Monday, July 9, 2012

A contrary view on gun control

This morning on Facebook a neighbor of mine shared a post with a large and colorful visual (that's the current way one gets attention on Facebook), promoting gun ownership rights and proclaiming: "Gun Control...Liberals want it desperately...and why? What It Does: It makes Law abiding citizens victims.  What It Does Not Do: It doesn't disarm criminals."  It goes on to assert that liberals are trying to destroy America ("Why They [liberal] Need It [gun control]: Because You Can't Succeed In Destroying America, If the Populace Is Armed") and that gun ownership is a God-given right.

Gun control is a complicated topic, and there's evidence both for and against stronger restrictions on certain kinds of weapons.  I'm sure the founders of the United States, including those who wrote and approved the second amendment, did not have in mind quite what many gun-rights activists favor now.  The second amendment clearly has local militias in mind--and not, I believe, private militias run by political ideologues.  And I don't think they envisioned people undertaking an armed fight against the legally constituted armed forces of the nation, especially with those armed forces being under legally constituted civilian control.

But I realize I need to learn more to engage in a well-informed discussion of the subject.  What I want to do here is simply report on what I felt when I saw the anti-liberal, pro-gun rights post.  I was unhappy (as usual) to see Facebook being used as a medium for political propaganda, especially what I consider to be wrong-headed propaganda with a negative tone.  I was tempted to add a comment to the post linking to what I was sure I would find: comments from leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favoring restrictions on gun ownership.  I knew I would find such comments for two reasons: (1) the Church has a strong policy against carrying guns on Church property; and (2) President Gordon B. Hinckley, back in 1999, made some anti-gun comments after an attack at the Church's Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

President Hinckley's comments quickly became controversial.  So many members of the Church have strongly conservative views on this issue that it must have been hard for them to believe that someone they considered an authoritative, inspired leader would make comments they considered so contrary to their own.  (This happens virtually every time the Church or its leaders make comments that offend conservative sensibilities.  Something similar happens when they make comments offending liberal sensibilities--but given the political imbalance among Church members, bigger waves are stirred up when conservatives feel offended.)  I believe the Church responded by saying President Hinckley's comments should not be construed as representing an official Church position on gun control legislation.

I decided NOT to add the comment on my neighbor's Facebook post.  I knew it would not bring good feelings, would likely produce more heat than light, and would, well, be an indulgence on my part that would make me (I felt) a worse rather than a better person.

But I ended up writing a long blog post on why I don't like the mix of Facebook and politics (see, and I decided to write about the gun control issue in the present post.

So here's what President Hinckley said, along with a link to an article with additional context:

"A way must be found to keep the mentally ill from senseless acts of violence. You cannot have an indiscriminate allowance of firearms without abuses. All of us cannot be held hostage by a few whose minds are sick and who lack judgment and reason. . . . We cannot live and work in a bunker mentality. . . . It is one thing to let such an individual go about freely in our society, but it is another thing to permit him to arm himself with an automatic weapon with which to cut down and kill, should he feel so inclined." 

The article goes on to report that "Police have said that despite having a past conviction on a misdemeanor weapons violation, Babarin was able to legally purchase in 1995 the .22-caliber semiautomatic Luger handgun he used in Thursday's shootings."

For more detail, see

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