Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Making a 2nd Amendment Issue Out of a 6th Commandment Problem

In the wake of the latest campus shooting, the topic has already been hijacked by 2nd Amendment concerns. I first noticed this myself reading some of the British news articles about the response, but this morning I’ve read it in several US papers (as well as their on-line comment features).

It is tempting to offer a response to some of the arguments against the 2nd Amendment (I am, after all, a supporter of the right to bear arms), but it strikes me as the “easy” argument to get into to avoid the actual “tough” issue.

Perhaps the most striking point about the tragedy was what I saw yesterday as I walked past the local courthouse. What I saw there was the usual scene. Nothing had changed at all. The flags weren’t even at half-staff.

This, I think, illustrates more than anything else how complacent we’ve gotten toward mass shootings in general. These things no longer shock us like they used to. And when you look at some of the many school shootings over the past decade, their sheer quantity tells you that there is something wrong here.

Even a simple examination of the way the media reacts tells us a lot. Consider the reaction that Herbert Morrison had when he witnessed the Hindenburg explode and cried out emotionally, “Oh, the humanity!” Today, that’s a punch line. Compare Morrison to the reporters who search for survivors before the bodies are even moved and, in almost salivating tones, ask such “journalistic” questions as: “How do you feel?”

Again, there is something seriously wrong here.

The problem with the shooting at Virginia Tech isn’t a problem about the 2nd Amendment. It’s a problem stemming from the 6th Commandment: “You shall not murder.” If Cho Seung-Hui had followed this commandment, he could have had a thousand guns and no one would have any reason to fear him; the fact that he would not follow this commandment means he was dangerous even without a single gun.

Our culture has, in many ways, become a culture of “death.” We have taken away human dignity by removing morality from every facet of our lives. It is easy to divert the issue to the questions of gun control, because that allows us to ignore the deeper issue: the heart issue. What are we doing to make murder unthinkable in the first place? Because until people embrace the 6th Commandment, we will continue to have these problems even if the 2nd Amendment is repealed.

Some may question why apologetics is necessary. Had someone shown the moral necessity of following the 6th Commandment instead of, say, teaching that morals are simply contrived beliefs held by a group of social individuals, it may well be that the shooting would never have occurred in the first place.


  1. Thanks, Peter. Three points of my own:

    1.The shooter could only kill all those students because the students were unarmed, and therefore defenseless. So one could take this massacre as an argument for arming students.

    2.Apropos (1), there are cities like DC and countries like England that have disarmed the general public. The result has been an astronomical rise in gun-related violence since the citizenry is defenseless. The only folks with guns are the police and the criminals—while the criminals have the police outgunned.

    3.Back when I attended public school (K-12) from the mid-Sixties through the late Seventies, we didn’t have all these schoolyard shootings, or metal detectors, or zero-tolerance policies, &c. So guns are not the source of the problem.

  2. BTW, if more colleges had ROTC programs, such a student wouldn't get as far. He'd be gunned down in his tracks.

  3. Nice post, Peter.

    (first time I've ever said that!)

  4. I read one person's comments on one of the British on-line papers (I forget which one--I think it was the Guardian) who said, "Imagine how many fewer people this man would have killed if he'd been limited to a knife." I thought: "Imagine how many fewer people this man would have killed if 15 students pulled their own weapons and returned fire immediately."

    I think my original thoughts are valid, given the fact of sin in our world and the need for self-defense. However, I think an even better response would be: "Imagine how many fewer people this man would have killed if he were convinced of the validity of the Ten Commandments." Idealistically, the conversion of everyone would result in no more murders.

    As necessary as the 2nd Amendment debate is, especially given the reality that not everyone will believe in the validity of the 6th Commandment and we need to be able to defend ourselves against such people, I think it more imperative that Christians show that Cho's actions at Virginia Tech are a natural and logical outcome of secular ethics. In fact, he was merely enacting evolution, "Nature red in tooth and claw." You cannot tell someone he's an animal and not expect him to act like one. What he did was not wrong under such a system; it was simply an event that occured.

    So stopping the proliferation of guns might stop a couple of homicides (although with the boldness of knowing victims are unarmed, the opposite will almost certainly occur); promoting morality and making it unthinkable to murder would make a far greater impact.

  5. As well, it is simply naive to say that without access to legal firearms a homicidal criminal would be left with only a knife to commit crimes with. The lawless will always have access to guns no matter how illegal.

  6. This is moving me that much closer to getting a firearm and a concealed carry permit.

  7. Peter,

    Excellent post dude. Well written and well done!

  8. Steve, right. If someone wants a high body count, you go into an elementary school, not the local NRA meeting, or gun show.

  9. Nice new political football for you gun nuts. Let the blood dry there before hauling out the corpses to dance for you.

    Have a source for that claim about England, Steve? Guns aren't illegal there, only handguns.

