Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Can We Do Anything About the Sandy Hook Horrors?

Steven E. Meyer


January 4, 2013

By Steven E. Meyer

Two weeks ago Aaron Belz published an eloquent commentary about the tragedy in Newtown.  He argued that the sickness that cascaded onto that small Connecticut town rests in all of us.  Everything Belz said is true—as Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”  But, we must do more than simply bemoan our sinful natures. We must extend Belz’s argument and consider seriously and urgently what we can—must—do

Certainly we must demand better therapeutic services for the mentally ill, especially for those who are a threat to themselves and others. But, according to mental health authorities, the instance of serious mental illness is no greater statistically in the United States than in other advanced societies, where the episodes of gun violence are much lower. Realistically, as long as man is sinful, we will not be able to completely wipe out all violence. But, we can do a lot to reduce the kinds of horrible slaughter that took place at Sandy Hook, Tucson, the Colorado theater, the Pennsylvania Amish School, Columbine and so many other places. 

We absolutely must get the madness of guns under control. No, the overwhelming majority of gun owners are not murderers. But, that is not the point. The point is that our society is so awash with guns they have become a convenient, easy and frequent enabler of deadly violence.  Depending on which source one uses, there are between 200 and 270 million guns in the U.S.  According to one press report, “since 1982 there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country…and, in most cases the killers obtained their weapons legally.”  Moreover, a Harvard University study has shown that there is a strong positive correlation between the high number of guns and the high number of murders. The economist Richard Florida has found that although there is no statistically significant correlation between gun violence and mental illness, there is a strong correlation between tight gun control laws and lower instances of gun violence. There now are more gun shops than McDonalds in the U.S.  And, the gun lobby’s answer is to arm even more people. 

Underpinning our gun culture is how we interpret the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  Gun advocates see it as legal license to own any firearm without infringement, while gun control advocates interpret the Second Amendment in terms of support for legal citizen militias.  American courts have differed on their interpretation depending on their philosophical disposition. The Supreme Court has supported the broader interpretation of gun owners’ rights in two landmark cases.  But, clearly our understanding of the Second Amendment has to change drastically. At the end of the 18th century our society was far different from what it is today.  The revolution against Britain, the lack of a standing army and an imposing frontier arguably required an armed citizenry militia. But, in addition to looking back to the 18th century, we need to interpret the Constitution in a way that makes sense for the 21st century.  At the very least, we must license every gun owner, ban assault weapons and multiple shot clips, and require in depth background checks on anyone possessing a firearm.

And, where are Christians on this issue? Why is there not a massive outcry from churches, with pressure on the White House and every member of Congress to enact sensible gun control legislation? If we value the sanctity of the life that God has given us, is this not our moral responsibility? In John 10:10 our Lord said “the thief comes to kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” 

—Steven E. Meyer is a Fellow of the Center for Public Justice.

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”