Volume > Issue > The Second Amendment

The Second Amendment


By Sheldon Vanauken | January-February 1991
Sheldon Vanauken is a writer in Virginia and author of the award-winning A Severe Mercy. His Under the Mercy was recently reissued by Ignatius Press, and his novel, Gateway to Heaven, was recently reissued by Richelieu Court.

Apart from drug dealers, bank robbers, and the like, everybody deplores the wanton killing in the streets. But it’s not only pro­fessional crooks; the news is also full of hus­bands shooting the wife of their bosom, and wives shooting their lord and master, and children shooting Mommy or Daddy or both. Because of these horrors — and believing as we do that all problems must be amenable to the “quick fix” — there are periodic outcries for harsh gun controls. While gun control would have little effect on the criminal ele­ment which can always get hold of guns, the disarmament of the citizenry would at least curb the killings in the family circle (butcher knives and strychnine require a bit more nerve and planning). At the same time, though, disarmament would prevent the householder from defending his family against murderous criminals.

If there is anything to be done, apart from forbidding the sale of guns to potential crazies in so far as these are known, it is not easy to say what. With one breath we cry out against handguns and with the next we cry out against assault rifles (automatics) on the other end of the scale. It’s usually (not always) handguns in family killings, and assault rifles in the hands of crazies who want to mow down schoolchildren. But ordinary rifles and shotguns will also suffice. What should we do, if anything? Try to weed out the potential cra­zies and so stamp their drivers’ licenses that must be shown to buy guns? But anybody can crack, it seems. Ban all guns then?

This is a matter that all Christians should think hard about; and few, I believe, do. There is a certain amount of debate in Chris­tian/Catholic circles as to whether the mere possession of nuclear weapons may not be immoral. But there has never been debate that possession of guns by the individual citizen is immoral. The Church maintains that some wars, particularly wars in self-defense, may be just Wars. And most Christians would hold that use of a gun in self-defense or defense of the home would be justified. Banning all guns would not seem to be the way.

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