    Paul, what you said has already happened, and it happened before Britain passed their new gun laws:

    People need to walk around with guns in order to "lower crime" about as much as they need to walk around with plates of brownies to "lower obesity". Instead of angry fistfights in every bar across the US every night, there will be a new shooting in every bar every night.

    Guns for home defense are one thing (I have a 20ga fully loaded under my bed), handguns are quite another.

  10. anonymous, that gets to the issue.

    Does the fact that police carry guns bother you? If not, why not?

    It is probably because they are trained and they won't normally use it without cause.

    People with guns are only scary if the people who have them are scary. Well-trained people who don't want to kill people or use guns in bar fights aren't scary.

  11. Anonymous said:

    "Have a source for that claim about England, Steve? Guns aren't illegal there, only handguns."

    Hate to break the news to you, but handguns are guns. As for a source:


  12. Anonymous,

    (a) I know that's happened, that's my point. Now, show that happening at places like a gun show or a NRA meeting. The point is, you get a high body count at places where people are *unarmed.*

    (b) Not outlawing shotguns, just pistols? Anonymous shows he's not "handy with the steel, if you know what I mean." A trained shooter can load his rounds into his shotgun in an extremenly short time frame. In fact, one can learn how to "speed load" *online even:*


    I recommed him seeing this done in person. There's be not much difference between the rounds fired at VT with the semi-automatic pistol.

    (c) Anonymous might also wind up in trouble. If he doesn't know what he's doing, Shotguns are notoriously clumsy when employed in a home defense situation. An intruder can get a hold of the gun very easily. If anonymous isn't trained in how to maneuver in close quaters, like a home, he very well, especially at night, can wind up hitting the barrel on walls as he sweeps in and out of rooms.

    Handguns are the most effective home defense weapon.

    So, anonymous should champion *complete* abolishment of firearms.

    The same thing can happen with a single shot bolt action riffle. A shooter can sit up on the roof and take out the same amount of people as the VT shooter did. Especially at a quad type area.

  13. Everyone else has already responded to the rest of this. I'll just add one comment.

    Anonymous said:
    Guns for home defense are one thing (I have a 20ga fully loaded under my bed), handguns are quite another.

    Yes, and a loaded 20 gauge under the bed would have done the students at Virginia Tech a lot of good, wouldn't it? In fact:

    "...88% of the violent crimes which respondents reported to NCVS [National Crime Victimization Survey] interviewers in 1992 were committed away from the victim's home..."

    If you want to live in your bunker, that's one thing; but even if the above statistic is wrong, a lot of crime definitely happens outside the home.

    Of course, if people weren't so terrified of guns and didn't think everyone who owned one was a "gun nut", you could walk around with your rifle out in the open. That would keep most offenders away right there.

    As to the bar analogy, well the analogy is bogus. Just as we don't let drunks drive cars under the influence of alcohol, they ought not to have any weapons while impaired. But this is irrelevant to the main issue, which is the legal and SAFE use of weapons.

    By the way, gun use by law abiding citizens isn't some ethreal myth. Guns are used for self-defense about 2 million times per year (see the above quoted study). Again, even if you toss these statistics out, the conservative estimate is still 108,000 self-defense uses per year.

    You might also appreciate this article which, among other things, demonstrates between 1993-1996:

    * 71% of justifiable homicides committed by civilians were done with handguns (remember, justifiable homicide is: "the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty or the killing by a civilian of a felon during the commission of a felony", which for the civilian is almost always self-defense).

    * "Assuming that absent the civilian guns, the civilian justifiable homicides committed with guns would not have occurred, this can be used to infer that there would have been from 2,000 to 7,900 more murders per year and from 160,000 to 320,000 (or 640,000 to 1,300,000, using Kleck's lower bound estimates of justifiable homicides) more other violent crimes per year due to the lack of the negative incentive for the criminals."

    * "[T]he fact that civilians kill an average of 299 felons per year, 88 percent with guns, while police kill 398 felons per year with guns, implies that civilians are having a substantial portion of the [deterance] effect police have. If Kleck's estimates are correct, civilians have a much greater effect than do the police. There are fewer police than there are civilians but a greater portion of the police carry firearms. It would appear that these two factors are offset with respect to the number of felons killed, a measure of the risk to a felon."

    "* Wright and Rossi (1986, p. 145) found that 74 percent of criminals agreed with the statement, 'One reason burglars avoid houses when people are at home is that they fear being shot during the crime.'"

  14. --Consider the reaction that Herbert Morrison had when he witnessed the Hindenburg explode and cried out emotionally, “Oh, the humanity!” Today, that’s a punch line.

    >>Oh, you are so right! And I've used that before, as a punchline, to get a laugh or to make a wry repartee. Not to be melodramatic, but may the Lord forgive me. Just as I'm sensitive to Holocaust jokes and co-workers laughing about "how enrollment at VT Univ will be a lot lower next year! Haw haw!" I should not lose my sense of horror at suffering and death of people - real people - in this world.

