Saturday, January 26, 2013

Guns, things and political exploits

According to the Dallas Morning News more than 100 sheriffs nationwide have threatened to ignore unconstitutional gun laws. For instance, Sheriff Terry Box of Collin County, Texas posted the following on his Facebook page: “Neither I, nor any of my deputies, will participate in the enforcement of laws that violate our precious constitutional rights, including our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”

This defensive posture is in response to the renewed efforts by some politicians to push for tighter gun control legislation. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, President Barak Obama, along with many Democrat Senators, took their anti-gun cause to the American people. Speaking to an audience, the president hinted that gun reduction was the answer. He said, "Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there's even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try.”

Shortly after 26 people were gunned down on December 14, 2012, many conservative commentators rightly predicted what was bound to follow. The Sandy Hook tragedy would undoubtedly be exploited for some political end. After didn’t Rahm Emanuel once say, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Yes he did. To be sure, we have seen this tactic before. For instance, when the news of the Tucson shootings hit the airwaves in January of 2011, when 6 people died and U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Gifford’s suffered a shot wound to the head, secular-liberal politicians did not waste a minute in exploiting the tragedy. Not a few of them alleged that such violence was inspired by conservative talk radio.

The political exploitation of tragedies is something to keep in mind during this national gun control debate. But there is also something else to consider.

People influenced by secular-liberalism and people of faith see the world differently. As for the former, a secular worldview disables a person’s understanding of human nature. If you ask people of this persuasion why there is more violence in public schools, than, let’s say, fifty years ago, or why the divorce rate skyrocketed after the 1960’s, or why families cannot leave their front doors unlocked anymore, they would either shrugg their shoulders with indifference or claim that the cause is material in nature. In other words, their answer to any social or public problem is reduced to “things.”

Accordingly, the problem of teenage pregnancy can be solved by making contraception more available to children and adolescents. Through a secular worldview the answer to the plight of our public education is more money or smaller class sizes or having children start school at a younger age. And after the Tucson, Aurora and Newtown shootings, the focus was naturally on guns. However, notice that every single one of these solutions is based quantity (not quality) or on things.

To propose real solutions for mass shootings, crime and other social problems is to understand the human person as he or she really is: body and soul. It is to understand that Adam Lanza (Newtown), James Holmes (Aurora) or Jared Loughner (Tucson) may have been- in addition to their mental illnesses –a product of a broken family, or neglected because of absentee parents, or addicted to violent video games or sexually/physically abused or may never been morally and spiritually formed. This is not to suggest that they should be absolved from blame. No. It is just that there are real moral and spiritual factors that make people bad enough to go on a shooting rampage. In fact, America has never known rates of narcissism and the fixation on stardom among our youth as it has today. It would be na├»ve, therefore, to dismiss these factors as having a profound influence on unstable individuals.

Keep in mind that guns and mental illness have been with us for centuries. But these mass shootings- with apparently no military or political motive –is something new. And what is also new- fifty years new –is an accelerated erosion of virtue, the family and the influence of Christianity on our public institutions.

In any event, if our politicians continue to misconstrue the real problem, if they persist in exploiting tragedy in order to undermine the constitutional rights of Americans- especially the right of self-defense -then people of faith just may have to consider the position many Sheriffs are taking. Indeed, they may have to revisit the words of Pope Leo XIII: “[W]here a law is enacted contrary to reason, or to the eternal law, or to some ordinance of God, obedience is unlawful, lest, while obeying man, we become disobedient to God.”