Gun control has been in the news a lot lately. Partially this is due to recent tragedies, and partially due to the season of political campaigning–gun control being a highly politicized issue.
The politicization of it suggests a certain disingenuous flavor to much of the conversation. On a roundup of today’s liberal opinions, I observed both the contention that because of the Trump presidency we are on the verge of becoming a fascist totalitarian state, and various calls to disarm the American populace–both of these ideas being promoted from the same side politically. Surely this is an odd juxtaposition? When reality imitates parody, how can we take such people seriously?
I would like very much to live in a safer world. I see the suffering, and the violence that continues to unfold. But I am concerned that the way all of this is being discussed points not to safety but to slavery.
So Beto O’Rourke said, with damnation-invoking enthusiasm, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” I don’t have either of those, but I do wonder what might be taken from me a little bit down the line. Freedom of speech, conscience, assembly, religion, perhaps?
‘Nonsense,’ you say. ‘Conservative fear-mongering. Slippery-slope fallacy. All the liberals want is a reasonable assault-weapons ban, nothing more. Pinky-swear.’
Maybe; but I doubt it.
For one thing, conservative fear-mongering is a difficult charge to make in light of recent history. Ten years ago, saying ‘if we legalize gay marriage, Christian bakers and photographers and others will find themselves being prosecuted for not wanting to participate’ would have been called ridiculous fear-mongering. Five years ago, ‘teachers will be fired for refusing to call boys girls’ would have been called fear-mongering. Radical social shifts happen awfully fast these days, and the unthinkable can become the standard before you know it.
But back to the point at hand. If the gun control debate were really just about some background check laws, or banning AR-15s, we could have that conversation. But I really don’t think it is. I think the debate we are seeing in America is not about controlling guns but controlling people.
There are two reasons I think this.
The first is simply my observation that the defining feature of the left is centralized control. You wouldn’t think that, given the fact that we call the political left “liberals” and “Democrats,” but it’s true. Their center is big government, and a substantial amount of their power comes from big business, big media, etc. Increasing government control over various areas of life is at the heart of a lot of their policies. Their radical wing is socialism. So the left’s position on gun control must be seen in the big picture of their general approach to society.
The second is that, by contrast, the constitutional freedoms of American society have a sort of coherence, and those who attack one are likely to attack others. I am not fear-mongering, just observing. In a recent interview, UCLA professor Douglas Kellner underlined this, saying, “I don’t see the Second Amendment as absolute, just like I don’t see the First Amendment as absolute. In both cases, there need to be qualifications in certain contexts.” The first amendment, just like the second one, may be subject to “qualifications” for the purpose of addressing gun violence; we should further regulate what people are allowed to say. Given the rather broad scope of what the left is willing to label as hateful, harmful, or extremism, the implications of this kind of thinking are considerable.
Ultimately, I think that what we’re seeing from the left in the gun control debate is the offer to trade freedom for safety. An unhappy trade, but I understand why people would be interested in making it. It should be noted, of course, that when societies give up freedom in pursuit of slavery, they sometimes end up both enslaved and unsafe. But, however we go forward, we should go forward with open eyes. Safety, as being dangled before us, has slavery attached down the line.
Yet there is a third option. I’ve said this before, so I hope I don’t sound like too much of a broken record. Instead of chaos or control, we could choose Christ. It is possible to have both a great deal of freedom and a great deal of safety–if you add to the mix a great deal of virtue. Instead of giving up the right to keep and bear arms–and the right to free speech, and freedom of conscience, and probably a few other things–we could give up paganism.
Give up paganism? I know, it’s a big ask to a lot of people, but we could do it. We could put the Bible and prayer back in the schools, and the Ten Commandments in prominent public displays. We could stop watching movies and TV shows filled with violence and vulgarity and nudity, thus compelling Hollywood to produce edifying entertainment instead. We could stop listening to musicians whose music, apparel, or conduct are indecent. We could stop letting the rich rob the poor with cigarettes and slot machines. We could stop killing babies, and show that we actually value human life. We could teach children–in the public schools–that life has a transcendent meaning, that God their Creator is holy and loving, and that they, too, should do good and love one another.
With a culture-wide embrace of virtue, grounded in God, we could be able to be both safe and free.
Or we could keep our paganism, and choose between anarchy and slavery.
Immorality comes with a high price tag.