I despise firearms. Period. I want to make that clear from the start. If I could snap my fingers and make all the guns in the world disappear, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I can’t do that, and we don’t live in a world where problems are solved so easily. So, I wrote this article about some of my thoughts on firearms, violence, and the ideologies that often intertwine them. Please read it, share it, and talk about it.
Guns and Violence
An argument I have often heard in the debate against gun control, namely, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” or the idea that a weapon or a tool is only as dangerous as the person wielding it, demonstrates a principle that I would like to explore further.
Arguments about gun control aside, I would like to use this catchphrase to make an analogy about certain ideologies, because I believe that ideologies are only as dangerous as the people who use them. To give a couple common examples, White Supremacy or Islamic Radicalism would not harm anyone in a vacuum void of followers. Even the most violent and dangerous ideologies—because they are dangerous, much like an assault rifle is dangerous—cannot harm anyone in a world where no one prescribes to them. If no one believed in them, they would be powerless ideologies. They would become something of the past.
The individuals who do prescribe to violent ideologies are, on the other hand, extremely dangerous. And some ideologies, like some firearms, are much more dangerous than others. Someone will ill intent wielding a tool as harmless and utilitarian as a garden hoe could be harmful to those around him. Similarly, a seemingly harmless ideology like Christianity in the wrong hands can be very harmful. But a garden hoe in the wrong hands is much preferable to a stock-pile of assault rifles in the wrong hands.
I like to read the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies in the Book of Mormon who buried their weapons of war to eliminate the chance of any of them ever killing another soul. Similarly, I look forward to the day when our literal weapons of war are completely disarmed and dismantled (starting with the deadliest ones and working backwards from there), and the only traces of these weapons are displayed as antiques in museums. I look forward to when our figurative “weapons of war” have no disciples, and are found only in the pages of history books, not the daily news; a time when weapons of all kind are merely relics of the more violent eras of mankind’s past.
Until then, I don’t know what the right answer is. Some people say nothing can be done to stop violence, but I don’t believe them. I think that when we assume there is nothing we can do to stop violence, we only allow violence to continue uninhibited. Even given the terrible things violence is capable of, violence is never as powerful or inevitable as we sometimes think it is. And non-violence is always more powerful than we think it is.
I think it is very important that we separate in our minds the following three categories. I think a lot of confusion in the conversation on gun control stems from confusing these different ideas–especially the last two.
- The inalienable right of free agency. This is a principle we talk about a lot in the Church. A person has the right to choose, regardless of legality or morally, to think or do whatever they want.
- Legality. This restricts behavior a little bit from doing whatever we want, because it implies a social contract. In the United States, a citizen’s right to own a firearm is protected by the constitution. But just because something is legal, doesn’t always mean it is the right thing to do. This is where a lot of people get confused.
- Morality. This would hopefully restrict behavior even more. As moral agents, every person has the responsibility to choose between right and wrong. And this is what I urge readers to consider. Yes, we have the right own firearms in this country. But should we own firearms? That is the question.
The Mormon Angle
So, how does an article about guns and violent ideologies fit into a Mormon blog?
Mormonism, just like any other harmless ideology, has the potential to be twisted and contorted into a weapon in the hands of those who would marginalize or otherwise harm others. It has been done before, and it will probably happen again by members of the Church who have had pride, fear, or hatred in their hearts instead of the love of Christ. If you are reading this, and you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, please don’t let that person be you.
I sometimes ask myself: does Mormonism as a way of life defend the right to bear arms, or does it support the idea of a gun-free world and/or country? I think the answer is yes on both accounts. As a principle of free agency, we are free to choose to own and use firearms. We also believe in following the laws of the land, and our laws clearly state that owning firearms is legal. But I also think the gospel of Jesus Christ ultimately teaches us to live in a harmonious relationship with others and with nature. In such a world, firearms (as well as the above-mentioned metaphor of their violent ideological counterparts) would become nothing but distant memories. Why should we postpone living that way?
By the way, you’ll notice that at no point in this article did I argue that people’s right to bear arms should be taken away. I just think that if people were to use sound moral reasoning, and if their hearts were changed with only the Love of God in their hearts, they would never own them. I have a hard time picturing citizens of the City of Enoch, or Jesus himself, holding weapons of any kind.
What do you think? Does the Gospel of Jesus Christ support the idea of gun-free world? Let me know in the comments section below, or on the Postmodern Mormon Facebook page.