A Perspective on Second Amendment Rights

SpreadPicFlorida has prohibited the open carry of firearms for nearly two decades, and efforts in recent years by gun-rights lobbyists to change that status haven’t been successful. While the idea of open carry of personal weapons may sound alarming to those of us who have lived for many years in South Florida, the fact is that Florida is one of only five states that do not allow open carry. The others are California, Illinois, New York and South Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia. There are initiatives, including HB 163, currently in process in the Florida legislature that would allow open carry of weapons by those who currently have a concealed weapon permit. This bill, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, got off to a promising start in October of 2015 when the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed HB 163 by an 8-4 vote despite resistance from critics.

If it becomes law, anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon could carry handguns openly wherever they’re allowed to carry concealed. Private businesses — ranging from grocery stores and bars to Disney World — would be able to decide whether people can carry guns, but no public place — such as a public hospital — could ban them, unless guns are banned already under state law. A compromise version of HB 163 recently was approved by the House Judiciary Subcommittee, 12-4, and will be brought to a vote before the full House, where it is expected to pass, as 81 of the 120 members are Republican. The Senate version of the bill, SB 300, faces a much more rigorous test in the Senate, and the two versions would have to be consolidated and approved by the various committees before approval is considered in both the House and Senate, and before being signed into law by Republican Governor Rick Scott. A second bill, known as the “college carry” initiative, would allow for citizens with concealed weapons permits to carry weapons on college campuses, where they are currently banned as “gun-free zones.” Of course, if both bills are approved and become law, this will allow for open carry on college campuses in Florida.

This issue is the source of widespread debate, as some citizen groups feel that their constitutional rights under the Second Amendment are being infringed upon. Other groups, more in favor of gun control and seeing the increasingly common news accounts of mass shootings in schools, churches, movie theaters, work places and even on our freeways, are calling for the initiatives to be defeated. Most of the states that do not allow open carry have in fact high rates of violent crime. But it is difficult to determine if this is due to demographics, drug abuse, poverty and other factors, as opposed to gun control laws. Florida currently has 1.38 million concealed weapon permit holders.

 

Christian perspective

What should we consider when discussing Second Amendment rights, personal protection, gun control and the place for lethal weapons in our society as we seek to further the Kingdom of God on earth? As we research the New Testament, we see little about these controversial issues, but mainly some seeds of truth about the Kingdom of Heaven from the teachings of Jesus, including the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the Apostle Paul and other New Testament writers showing us how to live out Kingdom principles in everyday life. Does this mean that they are not important? No, it means that the issues are primarily social and political in nature, and are not Biblical issues per se. However, our views need to be shaped by the scriptural perspective that we have as disciples of Christ.

One argument that is often heard is that the writers of the Constitution had a specific purpose to clearly state the right of citizens to bear arms, as the new United States of America was an agrarian society, rural in nature, and weapons were needed by most homeowners for hunting, protection from wild animals, including bears and mountain lions, and from warring tribes of Native Americans who felt that the new settlers were encroaching on their ancestral lands. As the threats of attacks from bears and Indians has diminished, and as we have become much more urbanized and supposedly “civilized,” the need for a weapon is more for hunting and target practice at the firing range. In addition, we often hear that the constitutional right to bear arms does not mean the right of the average citizen in our modern society to be heavily armed with assault weapons, machine guns and AK 47’s.

But the argument as heard from the other side is that if guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns. The belief is that criminals do not obey gun laws, so no amount of legislation is going to curtail their illegal activity. So the view is held that law-abiding citizens need guns for personal protection from criminals who have guns. We often hear that people feel ill at ease seeing a uniformed police officer in Starbucks openly carrying his weapon. But the minute someone with a weapon breaks into our house, we immediately call 911 to summon the armed officer to hopefully stabilize the situation.

 

Asking the real questions

The questions that we need to ask ourselves, as 21st Century Christians trying to develop a Christian perspective on these controversial issues in an increasingly post-Christian America, are:

 

What would Jesus do?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught a doctrine that flies in the face of many of our natural reactions when we are wronged by others: the concept of turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and loving our enemies and praying for them. He was teaching the contrast between living under the Law of Moses and living under the principles of the Kingdom of God.

 

What does Paul teach?

Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth, a heathen culture steeped in sexual sin and idol worship: “Even to have such lawsuits with one another is a defeat for you. Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated? Instead, you yourselves are the ones who do wrong and cheat even your fellow believers” (1 Corinthians 6:7-8 NLT). While it is true that the context is Christians suing other Christians in a heathen court, the principle is that there are actions and attitudes that lead to de-escalation of disputes and eventually the peace and harmony that we seek, so these attitudes can be a useful model for the gun debate, as we fume over the jerk that cut us off in traffic. With more guns on the street, it might not be a finger that he points at us next time.

 

What about James?

Surely he will give us some justification to seek vengeance and redress under the law. But he continues in the same vein as Jesus and Paul, as he admonishes us: “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” (James 4:1-3 NLT)

 

Do we believe guns will make us safer?

In this society, which is not the Wild West, nor the mountains of Alaska, nor the mid-19th Century as settlers were moving west, do we believe that proliferation of guns is going to make us all safer? We live in a highly urbanized and fast-paced society, with some of the highest traffic counts in the nation on our freeways, and with a large percentage of immigrants who are trying to assimilate into our culture. It may be that we can show them a better way than the random and wanton violence that they may have seen in their home country, as they have moved here for our political and social freedoms.

 

What does this mean for us?

Getting back to the teachings of Jesus, we should fear not those who can kill the body, but fear more the one who can destroy the body and soul in Hell. When we have a heavenly perspective, we will be better citizens on Earth.  This does not mean that we cannot own and enjoy guns for use in hunting and sports by responsible citizens. It does mean that we as ordinary citizens typically do not have the training and expertise to use lethal force on another human being, as we have the military and uniformed police officers who sometimes must do this as a last resort. It cannot be our first and spontaneous reaction when we feel that we have been wronged, according to the scriptural teachings. The Bible teaches in Romans 12:19 (NLT) “‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord.”

 

We need to pray that our legislators, the House and the Senate, will receive divine wisdom from above as they consider the details of these bills, some form of which is likely to pass both branches of the legislature. If these bills are not passed and approved in 2016, their sponsors have promised to bring them back in 2017. Safeguards need to be written in to provide background checks, waiting periods and some methodology to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally imbalanced, habitual offenders, felons and those with a history of violence.

There is no question that we have constitutional rights as guaranteed by the Second Amendment. But Paul, who went into great detail in I Corinthians 9 NIV to establish his rights as an apostle, said in Verse 12: “But we have never used this right.” The fact that we have rights does not mean that we have to use those rights to the detriment of others. Let us seek to be more Christ-like in our actions and attitudes, as modeled in Philippians Chapter 2, both in our discussions on these issues with the other camp and when we are tempted to react in our fallen nature instead of pursuing the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Further information is available online at www.open-carry.org, www.floridacarry.org/legislation, www.csgv.org and www.bradycampaign.org.

 

Bob Woods has worked as an engineer at AECOM Technical Services and HBC Engineering, and is a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

Are Guns Really the Problem? Read another perspective HERE.

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