Matt C. Abbott
January 17, 2013
Catholics and gun ownership
By Matt C. Abbott

Given that the issue of gun ownership and "gun control" is permeating the news, I'm devoting this particular column to Catholic moral teaching and gun ownership. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nothing is per se mentioned about private gun ownership.

So where does that leave us?

First, the bishops. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – more specifically, the chairmen of three committees of the USCCB – issued a statement on Dec. 21, 2012 in which they said (excerpted; click here to read the statement in its entirety):
    With regard to the regulation of fire arms, first, the intent to protect one's loved ones is an honorable one, but simply put, guns are too easily accessible. The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in their document, 'The International Arms Trade (2006),' emphasized the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns, for example, noting that 'limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone'.....

    In [the memory of the victims of the Newtown tragedy] and for the sake of our nation, we reiterate our call made in 2000, in our statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, for all Americans, especially legislators, to:

    1. Support measures that control the sale and use of firearms.

    2. Support measures that make guns safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children and anyone other than the owner).

    3. Call for sensible regulations of handguns.

    4. Support legislative efforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons including assault weapons.

    5. Make a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.
Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin tackled the issue – quite well, in my opinion – in a past blog entry (excerpted; click here to read the entry in its entirety):
    ...Is it a good idea for people to have the right to own guns?

    Of course, we are not talking about all people without exception. As the decision in this Supreme Court case as well as the previous one noted, lawmakers can reasonably bar felons and the mentally ill from owning guns. (Personally, I would change 'felons' to 'violent criminals,' due to the absurd extent to which federal law has started classifying things as felonies ; I'd also shore up 'mentally ill' to make sure that only those who pose a danger to themselves or others are intended, due to the tendencies to classify everything under the sun as a mental illness, but those are other issues.) The question is: Should ordinary, law-abiding, mentally stable individuals be allowed to own guns?

    And by 'guns' I mean 'firearms that are in functional condition,' not 'pieces of disassembled metal that could be taken out of a locked container and/or assembled and/or unlocked and/or loaded and so be turned into functional firearms in a few minutes time.' (Sorry for the verbal gymnastics, but that is the state of affairs to which opponents of gun rights have pushed things.)

    So: Should ordinary people be allowed to own guns?

    Guns are marvelous tools. That's why we fight wars with them. On a smaller scale, we also defend ourselves with them, we hunt with them, obtain food with them, control dangerous predators like bears and mountain lions with them, control animal populations like deer that would otherwise suffer unless culled, signal the start of sporting events with them, and use them in marksmanship competitions....

    What we are talking about, essentially [in regard to 'gun control'], is war on the individual scale. The Church views war as something that is always a tragedy, but it acknowledges that the use of warfare is morally legitimate when a nation needs to protect its (or others') interests and there are no less destructive, practical ways to do this. In the same way, the Church recognizes an individual right of self-defense....

    It would be wonderful if we lived in a world in which all weapons could be beaten into ploughshares and nobody would make individual war any more, but we're not in that world, yet, and ordinary people still have that right and/or duty to defend themselves and others, using lethal force if necessary.

    So there is a significant case to be made that ordinary, law-abiding, mentally-stable people ought to be able to own guns....
Also of note, John W. Horvat II, vice president of The American TFP, writes in a Jan. 11, 2013 article (excerpted; click here to read the full article):
    There are plenty of people who point to countries with fewer guns as models for the United States. However, there are few who take notice of Brazil, a country with far fewer guns that still manages to have much greater gun violence and death....

    According to UN statistics cited by the BBC of Brazil, Brazilians own 15 million firearms compared to 270 million held by Americans. Yet American deaths by guns in 2010 numbered 9,960, while Brazil listed close to 36,000 such deaths in 2009. It is also interesting to note that the population of Brazil is nearly 200 million while the United States has over 310 million.

    Put more simply, America has an 18 to one advantage over Brazil in the number of guns, yet proportionally, Brazil suffers six times more deaths by guns than America.

    Why the difference? Brazil has something America does not have: gun control....

    The fact is that the overwhelming majority of gun deaths in Brazil are committed with unregistered and illegal guns, especially high-caliber guns. Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens who wish to defend themselves suffer....
Food for thought.

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He has been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR and WLS-TV in Chicago, and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.

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