    May the Lord open all of our eyes yet further to how we react to tragedy and death both in the present and the past.

    PS - I still gotta get me a handgun.

  15. I am interested in reading a more in-depth analysis of both sides of this debate. Could anyone suggest some articles or a book or two on the subject?

  16. By the way, for those who haven't heard Morrison's audio themselves:


    (Note that, unlike today's television reporting, the audio and the video were taken separately. Morrison was not involved with the video part, he was simply narrating the events for radio broadcasts, etc. It was later put with the film when released in theater's news reels.)

  17. Paul,

    A trained shooter can load his rounds into his shotgun in an extremenly short time frame.

    Shotguns are practically nonlethal at distances which are 100% lethal for rifles and handguns, are *extremely loud* and are very difficult to conceal compared to handguns. They also limit the shooter to reload every five shells (in the average shotgun) compared to having 20-40 shots out of an extended magazine (thanks to Bush's allowing the lapse on larger magazine restrictions). Their penetration power is poor through walls, making them an excellent choice in situations where innocents are potentially in the line of fire in another room.

    One who is knowledgable with firearms buys a youth-model shotgun for home defense, and loads it with no larger than single-ought pellets for higher spread. The barrel and the stock are very short, but still legal. It's a little clumsy to have a shorter action length, but in an emergency, you aren't shooting at pigeons and comfort doesn't matter.

    In a dark room when startled from sleep (home defense), a shotgun is a hell of lot more likely to hit the target for the average citizen.

    You're right about hunting rifles, they can be used in a sniper-like fashion, just as Whitman (and others) have. But look at the situations and differences. Look at the lengths he had to go to in order to access such a perch from which to pick off so many people. He also was a skilled (and decorated) military sharpshooter. We changed our access policies to many vantage points after this tragedy and haven't seen another sniper incident like it since then.

    We can't prevent murder, but we can severely crimp spree killers from enjoying extended periods of murder at one time and place by limiting the sorts of weapons available.


    I see very little in your reference to show a solid case. The anecdotal nature of your reference (an op-ed) is quite telling. Why don't we examine the US and UK murder stats?

    UK: 0.00102579 per 1,000

    US: 0.0279271 gun murders per 1,000

    The US has roughly 27.25 times the gun murder rate. I think that speaks for itself. Our overall murder rate is only 3 times that of the UK (same source).


    You mangled your interpretation of linked article--how it is logical to take away the gun from the victim but not the criminal in all justifiable homicides? Ie you are depending on the idea that if handguns were outlawed, that all criminals would still have them, but that none of the people who killed the criminals would have another means by which to kill the criminal (ie a knife, shotgun or rifle). This is fallacious.


    As I said, I do not disagree with the idea of lethal weapons, as I own two (both shotguns) and am quite well-trained with them. (Competitive skeet shooter) However, I think that NRA arguments for assault rifles and many types of handguns are absurd except to those who drool for the firepower and, like stupid bully children, want to have the (false) sense of security that comes from being the baddest and meanest kid on the playground. The lapse last year of the restriction on many sorts of assault weapons and high-round clips is an example of this kind of stupidity. Who needs forty rounds for self defense?

    Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Of course, this is true, but the question is, "should we allow the manufacture and sale of weapons which enable the facile killing of LOTS of people by one individual?"

    I agree with the following assessment by John Wilkins:
    First thing is the necessity for weapons in a civil society. I do not mean a society run by gangsters (or gangstas), or one in a Somalian warlord condition, or the Wild West, but a well-ordered civil society. One in which order is maintained with a balance of civil rights and freedoms. Is there any kind of need for weapons in that society?

    I would say no. Not even the police would have a right to a weapon in that society; they may have a privilege to carry one under some circumstances, but experience teaches us that when police take their carriage of weapons for granted, they overuse them, and needless deaths result. But ordinary citizens not in the police or military and even those when not engaged in police or military activities, have no right to bear arms.

    Now the American Constitution was formed when there was no standing army in the United States, and when there was no Police Force anywhere (Robert Peel formed the first modern police in 1829, although there had been officers of civil law and order for centuries), so the provision for citizenry to bear arms against tyrants was not only understandable, it was necessary - if Britain, or France or Russia or Spain, invaded the United States, it would be the citizenry that would need to not only fight, but provide the weapons and know how to use them, in defense of their homeland. Even so, a standing army was formed pretty soon afterwards. Arguably, the Constitutional Right was out of date before it was an adolescent.

    But once people have arms, it is hard to give them up, as every nation that has undergone a civil war has found throughout history, and rebellions, civil wars, guerilla campaigns, terrorism and so on have all left the nation in worse shape for generations, and in some cases centuries. So I say, if you have a civil society, control of weapons is essential.

