The Right to Bear Arms

I’m going to guess this is a very touchy subject on here, but try to open a reasoned debate in any case. I have read quite a bit here and elsewhere, in defence of gun ownership. It could be because I come from a different culture (England/ Ireland), but I find it difficult to reconcile gun ownership with a moral Catholic position. I completely understand that the basic argument is that guns equate to defence. If you are armed, you are able to defend yourself. I also do not think you could disarm, certainly not quickly. That would mean that the only people left with guns would be those who do not accept the rule of law, and law abiding citizens would then have little or no defence against them.

However, I would like to suggest that the Catholic Church is very solidly, very calmly against gun ownership and that this is very clear and consistent in Catholic teaching. I have written something about it here outlining my argument and providing references and I would invite you to review and please, comment and help me to understand where and if I’ve got this wrong.

This is a very touchy area. People are on both sides of the issue and often very disrespectful and insulting to others with differing opinions. Good, Christian people are often very unChristian in their responses to each other.

First, I am curious to know where you heard that. When I was an altar boy 40-some years ago, our priest would go deer hunting quite often.

You have to understand that guns are very much ingrained into the American culture and have been so since long before the US Constitution’s second amendment (e.g., The Right to Bear Arms) When European explorers first arrived in North America in the 16th an 17th centuries they depended very heavily on their firearms; but to hunt for food and for defense against unfriendly natives. When the American colonies fought it war for independence in the late 1700s, virtually all the small arms used to fight were privately owned. In the 1790s when the constitution was adopted there was this special provision included that explicitly gave the citizenry the right to keep and bear arms. This was for two reasons: The newly formed United States and no full-time standing military and still depended on the citizen-soldier for national defense, and more importantly (oddly enough) it was to protect citizens from its own government.

Remember: Americans had just come off 200 years of tyrannical rule under the British Crown. By allowing citizens to arm themselves, it kept in the government in check from also becoming tyrannical; the idea being that the citizens could rise up against the government if necessary.

As the westward expansion began in the mid-1800s, the settlers also depended on their guns for survival. They would hunt for food, defend themselves against hostile Indians and since there was no law-enforcement in those days, guns were needed for personal defense as well. Guns are part of what defines America and Americans.

The recent school shooting in Connecticut has again brought the gun discussion to the forefront. But the fact is, only about 200 people have died in mass shootings since the Columbine incident. Now I don’t mean detract from the sufferings of people connected to those incidents, but deaths by mass shootings are statistically rare when compared against other unnatural deaths that occurred in the same time period. Where is the outrage against automobile deaths? Where is the outrage against airplane crashes? Obese people die from heart attacks every day, but no one is demanding that all the McDonalds be shut down.

The reason is that mass shootings get the headlines just like plane crashes. You hear about plane crashes all the time but you never hear about the 1000s of planes that take off and land safely every day. So if you relied on the 6:00pm news for your information about airline travel, you might (incorrectly) conclude that airplanes are dangerous and should be banned. So likewise, guns get a bad rap every time someone uses one illegally.

It is not a gun problem; it is a people problem. Banning guns will not solve the problem of people killing other people. It is a sad but true fact that people have been killing each other since Cain killed Abel. People killed with rocks, clubs, spears, swords, arrows etc. long before guns were ever invented. Someday guns may become obsolete and people will kill with laser pistols or light sabers.

The old saw bears repeating: When guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns. Bad guys are going to get guns one way or the other and taking guns away from law abiding citizens will just mean they will no longer be able to defend themselves. This will mean more gun deaths; not fewer.

In 1982, the city of Kennesaw, Georgia enacted a law that said the head of every household was required to own a gun and ammunition for it. Despite fears of wanton violence and gun battles in the streets, the crime rate dropped by 89% and has been consistently lower than the national average ever since. By contrast, the city of Morton Grove, Illinois enacted a law banning guns that same year, and its crime increased by 16%.

I would strongly encourage you to read this opinion piece. It is chock-full of unbiased common sense:

Have not read your linked piece - and I do appreciate the problem you might have with gun ownership - coming from a different culture…But the most basic issue in play here in the U.S. is this…Regardless of the validity of the various views and arguments…The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to “keep and bear arms”.

So - it won’t matter what the Church teaches - Americans cannot be disarmed unless the second amendment of the Constitution is repealed.
And that is not going to happen…at least not peacefully.


Thanks James

I have to say, I have read the second amendment, and indeed quote it in my article there, but it doesn’t seem to have much to do with personal gun ownership for self defence. It’s about the British invading and being able to raise a militia quickly to defend the States. But that’s just my outside, objective perspective :shrug:

OP- I can’t seem to get your link to work

Everyone else- The OP is asking about the Church’s view on firearms, not about the legal and cultural implications of the Church’s view in a particular country.

I have reviewed your link and have a more come away from what you posted with an even stronger sense that the Catholic Church is most decidedly NOT against gun ownership.

Many thanks for your response.

Excellent point, my apologies. I meant for self defence purposes. The Vatican’s justice and peace council’s 1994 document said, “In a world marked by evil and sin, the right of legitimate defence by armed means exists,” but, Tommaso Di Ruzza, the expert on disarmament and arms control at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said, it wasn’t lauding the potential of weaponry as much as it was lamenting the existence of arms in an imperfect world.

