The Supreme Court has determined that the 2nd Amendment protects a personal right to own firearms "in common use" in both the Heller and McDonald decisions, including handguns - the most common murder weapon. We therefore believe that the bans on other kinds of firearms likewise in common use, which are used in far fewer murders, clearly violate the 2nd Amendment. Gun rights are as much civil rights as the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and all the other rights secured in the Constitution.
We believe that if the 2nd Amendment can simply be ignored, that our 1st Amendment religious freedoms can likewise simply be ignored. We are concerned that current efforts to control firearms, no matter how well intended, will create a precedent enabling this or a future administration, to violate any or all of the rights of the people at will. Freedom is, in many ways, more dangerous than oppression - but as Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
We recognize that not all gun laws violate the 2nd Amendment. The Supreme Court recognized this in the landmark Heller v. DC case, stating "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms." We recognize the reality that the full scope and limits of the right protected by the 2nd Amendment is yet to be defined. That said, we believe that no person should be deprived of their rights under the 2nd Amendment without due process of law.
We deplore not only "gun crime" and "gun murders", but all crime and all murders. We know the impact of murder very well, because we console the families and conduct the funerals. We are far from insensitive to the human cost involved. While some laws (within constitutional limits) may be helpful, we believe that the root of the problem is in the human heart and soul. By definition, criminals are law breakers. They can and will break the law to obtain firearms. Jamaica banned firearms in 1972 and today is awash in illegal firearms and has a murder rate 12.5 times that of the US. We fear that laws that prevent the law abiding from obtaining firearms will increase the murder rate and the suffering.
As we look at the recent mass shootings, we see problems that run much deeper than firearms. In nearly every mass shooting we see a failure of our mental health system. We also see a failure to recognize that evil exists in the world, and therefore a failure to prepare for it. We believe that the answers to this problem are found in these areas, rather than unconstitutional gun bans.
We recognize the human right of both individual and collective self defense. Man was created and given the gift of life. Our faith traditions recognize this and allow for the protection of this gift by the use of force - including deadly force, when absolutely necessary. Our history provides countless examples of situations in which the government was either unwilling or unable to protect people - from black citizens under threat from the KKK to store owners and others during the LA riots. While we believe that the use of defensive force must be avoided when ever possible, we believe that it is immoral to compel law abiding people to be defenseless.
We believe, as do a majority of our fellow citizens, that the 2nd Amendment serves as an important deterrent to tyrannical government. We agree with Judge Alex Kozinski, of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who wrote "The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed - where the government refuses to stand for re-election and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once. Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten." We believe that Judge Kozinski is right.
For all of the preceding reasons, we stand together in support of the 2nd Amendment.
Note: The clergy below are expressing their support as individual citizens, they are not expressing support on behalf of their churches, denominations or any other entity.
Rev. R. Vincent Warde, Ordained Elder, Free Methodist Church (Ret.)
Wm. Thomas Howie, Pastor of White Stone Ministries in Meridian, ID
Mike Brinkmeier, Pastor, Promise Land Bible Church, Mountain Home, AR
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