    Fear is the great common denominator among people who fight so hard for ridiculous laxity on guns and modifications. Strange for so many of you believers to *just so happen* to also be NRA/2nd Am strong supporters. Strange to me, at least.

  18. Anonymous said:
    You mangled your interpretation of linked article--how it is logical to take away the gun from the victim but not the criminal in all justifiable homicides? Ie you are depending on the idea that if handguns were outlawed, that all criminals would still have them, but that none of the people who killed the criminals would have another means by which to kill the criminal (ie a knife, shotgun or rifle). This is fallacious.

    Um...sure, whatever.

    The fact of the matter is that criminals are (get this now!) criminals. Which means they're breaking the law already.

    Look at it this way: drugs are illegal. How hard is it for criminals to get drugs? There are tons of guns illegal already, yet these guns can still be found by those who want them. When a weapon is useful, as it is for the criminal, there will be a demand for guns, and they will be out there.

    And that's something you've yet to consider. Why is it that a gun is so useful to a criminal? Because it shifts the balance of power. They now have the means to coerce.

    Yet if everyone had a gun, this shift in the balance of power would not occur. If a man pulls a gun in a crowded room of "gun nuts", he might kill a couple of individuals but he couldn't take them all hostage.

    Criminals do criminal activities basically because a) it's easier to make money than legit activities and b) they determine the risk is worth it. If everyone was armed, both of these factors would be neutralized. It's not anywhere near as easy to rob an armed individual, and it's far riskier.

    Finally, despite all the complaints about gun violence, the worst mass murders in American history have not involved guns at all. There wasn't a single gun used in 9/11, nor did the Oklahoma City bombing require one. That's why the media has to keep classifying this as the worst "shooting" mass murder ever, because it doesn't sound as impressive in a media soundbyte when compared to bombings, etc.

  19. Anonymous,

    But of course using shotguns inside halls and classroms makes for a mess. No one is talking about sniping people with shotguns. Furthermore, since anonymous says he shoots competatively, he should know that he could hit a gallon milk jug from 100-200 ft with a slug. And, I know what the shooter is limited to, but speed loading techniques can equal the playing field. The penetration power is poor if you're using birdshot, but then of course if you're using birdshot, you may as well forget using your shotgun for purposes of home defense.

    I'm afraid your claim about what one who is knowledgable about firearms will buy is a little ignorant. First, the number one selling shot gun for home defense is most probably the Remington Model 870 with short barrel, 12 gauge. Don't know why you'd use 20 gauge. Number 1 buckshot is the best (as your local law enforcement officers), but 20 gauge only has #2 buckshot.

    And, lastly, as you note, one need not be nearly as skilkled with the weapon to hit targets if using a shotgun.

    Go to a school, start firing in classroms and halls, get some skill with speed loading, and we have at least as much carnage as we had at VT.

    There's a reason SEALs, SWAT, etc., frequently have their point man brandishing a shot gun... and it's not because it's the nice and friendly pice you're making it out to be.

    So, you should be for a full ban.

  20. Paul,

    I really don't want to get into a pissing match over our knowledge of weapons and how to use them. Please notice I never said that 20ga were preferred over 12ga for home defense. I said I own a 20ga (I actually own 2 shotguns but only mentioned 1).

    I never said that one should use the 20ga with #1 buck. You are quite right that #2 buck is the largest pellet you can get commercially for a 20ga.

    I happen to own the 20ga because of clay shooting, and am most familiar with it and "handy" (as you say) with this piece. It is presently loaded with #3 buck, and I would not fire it at a person until they breached my bedroom door (I would call the police and wait, gun pointed and ready, if I heard an intruder). If they were unlucky enough to breach the doorline, they would probably die, as I would be shooting prone at center mass from a distance of about 8 feet. The prone position is safest for me, and the upward trajectory insures even more devastation as the path through the body is longer.

    Slug loads are fairly inaccurate for the average shooter. It takes a little skill to shoot a rifled slug load within a 3in cluster at 50 feet, and keep in mind that spree killers are hardly afforded the luxury of using the B.R.A.S.S.

    I'm sure you're knowledgeable about firearms and I am not really interested in debating the finer merits of brass over steel pellets for deformation.

    My point is quite simple -- there is no recorded instance in all of history in which a killing spree occurred with only a shotgun. And with good reason. And I doubt you disagree.

    Could a very well-trained and well-prepared killer use only a shotgun and kill dozens? Yes. But it is much more difficult than just buying a semiautomatic pistol and extended clips from concealment to accuracy at distances and penetration.

    I don't blame gun manufacturers for this, but it is ridiculous that we sell firearms to people who have been found "Mentally Ill" in court. That is absurd.

    For those interested in the arguments for a shotgun over a handgun in home defense, read this.