas?'”]
While their success or failure rests with the court, it seems that someone ought to be held responsible for the tremendous losses these families have suffered. Many thought gun legislation would be passed because of the heinous nature of the crime, but it failed. It begs the question: What do we have to do to stop the killings if our lawmakers refuse to act?
[Feinstein’s legislative response to Newtown (another ban on so-called “assault weapons”) failed because it would have done nothing to prevent another Newtown. The only question-begging here is the implicit assumption by this author that guns have nothing to do with self-defense. The only economic and effective way to stop the killings is to abolish the so-called “gun-free” zones, respect life and allow proper response by a people trained to bearing arms.]
We need to begin conversations, establish relationships with people of many different views. If we only speak with people who agree with us, we won’t have a chance. To change attitudes and points of view, we have to open ourselves up to others. If we’re unwilling to listen to another side of an issue, we can’t expect anyone to listen to us.
[Sounds good, but all of the censorship seems to come from the gun-grabbing propagandists, especially in bureaucratic organizations. Gun training and other discussion of guns is discouraged, ridiculed, even prohibited outright. In order to get past the propaganda brainwashing so many people, one must get serious firearm training and practice the fundamentals. Only then does the possibility of self-defense seem real, “opening” people to the possibility of defending themselves.]
After the marching has stopped and the slogans have faded, we must take the next step, reach out to others in faith and try to get to the heart of the matter: saving lives and protecting the innocents while respecting the freedoms of every person.
[More marching…the slogans of the Left never cease. Yes, the “heart of the matter” is “saving lives” but this author totally ignores self-defense! The Left refuses to admit innocents are protected when freedom is respected. The Left wants to control people, so keep that in mind when they talk about freedom. Gun control is people control and nothing more, because criminals and crazies do not follow the rules and the Left only enforces them against the law-abiding. Often, these regulators do not even understand what it is they are regulating. The government they worship keeps demanding passage of more and more laws that never work, in order to fix previous laws that never worked. They sacrifice freedom to this government with no less abandon than they sacrifice infants to Baal, but the system never works because it is based on lies, not truth.]
Article 2 of 2: IN GLOCK WE TRUST? THE QUESTION OF GUNS AND GOD
[This title is too obvious. Without even reading, we already know it is going to be anti-gun, accusing gun owners of idolatry. But of course, one of the articles had to have an obviously anti-gun title for the feature to look like a fair and balanced Pro/Con analysis.]
By Tom Sheridan, former editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and a deacon ordained for the Diocese of Joliet, Ill. He writes from Ocala, Fla.
It’s Sunday. Time for church. Do I pack a prayer book or a pistol?
[“OR”?? First Amendment “OR” Second Amendment?]
For some American churchgoers, the question is a real one. And, sadly, the answer can be “both.”
[“Sadly” the bias apparent in the title is already confirmed.]
In St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church in suburban Atlanta, for instance, local Massgoers are required by Kennesaw town law to own a firearm. But last May, Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory banned guns from church-owned property, citing the unnecessary danger of bringing firearms into “places frequented by children and the vulnerable.”
[Kennesaw’s law does not require carry; it only requires each head of household to “maintain a firearm” (and even there it has giant loopholes), so that law is irrelevant to the actual carry of a firearm to Church. Archbishop Gregory’s ban is irrelevant to the criminals and crazies who will ignore his ban; it will be relevant only to those injured and killed because they or their parents respected his ban.]
Kennesaw has had the mandatory firearm ownership law on its books since 1982. Though rarely enforced and reportedly often ignored, supporters applaud the law and maintain it has reduced the community’s crime rate. Nor is Kennesaw alone. Numerous cities and towns across the U.S. have similar laws or are considering them.
[This paragraph is misleading. Only a few small towns have passed a law like Kennesaw’s requiring gun ownership. Gun ownership has been expanding nicely without such laws, thanks to the rapid spread of right-to-carry legislation over the last several decades. Concealed carry was allowed in only a couple of states as recently as the eighties, but now is allowed in all 50 states. Conditions vary, but the vast majority of states make it very easy to obtain a permit—and the more recent trend is passage of “constitutional carry” which allows residents to carry either openly or concealed as they wish, without the need for a permit. A Californian can easily get a permit to carry concealed in over 30 states outside California by taking the free class I offer locally.]
