The Second Commandment: Thou Shalt Bear Arms

I love the Constitution. I think it is a pretty incredible document. I think the first 10 Amendments (i.e. the Bill of Rights) are pretty awesome too. It recognizes that the rights of the individual are greater than the rights of the government and have been naturally granted by God and not bestowed by any bureaucratic entity. I think America is pretty great when it follows them and less great when it doesn’t.

The one area that I want to focus on today is the Second Amendment. I like it. I have no problems with guns. I think individuals should be allowed to have guns. I like the idea of people getting to protect their own families and property and not needing to rely on any government entity. Smells like freedom to me and freedom always smells good. Now, personally as a Christian, I feel conflicted about the use of guns. I’m not speaking for others, only myself – is Joe Allotta’s thoughts. I actually hope I wouldn’t shoot and kill someone who broke into my home. I don’t think I would personally handle it well. I would actually hope to give the guy a couple hundred bucks or whatever he needed (oh no, I just assumed the gender of the criminal, is that wrong? Can we assume bad people are men? I’m really confused on the rules these days.) I’d love to share the gospel with him the person who broke into my house. I hope I could love my enemy when the opportunity presented. Now, if my family is in harms way, I don’t know what I would do. I hope the Holy Spirit would give me guidance in that impossible moment.

But it does intrigue me the way many of my Christian friends talk about the Second Amendment and guns in general. It’s like the Bible is clear-cut on gun ownership. Jesus might as well be quoted in the Epistle to Smithanwesson. Again, I don’t mind people loving guns and extolling their virtues; it’s just not a biblical issue and shouldn’t be put on that level. My general opinion is that good people generally do good things with guns and bad people generally do bad things with guns. But I don’t pretend that this is some sort of ultra-spiritual discernment.

Now this week, there were 2 major stories on my newsfeed. The first was the Southern Baptist Convention awkward dealings and voting on the “Alt-Right” (I only put it in quotes because I’m still not clear who they are only that they exist) and racism (which always has existed and as long as there are humans on earth we will always find stupid reasons to hate each other.) The second was the acquittal of the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile. I think the responses to these 2 stories are somewhat connected. I have seen many social media posts by my black friends and have spoken to several of them on these two incidences. I have seen far fewer of my white friends comment about them (despite the fact that they are a huge majority of my “facebook friends.”) Now that would include me. But, changing that starting… now.

Most white people I know are not definitional racists. They don’t think they are better than another person because of their skin color. They also don’t discriminate based on race in any kind of conscious way. All cards on the table, I too am white (well I am part Italian and we of course are better than other white people, and I’m specifically Sicilian which makes me better than other Italians.) We white folks don’t know what it’s like to grow-up black or other minority. I don’t have time to go into all the systemic differences, but there is certainly a difference. The problem is, most white people don’t think there’s really a difference, or that only 1 or 2 things need to be fixed and it’ll all be fine. The SBC is not harboring some sort of racist agenda. They just have no idea how to view the world as a black person. Guns actually help me see the difference. Maybe it will help you too.

When we hear about the police shooting someone, the news always goes right to whether the victim had a gun on them or not. If no gun is found… bad cop. If there’s a gun nearby then… bad person. But that’s not what our constitution says and not what most people I know believe. A gun being on the scene simply means some additional information is needed. But having a gun is not a problem. Most white Christians I know are very supportive of the NRA – an organization to help support the rights of gun owners and ownership. Interestingly the early days of the Black Panther Party had the very same agenda. Not growing-up in that era, I can only go off of what I read, and there seems to be very different perspectives separated by race when it comes to what was occurring in the 60’s and 70’s in the Black Panther community. Here’s the point. There is just a different visual and feeling when I think about some cowboy in Texas walking around town with his holstered revolver versus an African-American in New Jersey walking around with a gun in their waistband. Has the media conditioned us? Have I been conditioned? Who thinks that police would confront the African-American? What if it was an open-carry state? Ironically, it is illegal to open carry in Texas and you are allowed in New Jersey with a permit. (Mind. Blown.) The truth is almost all white, law-abiding people do not fear the police in any way, shape, or form. I know I don’t. However, many of my black friends and students I have spoken with do admit to having some fear. They see Philando Castile and other examples as a reason to fear. Reading as much as I could find on the case it does seem like manslaughter or second-degree murder to me. I don’t think there was any kind of premeditated intent. I believe the former officer when he says he was afraid. He heard “gun” and panicked. I don’t want to be a police officer and they have an immensely tough job. However, our justice system seems to give incredible leeway to officers in the line of duty, and has acquitted some unjustly. Do we forgive the officer because he has a tough job or imprison him because he needs to be held to a higher standard? Whichever you believe will determine whether justice was served here in this case.

But here’s the truth. Myself and most other white people won’t think about that case in our next interaction with the police, and I know many of my black friends will. Will they perhaps start to sweat and get nervous? Will that make the officer nervous? Makes sense to me. My real problem with all this is I don’t know how to fix it. Statistics might show that there is not some huge disparity of police officer shooting black people, but somehow anyone getting shot unjustly seems like way too many. Is the solution to have way less police or none at all? (You know that libertarian Joe likes that idea, but would guess that about 90% or more would disagree with me.) Is it a police training issue? Hiring issue? Media issue? Cultural issue? Anybody that says, “here’s how to fix this” will follow that sentence up with something ridiculously simplistic.

So here’s my advice in a nutshell for all my Christian brothers and sisters out there in internet land: Don’t be dismissive of other people’s hurts. Listen to them. Don’t assume you understand someone before you have a real, genuine conversation with them and listen to their point of view. If the policy isn’t good for everybody no matter their color, then it isn’t a good policy. I think open-carry is a good illustration. Joe’s natural tendency is freedom. As long as you are not hurting anyone, do whatever you want. (And Christians, do what the Bible tells you to do, duh.) But I don’t think open-carry is fair to all races, colors, and creeds. I honestly just think black people will end up getting the raw end of people calling the police on them and creating more opportunities for altercations. An increase in those types of interactions cannot help the statistics. Lastly, view all life as precious, and start to think about people the way Jesus would. The worst racist and the worst criminal can change because of the power of the Gospel. Let’s never forget it.

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