I've always been a lukewarm believer in the right to own guns. Lukewarm, I say, because I think the right to own guns leads to a host of problems, that that writers of the Second Amendment never envisioned an America like today, with the weapons that our government has, and the weapons our citizens have. I am not, by any means, someone who believes that the Constitution is a perfect document, either. I believe it's important that a process exists for amending it, and am willing to amend it when it is important for freedom and liberty. I am willing to rethink the Second Amendment entirely, and don't hold the right to own guns as sacrosanct as I do freedom of religion, speech, and of the press.
Lukewarmly, however, I do support the right to own guns. I was brought up in a household where there were guns, and I had the example of a responsible gun owner in my father, who kept the guns, if not under literal lock and key, securely away from me during my childhood. There were important histories tied to guns that were owned by my forefathers that made them family heirlooms, such as my ancestor's "Civil War rifle." I also have the example of many relatives and friends and congregation members who are hunters and both enjoy hunting as a sport and as a means for providing food for their tables. I want a degree of gun ownership to continue to exist that allows for hunting, family heirlooms, and perhaps some measure of gun ownership for personal protection. I am not a passionate defender of this, however.
I once had a liberal friend say to me, "I would never willingly enter a house where I knew there were guns." I enter these houses all the time, and without fear most of the time. There are always exceptions, such as pastoral care calls to someone who is mentally unstable, where I might refuse to meet in a private residence, but that would be true even if there were no guns present. I know my friends and family and congregation members to be responsible gun owners, and have no more fear of violence or accident there than I do walking down the street. I also refuse to live and act out of my fear of guns, even where I have fear. I do fear for my child's safety at school. I do fear for my sister's safety at the school where she teaches. I was at a luncheon recently where someone said, "There was a lockdown today at a school in Detroit," and fear for my sister rushed into my heart. Turns out it was Novi, not Detroit, but we're over here in Jackson, so maybe that distinction was lost. I do fear for my safety and the safety of my family in my congregation, in the movie theaters, on the street corner with my congress member, in the schools. We live in an increasingly violent country, with random violence striking in not just the places that we were taught to see as dangerous, like the inner city, but striking in the places we always assumed we were safe--churches, schools, street corners with our congressional representative. I refuse, however, to live out of that fear and either stop going these places or wear a gun everywhere I go. I've always refused to let that fear keep me out of the cities, choosing to visit, work, shop, and also live in places that others have deemed too dangerous at many points in my life. I refuse now to let fear keep me from living a normal life.
But refusing to fear doesn't mean that the problem should be ignored. There are reasonable reforms that can help make America safer. And I have opinions about it, just like everybody else, which I'll address in my next post.