Guns and religion have never before faced such a dichotomy. Probably because the question of the place of guns in society has never been as prevalent as it has become in 21st-century America.
[Dichotomy? Our Catholic Catechism supports self-defense as a right and at times, as a grave duty to protect those we are responsible to protect. The claim that guns are more prevalent now than ever is totally without support: guns have always been a fundamental and defining aspect of American culture. (The book I link to in the preceding sentence was a response to another book by a historian who falsely claimed that guns were only recently popular in America; that historian was forced to resign his position at Emory and Columbia revoked the Bancroft Prize it awarded for his false research.)]
True, America has never lacked for firearms. We are a nation of sportspeople. And in generations past guns were often a staple in homes, especially in rural areas where hunting was a necessity and the protections of civilization distant. The tradition of household armories lessened as populations grew and local governments provided organized law enforcement.
[Nation of sportspeople?! The Second Amendment has nothing to do with sports or hunting. The Second Amendment guarantees all of our other rights and is implicit in the American concept of ordered liberty. Urbanization and militarization of police, far from obviating the need for the Second Amendment, has actually increased interest in firearms for defense against criminals, public and private.]
But over the past 30 years or so, rising crime, occasional civil disturbances and an often fear-mongering rhetoric over the constitutional right to bear arms have helped send gun sales in the U.S. to record heights. There are more than 300 million guns in the U.S.
[Nonsense! Violent crime has dropped precipitously over the last several decades, at least in part due to the spread of concealed carry laws. The fear-mongering was from those who repeatedly warned of “blood in the streets” as concealed carry spread to all 50 states. Repeated attempts by them to ban guns and otherwise increase government control may have something to do with the increase in gun ownership, but it is more a case of Americans falling in love with target shooting and the ability to defend themselves and their families, as taught in our Catechism. Despite a poor economy between 2009 and 2012, US target shooters increased 19% (from 34.4 million to 40.8 million). Gun owners are not afraid of firearms because they are trained to use and store them safely.]
Gun-rights advocates press for universal acceptance of weapons, whether needed or not for protection or sports. Open-carry supporters parade through restaurants brandishing military-style rifles and other firearms.
[Universal acceptance is necessary because the Supreme Court recently ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, unconnected with service in a militia, to possess a firearm for self-defense; and the Court acknowledged that “the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon.” Free speech is also guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and the open carry demonstrations are more an example of applying the First Amendment (which also protects churches, by the way). Brandishing has a very specific legal meaning, requiring a threat of some sort. A holstered or slung weapon is not a threat to anyone.]
It’s often in Glock we trust, not God. Indeed, some people of faith back such actions, claiming it is the will of God to carry weapons to protect against oppression.
[There it is finally: the accusation of idolatry. In truth, it is the anti-gun Left that ascribes talismanic powers to guns, imagining them capable of breaking out of a locked safe or firm retention holster to cause all sorts of havoc; or worse, idolizes government to the point of even lying about the guns that enable an appeal to heaven and force government to honor God and families. People who train with and carry a gun recognize it is just a tool for the purpose of defending themselves and their families, as taught in our Catechism and in keeping with Scripture, Old and New.]
But hardly all.
[Actually, in DC v Heller, the recent Supreme Court case holding that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, ALL five Catholic justices voted with the majority. The four dissenting justices were all non-Catholics, either Jewish or Protestant. Indeed, U.S. Const. Am. II has been referred to as “The Catholic Second Amendment” due to its history traceable to development of Catholic thought on the morality of tyrannicide.]
Archbishop Gregory’s statement followed passage of a Georgia law that allowed weapons to be carried almost anywhere, even in church — unless places of worship disallowed it. In his archdiocesan publication, Archbishop Gregory decried the new legislation, warning of a “Wild West” mentality that could bring shootouts in bars.
[Archbishop Gregory needs to watch less TV and read up on the actual history of the Western United States. He would learn that Western towns and cities had more guns and less crime than Eastern cities. Tombstone, AZ, was one of the few Western towns with gun control.]
The archbishop was joined in banning guns in church by Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Savannah.
[Another Diocese that might be attractive to a mass shooter bent on taking as many lives as possible.]
The decree echoes concerns by Catholic bishops over America’s growing gun culture. In 2013, following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offered testimony to a U.S. Senate committee on ways to reduce gun violence and promote the dignity of life.
