“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Slavery was adherence to the Jewish Law. Paul was saying to Gentiles that in following Christ you are not bound to the tenets of Jewish Law, specifically the need to be circumcised. Certainly, if you want to be circumcised, fine. But faith in Jesus Christ means you are free to love. And what is love? Love is doing the Fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
I lead with Galatians because there is a parallel with gun privilege. I cannot count the number of times I have heard gun carriers proclaim “Freedom to own and use a gun because I have my Second Amendment rights.” I would say,
“Yes. But!” Parallel with freedom is “Freedom from to freedom for.” As Paul writes that the Christian is free from having to be circumcised, the follower of Jesus is free for living the Fruits of the Spirit. Similarly with gun freedom. We are free from owning and using a gun. Guns are not mandatory for living. We are only free to use a gun responsibly, for love. We must distinguish between a gun freedom that is MALIGNED from a gun freedom that is IMAGINED.
MALIGNED gun freedom leads to 40,000 gun deaths a year, with nearly 60% being suicide by gun, about 35% being homicides and a small percentage accidental tragedies. Mass shootings (four or more people injured or killed) occur nearly every day. BAD APPLE gun dealers (about 4%) sell about 90% of guns used in crime. Militia groups such as the Boogaloo Bois, Oath Keepers and Proud Boys carry weapons with an intimidating power threat to our national government. Police reform is needed to curtail unnecessary gun use. More police training is spent on the gun range than on learning de-escalation techniques.
Contrary, if we own a gun, if we are free to purchase and use a gun, how do we IMAGINE the gun use for love? This is where gun use gets sticky! The ethical issues rise significantly. I would argue that loving, “fruitful” gun use means: 1) Respecting the need for a universal background check in any licensed or private sale. Those with a violent criminal background, a record of domestic violence, or mentally incompetent, or too young, would not be allowed to purchase a gun. If one has none of these limits, one can purchase; 2) Not be allowed to carry a gun into places that do not allow weapons, including places of worship, businesses, health care facilities, sporting events. Places have the right to prohibit gun possession; 3) Assault-type weapons would not be sold for general use. These weapons are made for the battlefield; 4) A gun owner must lock up the weapon in their home, unloading the gun and locking up the ammunition in a separate safe; 5) The gun owner must participate in a separate gun safety program upon purchase of the weapon; 6) The gun must be licensed and registered as are automobiles. And similar to automobile use, this license must be renewed every few years; 7) The gun owner must purchase liability insurance.
IMAGINING these “loving fruits” for gun purchase and use WILL NOT prevent a responsible, loving person from purchasing and using a weapon responsibly. Instead, each “fruit” will free the person to use the gun responsibly. These “fruits” will free the owner “from” a MALIGNED misuse of the freedom to purchase and use, and freedom “for” IMAGINED and responsible gun use. “Freedom” is a wonderful privilege! Paul in Galatians points us to its right practice.
Blessings and Peace!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)