Secular Right | Reality & Reason

TAG | gun control



Just Another Foolish Priest

Red DeanA cleric talking nonsense is hardly news, but when it’s the right sort of nonsense, the Washington Post can be relied upon to gush:

Ambitious and outspoken, the new head of Washington National Cathedral has attracted more attention over the past few weeks than previous cathedral deans have for decades.

The Rev. Gary Hall’s announcement that the cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal Church, would host same-sex weddings and his immediate embrace of gun control in the hours after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., have made him a regular on national television. On Thursday, Hall will be the only representative of the clergy speaking at a Capitol Hill news conference where Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will introduce a bill that would ban dozens of assault weapons.

One recent morning, Hall zoomed around town to three television appearances in an hour, triggering stares in network studios as he sat in his priest’s collar getting his makeup done while the usual pundits and politicos came and went.
His sermon two days after the Newtown shootings — “The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby,” he said — got a rare standing ovation…

As leader of one of the country’s most prominent churches — and the site of Tuesday’s official inaugural prayer service, complete with the Obamas — Hall is being interviewed daily about measures he and a team of clergy leaders are promoting.

Ushers handed out 10,000 call-your-lawmaker cards to worshippers over the Christmas period. Hall and the Washington diocese’s bishop, Mariann Budde, traveled to Johns Hopkins University this week for a summit on gun control. They are soliciting criticism from gun-owning Episcopalians, hoping to broaden their pool of allies.

Hall is advocating for something striking to keep the subject on people’s minds. He likes the idea of wrapping the towering Gothic cathedral in black crepe in memory of gun violence victims. Or ringing its massive bells each morning to toll the number of deaths each day. Something that gets people’s attention.

“What I want to do is more like guerilla theater,” he said….

“He’s like the Joe Biden of the Episcopal Church. He has the personality and respect that can bring people together,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, a priest at All Saint’s Pasadena, a 4,000-member Los Angeles church where Hall worked for 11 years.

OK, I’ll admit it: that last bit made me laugh, but “the cross lobby”, good grief…

The spirit of Hewlett Johnson lives on, it seems.

But same-sex marriages in the cathedral are, I should add, just fine with me, not that I should have a vote on the matter: That’s something that ought to be up to each church to decide for itself.

· ·



Watching the Bishops

usccbJoe Biden:

“Yesterday we finished up in this room with … 17 members of the faith community … [I]n all the years I have been doing this, the first time there has been an overwhelming consensus, from the evangelical groups nationwide, and particularly those in rural areas, to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to the National Conference of Churches, the Muslim community, because this does have a significant moral dimension—how we make the American community safer and how we go about it.…”

That’s a nauseating little snippet on a number of counts, but let’s focus for a moment on the participation of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. It will be very interesting indeed to hear what they have to say. After all, we have heard a lot from them recently about the (supposed) threat to their First Amendment rights from Obamacare’s contraception mandate.

Let’s hope that they are just as assiduous in their defense of the Second.

· ·



A World Without Guns? No Thanks.

Biden gun controlCross-posted on the Corner:

Sam Harris is a “New Atheist” and a Second Amendment skeptic too — wait, wait – and there’s a lot to disagree with in this new piece of his (“collective psychosis”, good lord). Nevertheless, agree or disagree, it’s carefully thought-out and very well worth a look by anyone with a serious interest in the gun debate. It also ought to make thoroughly disconcerting reading for the likes of Obama, Biden and the rest. Assuming, of course, that they were actually open-minded enough to consider Harris’s arguments seriously, something, I suspect, that is an assumption too far . . .

Harris sees the world as it is, as a place, shall we say, that is more Hobbes than Gandhi:

Like most gun owners, I understand the ethical importance of guns and cannot honestly wish for a world without them. I suspect that sentiment will shock many readers. Wouldn’t any decent person wish for a world without guns? In my view, only someone who doesn’t understand violence could wish for such a world. A world without guns is one in which the most aggressive men can do more or less anything they want. It is a world in which a man with a knife can rape and murder a woman in the presence of a dozen witnesses, and none will find the courage to intervene. There have been cases of prison guards (who generally do not carry guns) helplessly standing by as one of their own was stabbed to death by a lone prisoner armed with an improvised blade. The hesitation of bystanders in these situations makes perfect sense—and “diffusion of responsibility” has little to do with it. The fantasies of many martial artists aside, to go unarmed against a person with a knife is to put oneself in very real peril, regardless of one’s training. The same can be said of attacks involving multiple assailants. A world without guns is a world in which no man, not even a member of Seal Team Six, can reasonably expect to prevail over more than one determined attacker at a time. A world without guns, therefore, is one in which the advantages of youth, size, strength, aggression, and sheer numbers are almost always decisive. Who could be nostalgic for such a world? . . .