[The Senate promptly rejected that worthless testimony, as should we. When will the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops testify in favor of the right of self-defense, without which the right to life is meaningless? It is the gun culture that provides the bedrock of freedom for the Church to flourish in this country as it languishes in Europe.]
The testimony stated, “Simply put, guns are too easily accessible.” It reasserted the bishops’ support of proposals that would require universal background checks for all gun purchases; limit civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines; make gun trafficking a federal crime; and improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence.
[“Simply put” it is obvious to any fool that reducing access to guns will reduce death and injury caused by guns. But as Catholics, we are not fools! We have a long history of self-defense, from the Crusades to the American Revolution. We know that defensive force is not to be used where pointless (Jesus ordering Peter to stand down in the Garden of Gethsemane) or unjustified (“turning the other cheek” in case of insult), but is at times necessary and efficient to protect life and liberty (Jesus instructing disciples to sell their cloak and buy a sword). We know that the universal background checks urged on by the bishops are merely a step toward universal gun registry and eventual gun confiscation (see links above under first article). As for limiting so-called “high capacity” magazines, see my opposition to such a measure before the LA City Council.]
The bishops — individually and as a body — have spoken often about how our growing weapons availability is counterproductive to efforts to create a society that respects justice and protects life. So, too, have various Catholic organizations, groups and individual parishes.
[Translation: The right to life be damned—this individual right to bear arms and the empowerment it brings to the individual and to the family makes it more difficult for us to achieve our plans for a socialist utopia. Our god, Government, feeds off the people’s fear, and a people trained to arms is not a fearful people.]
Archbishop Gregory’s statement offered a courageous response to a culture that glorifies — and in some cases even deifies — weapons:
“Rather than making guns more available as a solution, we need leaders in government and society who will speak against violence in all aspects of life and who teach ways of reconciliation and peace and who make justice, not vengeance, our goal.”
[Let’s see if the Archbishop has the courage to preach that in Ukraine, now being invaded by Russia. Do you think instead Ukrainians might prefer that Russian generals receive letters from the front complaining how Ukrainians were taught from an early age how to shoot—much as British generals, several hundred years ago, heard their officers complain that Americans were taught from an early age how to shoot? (Some even fought British at an early age, and to this day many American children (even pre-teens) use guns to defend themselves and their families.) Would Russia have ever invaded, if that were the case? Would Ukrainians have ever succumbed to brainwashing about being little Slavic brothers of the same Russians that killed millions of them during Holodomor? Would Holodomor have ever happened at all? The Archbishop speaks of vengeance, yet this is a foreign concept to trained shooters. Major firearm schools teach “Shoot to Stop” (in accordance with the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas), never “Shoot to Kill” and vengeance plays no part in the training.]
Leave the gun home; pray for peace, not more ammo.
[No, the Catholic response is to pray for peace but then protect your family and train others to do the same. Training with guns is sacramental, in the broad yet Catholic sense of effecting sanctity and grace. It helps you keep top of mind the right to life—and the defense of it. A federal study found that early firearm training within the family (normal families, not families of delinquents) is linked with increased responsibility and initiative, and lower rates of delinquency. Our first Secretary of War, Henry Knox, recognized that the militia ethic was important in building the character of the people, not merely for balance of power. Thomas Jefferson thought young people should carry a gun always—at least his fifteen year old nephew, whom he advised: “A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walk.” If you are going to carry a gun for self-defense, then you should dry practice daily. At major gun schools you will learn that daily dry practice is important (even more than live fire) for shooting straight, just as daily communion is important for living straight. Keep in mind the admonition in 1 Corinthians 11:29 about taking Communion in the wrong frame of mind—carrying a gun in the wrong frame of mind, without daily practicing defensive combat mindset, can also have disastrous consequences. We are an American breed of sheep (in America, the sheep shoot back) and we need guidance from our pastors on proper use of force. Ignoring the issue of self-defense and ceding the field to talk show hosts who preach “Shoot to Kill” protects neither the flock nor the individuals within it. Rigid policy against this civil and natural right exacts a huge cost on Catholics both in terms of money (example from me alone: tens of thousands of dollars—very possibly over $100,000—thrown away when my daughter’s school rejected for live auction my donation of Front Sight training memberships), and in terms of actual lives lost and injuries sustained (federal studies show that armed victims fare better than unarmed victims).]