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Responding to Gun Safety Reform Objections

Memorial to the victims of the 2023 Michigan State University shooting

“2023 Michigan State University shooting memorial” by Guettarda / CC BY-SA 4.0

The topic of guns is a contentious one with strong opinions on all sides of the debate. The responses below, grounded in Catholic social doctrine and amplified by academic studies, are intended to address the concerns of those who do not believe gun safety reforms are necessary or good public policy. It is important to remember that conversations around this topic should take place with charity and respect for one another. Listening to and understanding another person’s concerns does not require retreating from one’s own thoughts or beliefs, but rather being considerate of how another thinks and believes.

Guns are needed for the possibility of armed resistance to a tyrannical government.
The Catechism contemplates the limited circumstances where armed resistance would be permitted against a government. Since armed resistance is essentially violent conflict against the government, the high threshold of just war principles must be met, including such standards as “there is a well-founded hope of success” and “all other means of redress have been exhausted.”1
You cannot legislate away evil. Homicides will continue despite these laws.
Catholics believe civil law expresses the moral order and promotes the common good in society. Although it is true that civil law alone cannot prevent all bad acts, there is extensive research that certain gun safety policies are very likely to save lives, thereby promoting the value of human life and peace to society.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
People live in a fallen world where conflict is sometimes inevitable. The question is whether that conflict will become deadly. The availability of a gun to people involved in violent or angry conflict reasonably leads to an increased risk of serious injury or death.
The government should just enforce the laws on the books instead of adding new laws to control guns.
Catholics are encouraged to pursue a both/and approach. There is merit to evaluating current laws and policies and understanding how they are being enforced and implemented, just as there is also merit to adding new policies that strengthen and improve existing laws to promote peace and protect human life.
These restrictions only take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. It would be safer to arm law-abiding citizens so they can protect themselves.
While sometimes unwelcome for law-abiding and gun-owning citizens, the measures discussed in this focus are intended to protect the innocent from others likely to commit deadly violence. Well-intentioned hunters are not the source of cultural and societal gun violence, and the Catechism supports the right for self-defense.2 Gun safety laws are intended to implement common-sense standards on weapons that can seriously injure or kill. Additionally, research shows that changing laws to allow more people to carry firearms in public are associated with increases in violent crime.3
These measures violate the Second Amendment and my freedom as an American to own a gun.
Catholic social principles hold that with rights come responsibilities, and that applies to the Second Amendment. As the American bishops have taught, “the unlimited freedom to possess and use handguns must give way to the rights of all people to safety and protection against those who misuse these weapons.”4 Catholics do not advocate for freedom from obligation or restriction, but rather freedom for human flourishing. The common good of society includes respect for life and for peace.5 A peaceful society is not possible if violent death by gunfire is increasingly prevalent.
  1. Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Catechism of the Catholic Church, sec. 2243, Second Edition. (Ligouri, Missouri: Ligouri Publications, 1994)
  2. Ibid. 1, sec. 2264–2265.
  3. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Study Finds Significant Increase in Firearm Assaults in States that Relaxed Conceal Carry Permit Restrictions.” 2022
  4. United States Catholic Conference. Handgun Violence: A Threat to Life. Committee on Social Development and World Peace. Washington, D.C: United States Catholic Conference, 1975
  5. Ibid. 1, sec. 1909.
Michigan Catholic Conference
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