Nations have a duty, the document said, to reduce if not eliminate the causes of violence.

And as Pope Benedict wrote in his message to the disarmament conference, no reduction or elimination of arms can happen without eliminating violence at its root.

Every person “is called to disarm his own heart and be a peacemaker everywhere,”

See here:

Thank you for this, it is a very useful and lucid synopsis :thumbsup: I had to edit it in my quote here to get within the forum character limit.

Have you ever read the CCC on the sources of morality? The morality of an act relies on three things:

  • the object chosen;

  • the end in view or the intention;

  • the circumstances of the action.

In the examples you give above, I would argue that none of these are the death of an individual, whereas if one takes up a firearm and shoots someone, quite clearly the object chosen and the intention are the death of another individual. The circumstances can effect, but not necessarily mitigate the morality of that act.

Yet surely the gun is the ‘enabler’ in this situation. Without the gun, the atrocity at Connecticut could not have taken place. Guns present disturbed individuals with the means to carry out their sick delusions.

This is a good point, but clearly the facts don’t hold:
Still I think it is a good point in an almost unique situation in the USA. There are SO MANY guns in circulation, banning guns now would result in only the people who do not respect the rule of law owning guns.

Wow! That’s pretty difficult to argue against, except to repeat, as I said in my piece, My position is a fundamental gut feeling that I do not want to live in a society in which civility ultimately relies on a recourse to deadly violence.

Many thanks for your thought provoking and gentle response, I certainly will read the article, and God bless :thumbsup:

Sorry, could not read your link.

I don’t see how the Church can be against gun ownership when the Pope is protected by the Swiss Guard who carry semi-automatic weapons.

The POTUS has the Secret Service and his daughters go to a posh school which has seven armed guards who were there before they were enrolled and the girls have the Secret Service too. Apparently, they are not in a “Gun Free Zone” as were the kids in Sandy Hook.

Chicago has one the worse homicide rates in the US but I’m sure R. Emmanuel ain’t walking around without a couple of body guards.

There seems to be a separation with the politically connected and liberals being able to protect themselves while the peons are to be disarmed.

Here’s another example of silly PC…two dectectives were asked not to come into a restaurant with their guns. WOW! Whom did the owner think this would protect?

The crazed Muslim psychiartist in Ft. Hood let loose at that military fort because the others were not allowed to be armed. Does that make sense?

Thank you!

With regard to the link, try going to and clicking on the ‘Right to Bear Arms’ title.

Thanks for trying. You could try going to and clicking on the ‘Right to Bear Arms’ title.

It’s more nuanced than that, just like the teaching on capital punishment which says it is licit, but under certain circumstances. The ideal being that we are working towards a society where such draconian measures become obsolete.

Until that time comes, I want to be able to protect myself and my family from lunatics, drugged up crazies, political crazies, and a government that may or may not be looking out for its people.

The nature of the power relationships between each individual state and the Federal union have always been problematic and fluid over here; not even the Civil War completely settled the issue, especially in the South. Americans at the time of the adoption of the Constitution would not think in terms of raising a militia to defend the “States” - such a nascent concept was only slowly becoming a reality - rather, each State wanted to be prepared to raise a militia to defend itself from either invasion from a foreign power or any possible harassment from the Federal power. The idea of a standing Federal army was anathema.

And if I’m not supposed to have a gun, what do you suggest I do the next time a rattlesnake shows up near the house? Or a rabid coyote shows up the the same pasture as my horses?

Seriously, I’d like to know what you think we should do.

Fascinating. And as demonstrated by the post-election discussion of cessation I suppose?

I think that’s a valid reason for owning a gun Agnes.

No reduction or elimination of arms can happen without eliminating violence at its root.

Every person “is called to disarm his own heart and be a peacemaker everywhere,” as the pope said. See

The Church is not against weapon ownership.

It could not be, given that our LORD Himself urged His followers to buy swords.

I personally know a priest who is a gun owner and hunter.

That said, I am very conflicted about this issue, but it is not a Church issue.


Did you read the article Geddie?

“Remember: Americans had just come off 200 years of tyrannical rule under the British Crown”

Bull feathers.

I know you guys like to bang on about how oppressed you were under British Rule - but you were British (or most of you)! And the taxes etc were no higher than Brits paid back in Brit land! And the taxes went towards the defence of and building up of the American commonwealth.

Try not paying your taxes now and see how tyrannical your own government can be - probably more so than the British government at the time.

What you wanted was self government - a recently emerging concept and NOT one that ALL “Americans” wanted - hence the Empire Loyalists moving to Ontario.

And with self government came the chance to build your own Empire - which brought you guys back into war with those same Empire Loyalists and other Brits living in North America, and so the War of 1812 when America invaded Canada and was beaten.

There was no 200 years of tyranny.

(and yes I may have slanted things towards my own viewpoint in order to get my POV across - but I do not and never will believe that people in the American colonies were treated any differently than people in Britain at a time when democracy was a NEW and EMERGING concept - why not just say - we wanted self-government and had to fight for it? In my opinion this whole tyrannical British rule thing and the right to bear arms has fostered an ever present fear of your own people and your own government. I honestly don’t know of another people who seem to fear their government so much - or at least use that “fear” as an excuse to “bear arms.” And I say this not to criticize but out of true interest since I know so many Americans and it seems true of most/many of them. )

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