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April 08, 2013 10:02 AM Gun Control: “Let’s Turn Our Pistols Into Plowshares”

By Harold Pollack

One aspect of the gun issue gets less attention than it should: The need in a million ways to change our cultural norms regarding responsible gun ownership and use, and the need to reject the presence of military or assault-styled weaponry and accessories in our common civilian life. The Most Rev. John Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City speaks to these issues:

The Catholic Church advocates for the culture of life, for peace, for building the Kingdom of God on Earth. To do so, we must turn our pistols into plowshares; promoting harmony in our world rather than violence. While individuals may have a limited right to carry a deadly firearm, whether and how to exercise that right is a moral decision that must be made carefully and in accordance with our Catholic belief in the dignity and sanctity of all life….
`Within Catholic teaching, self-defense means a right to protect life using reasonable means. Carrying a firearm as a daily habit is not about protecting life as a matter of self-defense. In fact, carrying a firearm increases the likelihood that the person will use it to threaten or take a life in a moment of anger. Stories abound of people faced with the lifelong regret of reaching too quickly for a firearm in response to a temporary but emotionally charged situation that has nothing to do with self-defense….
More importantly, the creation of a culture that glorifies guns and encourages individuals to wear dangerous weapons at all times is contrary to the Catholic belief in the sanctity and dignity of human life. The Catechism reminds us that “those who renounce violence and bloodshed and, in order to safeguard human rights, make use of those means of defense available to the weakest, bear witness to evangelical charity … They bear witness to the gravity of the physical and moral risks of recourse to violence, with all its destruction and death.”

We live in a society that too-often glorifies guns, glorifies violence. It’s in our DNA. It’s most obviously-seen in the stupid Facebook videos of Chief Keef or the ostentatiously-armed wing of the Tea Party crowd. It goes far beyond that. There’s a quiet radicalism in Bishop Wester’s words. They command attention.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.
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