It is reasonable to wish that only virtuous people had guns, but there are now nearly 300 million guns in the United States, and 4 million new ones are sold each year. A well-made gun can remain functional for centuries. Any effective regime of “gun control,” therefore, would require that we remove hundreds of millions of firearms from our streets. As Jeffrey Goldberg points out in The Atlantic, it may no longer be rational to hope that we can solve the problem of gun violence by restricting access to guns—because guns are everywhere, and the only people who will be deterred by stricter laws are precisely those law-abiding citizens who should be able to possess guns for their own protection and who now constitute one of the primary deterrents to violent crime. This is, of course, a familiar “gun nut” talking point. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

Harris is a supporter of far more intrusive regulation than I would support even on a “once and for all” basis (and doesn’t choose to discuss the way in which even a theoretically reasonable licensing process can be abused by the authorities) but he has the honesty to admit this:

Another problem with liberal dreams of gun control is that the kinds of guns used in the vast majority of crimes would not fall under any plausible weapons ban. And advocates of stricter gun laws who claim to respect the rights of “sportsmen” or “hunters,” and to recognize a legitimate need for “home defense,” simply give the game away at the outset. The very guns that law-abiding citizens use for recreation or home defense are, in fact, the problem.

And that’s the point. That’s why serious supporters of the Second Amendment find it so difficult to support what (many see as) self-evidently sensible gun control measures. “Once and for all” simply doesn’t exist. Once the big-government ratchet starts turning, it does not stop, and those few sentences by Sam Harris help explain why. And then there’s the prominence of Bloomberg on the gun-control team . . .

Anyway, read the whole thing.

· ·



Self-help in Harlem

I’m no fan of the death penalty, having concluded that its massive costs outweigh its obvious justice and that its deterrent effect is next to nothing, given the decades-long due process gauntlet that the courts have imposed on its exercise.  I also have tended to defer to police chiefs on gun control: every chief I know wants fewer guns, illegal and legal, not more, in the public domain. Being a sissified urban dweller with no instinctive urge to own a gun or visceral identification with NRA-types, I have been happy to follow their lead.  The idea of a greater number of periodically irrational human beings walking around armed to the teeth has not filled me with a sense of security.

But this heart-warming story of a 72-year-old restaurant supply store owner in Harlem who blasted away four armed thugs who tried to rob his business yesterday, killing two and wounding the other two, has me reconsidering.  Some delicious details: After one of the primeval-scum robbers started pistol-whipping an employee of proprietor Charles Augusto, Jr., Mr. Augusto “rose from a chair 20 to 30 feet away and took out a loaded Winchester 12-gauge pump-action shotgun .. . and fired three blasts in rapid succession,” according to the New York Times.  Mr. Augusto had bought the rifle after being robbed 30 years ago.  “The first shot took down the gunman at the front,” who died almost immediately; the second two shots hit all three accomplices, who stumbled bleeding out of the store.  One died after having been taken to a local hospital (at whose expense?); the other two were picked up on the basis of their blood trail and witness descriptions and also treated at the hospital.  

(The Times of course supplies us with what it must intend as heart-wrenching images of friends and relatives of the robbers wailing and slamming their fists into light poles in despair, and notes that a bystander “sympathized with Mr. Augusto, but not with the would-be robbers.”  How odd!) 

Mr.  Augusto has not been arrested, and I would hope that the Manhattan DA would not dare to bring criminal charges against him. 

As I say, I have not heretofore been persuaded by the argument that the solution to crime is ubiquitous civilian gun-carrying.  But I readily concede that this triumph of good over evil could arguably do as much to deter commerical robberies in Harlem, at least for a while, as the NYPD’s brilliant Compstat tactics

(More good crime and police news today: A grand jury has declined to indict NYPD Officer Andrew Dunton in the tragic fatal shooting of fellow Officer Omar Edwards this May.)

Theme Design by