Monday, June 10, 2013

On Behalf of CCW

[Your humble blogger read the statement below to our congregational meeting in support of a resolution permitting the carrying of concealed weapons. Our state laws require such a resolution in order for anyone other than law enforcement to carry weapons in a church, irrespective of other restrictions.]

Mr. Chairman, fellow parishioners. I rise to speak in favor of making provision for armed security at our church during Sunday services. I originally introduced this motion at the January Parish Planning Council meeting, and as your hand-outs indicate, I recommended that we make immediate use of our existing members who possess a license from our state to carry concealed weapons, of whom there are at least four on the Parish Planning Council alone that I know about. In the interest of minimizing the church's liability, I also recommended that they carry weapons in their individual capacity.

I am flexible on these points, and I have always been open, as I open tonight, to constructive amendments to either my proposal or the proposal voted out of the PPC in their April meeting for your consideration now. However, in the wake of the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut last December, it is painfully apparent that designating any place as a “gun free zone” without adequate measures of enforcement is only an invitation to the criminally insane to commit a massacre of defenseless people. As we have seen repeatedly, from Columbine, to Virginia Tech, to Fort Hood, to the Aurora Theater, the one thing these places have in common is that the lawful possession of firearms is not permitted. These prohibitions guarantee to those who would harm us, many whom want as their final wish to draw attention to their own suicides, that no law-abiding citizen will be able to fight back.

Fortunately, our state empowers church congregations to avoid this mistake. Our laws allow churches to honor the privileges of CCW license holders, allowing them to exercise their rights in the defense of themselves and their fellow worshipers. Random mass murders do not happen very often; indeed, last year alone more people were murdered in Chicago -- a city with an absolute prohibition on handgun ownership -- than have been killed nationwide in random mass murders over the last 30 years. Yet when they do occur, they happen in places where people have been forbidden to defend themselves. Churches have not been immune to this; the numbers that I have show that there were 135 deadly force incidents at places of worship last year. Our church is within its rights under the law to correct this folly and decide not to make itself a target for those who seek to do evil against us.

But some people object, “Shouldn’t we trust God for our protection?” Absolutely, we should. And nothing about trust in God requires or excuses improvidence. Noah trusted God as he built an ark to save himself and his family from the flood. David trusted God as he stopped to choose five smooth stones before he faced Goliath. Nehemiah trusted God as he built walls around Jerusalem and put armed men to guard them. Yes, we should always and everywhere trust God. We trust God to provide for our food and shelter as we rise and work for our living. We trust God to heal us of sickness as we visit the doctor. We trust God to protect us from harm as we support at great expense the police and military to enforce our laws and protect our borders. And a great many of us our church trust God as we keep and bear arms for the defense of ourselves and our families.

“But wait!” some reply, “Isn’t protecting us is the job for the police.” Absolutely not. This is incorrect as both a legal and factual matter. The job of the police is to enforce the law, and it’s a task they accomplish by bringing its violators to justice. They have no substantive obligation to protect any person or institution from harm, and this is a question that no less than the Supreme Court has ruled on in several cases. What is not disputed, however, is that all persons have a substantive right to defend themselves, and forty-four states, including ours, have guaranteed citizens the right to keep the means for their protection on their persons. In recognition that the primary obligation of defense rests with the individual, 100 million Americans own firearms, our state alone has licensed 340,000 of its citizens, several of whom are members in good standing right here, to carry concealed weapons.

“Ah, but the police are two minutes away,” they object. “Isn’t their protection basically assured?” Now, to clarify this point, I will stipulate that, once one of us, amid what could be a hail of bullets, pulls out her smart phone, unlocks the screen, navigates to the dialing app, dials 911, and explains to the dispatcher what’s happening and where, then yes, two minutes from that point, the police will arrive at the church door.

I looked up the timeline for Sandy Hook massacre. Some of the details of last 14 December are sketchy, but the best estimate appears to be that Adam Lanza began his attack sometime between 9:30 a.m., when the exterior doors of the school were locked as they always were, and 9:34 a.m. At exactly 9:35:52, the first police dispatch was broadcast, and by 9:36:38, police were calling in their first observations of the crime scene. 9:35:52 – 9:36:38. That is a forty-six second response time. Thirty people died at Sandy Hook Elementary school that day. So no, I’m not personally reassured by our little town's 2 minute response time.

