Guns and Peace BuildingSymposium (2020)
When mass murder by a gunman occurs at a school, concert, church, or night club, everyone agrees it is horrific and tragic. A debate ensues when one presses for a particular solution to such gun violence. One view says we need more stringent gun legislation which would restrict gun access and availability. Another view says more gun restrictions aren’t the answer to gun violence since these would invariably and unjustly restrict the moral and legal rights of law-abiding citizens. Both views agree that living human beings are valuable and have a right to protect their lives and well-being, but they disagree about how far that right should extend.
Mike Austin’s engaging book God and Guns in America fills a gap in this debate by showing how theism adds both clarity and complexity to the debate. Christianity holds that God has made human beings with immeasurable worth, and this provides the clear basis for their respect-worthiness as well as their right to life and well-being. This means no human being may be treated as a mere means to someone else’s ends; each person must be treated as an entity with special, unique, and irreplaceably value. Human worth, then, is the basis for the right to life and well-being, and by extension, a right to protect or defend it (21–31). Determining whether guns are a justified form of protection is complex, because theological evidence must be weighed along with philosophical, empirical, and legal evidence.
Some Christians hold that Scripture permits human beings to defend their lives with the use of force. According to this justified violence view, the offender forfeits his right to life when he threatens yours, so you are justified to use a gun to harm the offender in self-defense (69–71). The state, for their part, should promote and safeguard your right to life and defensive gun use. Christian pacifists, however, think Scripture provides weighty evidence against using force to defend our lives. Since human life is of immeasurable worth and irreplaceable, we should use nonviolent means to protect ourselves and our families. While such means might lead to your death, Jesus’ message and example teach self-sacrifice (66–68). As such, we have no right to defend ourselves or our dependents using firearms, so the state should remove gun access.
Citation InformationGregory L Bock. "Guns and Peace Building" Symposium (2020)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/gregory-bock/19/