So then people object, “Hey, guns don’t belong in the sanctuary.” Now, I’m not quite sure how to reconcile this objection with faith in the police, whom I assure you will bring their guns when they answer our call, but let
s put that aside. Let’s talk about sanctuary. The etymology of the word “sanctuary” implies “set apart for holy, as opposed to common, use.” It also has been used to describe a place where a wrongdoer may flee to escape revenge from his victim’s family, and in medieval times it also offered refuge from the civil law as well. However, nowhere in scripture is there a prohibition on weapons in the temple or sanctuary; on the contrary, they were specifically kept in the sanctuary as recorded in II Kings 10. I am well aware that over time much superstition and sentimentality have grown up around our ideas about sanctuary, but our responsibility as Christians is to examine that sentiment in the light of God’s Word, and I challenge everyone to justify their beliefs about sanctuary on that basis.

[“Okay, but what if an accident happens?” We’ve all heard stories, some of which may be told tonight, about improper weapons handling, sometimes with tragic consequence. And these stories are very instructive. They serve as an important reminder to all of us on the need for attention to safety, proper procedures, and good training, all of which Ohioans need to receive a CCW license. They especially remind us not to do stupid things, like hand someone a loaded pistol in the middle of a crowded room. This is the adult way of handling responsibility. But more people are killed in car accidents than firearm accidents, yet we all continue to drive. More people drown every year than die in firearm accidents, yet those of us who enjoy swimming continue to do so. So there is no reason to expect that a well-managed security program can’t be conducted in complete safety to the people it protects.]*

Now many people will admit, “Well, I just don’t like guns.” Now this reaction is perhaps the most honest objection raised, and I believe it drives a lot of the other arguments put forward against this resolution. By making this statement, “I don’t like guns,” people usually mean one of two things. One, they are expressing a genuine personal fear or discomfort with firearms, they have no experience with them, they didn’t grow up with them, etc. My own wife fell into this category when we were married in 1997. Five years later, after our daughter was born, and in the determination to protect her, she acquired her own pistol, and today she holds her own license from the state to carry a concealed weapon. But not everyone will follow that path. Jesus told his disciples, “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” I’m not going to tell you to do that. The decision to bear arms is between you and your own conscience. Nothing in this resolution imposes an obligation on anyone to carry a gun. It imposes no obligation on anyone to use a gun to defend himself. It doesn’t even require anyone to see a gun, since the key part of carrying a concealed weapon is that it is concealed. None of you need ever know which of your fellow parishioners is armed, until that day, God forbid it should ever come, that their weapons are used to save your life and the lives of your children.

[But the second thing that people can mean by saying that they don’t like guns is much darker. I do not question anyone’s motives here tonight, but it is abundantly clear from the media coverage of this issue that people use the debate over firearms as a proxy. What people are doing is expressing their dislike for certain classes of their fellow citizens they believe are likely to own firearms. In the media these are typically “Republicans”, “Conservatives”, “White Male Heterosexuals”, or some combination of these qualities. In response to this argument, I would respond first by saying it is factually wrong, that CCW holders come from all walks of life, of all political orientations, that they are united only by the desire not to be defenseless in the face of violent crime. But more importantly, I want to recommend to the church that we do not allow our safety to be held hostage to our nation’s political and cultural divisions.]** Even if you believe that our society would be better off without guns; even if you believe that guns don’t belong in church; that is NOT the issue before the assembly, because come the day, you will not control whether there are guns here. The bad guys will bring their guns, and I promise you the police will bring theirs. The issue before us is whether we remain unprotected against a violent intrusion into our house of worship, or whether we prudently prepare for that contingency. My exhortation to you tonight is that we choose prudence.

Finally, some say, “I worry about what the resolution signifies. What message does it send to our children or the community?” Now, in the resolution before you, the Parish Planning Council is asking your permission to continue wrestling with this very question. And each person who votes on this resolution must look to his own conscience, guided as always by faith and reason, and must decide for himself what it means, be it for or against. I can only speak for myself when I say that my vote here tonight means that as much as it depends on me, I live at peace with all men.

That concludes my statement, and yield back the floor to the Chairman.

[We "lost" in a tie vote. A lot better than I expected.]

* I made the tactical decision to save this point for rebuttal.

** This section wound up on the kitchen floor during rehearsals. My wife made a good point: who, exactly, was it going to persuade?

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