In this episode, Kurt talks to Tim Hsaio about why gun ownership is a moral issue.
Kurt: Well, Good day to you, and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill, where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. This is a great day ladies and gentlemen, for we are once again joined by our technical producer, Chris, so glad that you’re back.
Chris: Glad to be back, Kurt.
Kurt: He has been missed, very missed, for the past three weeks, busy catching up on projects and work and whatnot and I know we had a couple other hiccups with I guess, Fuz Rana was in town so I went over there. We were doing things. We were at the Moody Church. It just feels nice. We’re getting back to our…
Chris: Back to our roots.
Kurt: That’s right. Until next week of course when we’re going to be…
Chris: That’s right.
Kurt: At the Compass Church in Bolingbrook, so let me tell you about that here before we move forward. Next week, the Defenders Conference. This year’s theme is the Protestant Reformation. It’s located at the Compass Church, their Bolingbrook campus. You can learn more about the conference if you go to the defendersconference.com. I’ll be speaking and we’re bringing in a number of special guests, Dr. Jerry Walls and Dr. Richard Park and Dr. James Payton, so come join theologians, historians, philosophers, and apologists, as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and we are going to consider some of the great ideas to come forth from that religious and even in some ways political movement. We’re going to deconstruct some myths that people believe about the Reformation and then we will constructively also consider some of its shortcomings, so you’ll have a chance to learn how to explain more about the Protestant Reformation and also other apologetic issues so there are going to be different breakout sessions, different tracks. There’s going to be a Reformation track to go along with the theme of the conference. There’s an evangelism track, and then an apologetics track as well. Should be a lot of fun, and also Chris, I guess I didn’t tell you this, but one of our regional associates, Seth Baker, he’s going to be coming into town so you’ll get the chance to meet Seth. I’ve never met him. He’s helped us out on some projects from time to time. He’s 6’2″ and we’re going to try to play basketball while he’s here.
Chris: That’s someone to look up to.
Kurt: Yes. Literally, someone to look up to. I never envisioned Seth I suppose to be this giant of a fellow, but he will be. He’s not 6’6″. He’s not that tall. That’s how tall Michael Jordan is. 6’6″. Alright. Thedefendersconference.com. For more information, please go to that website. Please register. We’d love to see you there. It’s going to be a great time and we’re going to try our best to livestream the main sessions. If we end up having some hiccups along the way, then we’re certainly going to have them recorded and posted on the web sometime in the future. That’s the big announcement. I don’t have a fundraising announcement yet. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve had a fundraising update on the podcast. Maybe next week or the following week we’ll get an update to you on that, but if you are interested in supporting the work that we’re doing here at Veracity Hill we would love to get your support, if it’s $10 a month, $20 a month, or if the Lord has especially blessed you and placed this podcast ministry on your heart, we’d love to have folks supporting us at $100 or $200 a month. That’ll definitely us meet our goal. Our goal is $800 a month. We need to start paying our technical producer before he gets wooed away from us. Just kidding, Chris. I appreciate your devoted work here for the show. Again, it’s just so nice to have you back.
Chris: The stream looks great again.
Kurt: Awesome. That’s music to my ears. I think that does it, and if you couldn’t tell, I’m battling a cold. I think I’m on the tail end of it. And our guest today is fighting one right now. We’re talking about the moral case for gun ownership and joining me on the show today is Tim Hsiao, who teaches humanities at Grantham University. His research focuses on applied ethics in which he has published numerous peer-reviewed papers on gun control, sexual ethics, and the morality of eating meat even, and some of those journals are Public Affairs, Philosophia, and Libertarian Papers amongst others. Tim. Thank you so much for joining us on the show today.
Tim: Glad to be here.
Kurt: Great. Before we get started, I want to first read some of the Facebook comments actually that people have written in anticipation of this show today. Sally here is watching our feed and she says, “Hi, Kurt. I’m very interested in this topic. All four of my children have gun permits and two sons and son-in-law own guns. My father and many of my cousins are or were hunters.” There is an interesting thing that Sally has already brought up here. Not only is gun ownership in her family, but she noted hunting as a reason for owning a gun. I think we’re going to be getting into some other reasons as well, but let me also see here some other comments and some that we will certainly attend to later because Christians can be mixed on this issue. What we’re going to do today, Tim, I hope that you’ll be able to enlighten us. First, I want to talk about what reasons we might have from what’s called Natural Law theory. That is people that aren’t just Christians, why should they believe that it’s moral to have a gun, and then maybe in the second half of the show we’ll attend to specifically why is it that Christians should. Here we have Craig. He writes here, and he’s an Australian. He says, “Some Americans need to come and live in Australia for awhile to recognize that you don’t have to have a gun. If we had American laws the kids would be shooting themselves at school by now. I am against Christians promoting the second amendment and promoting gun ownership.” I also have a personal friend of mine, Nick, he wrote, “Interesting” in terms of what he knew of what today’s should be on, and Hannah here writes, “Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of this in terms of morality. Should be interesting.” Thank you to those that commented on the promotional image for the show. I hope that you’re also tuning in here. also[NP1] writes “I’m very interested in this and have been on both ends of the barrel so to speak. A gun owner and being fired upon as an MP in the army.” I take it MP there is military police or personnel. Not sure what exactly the initials there, the letters would stand for, but hopefully I’ve got that right. I’m glad that people are interested in this conversation. I wanted to do this topic on the heels of, I think we’re actually planning to do this topic anyway and then all of a sudden there was the Las Vegas shooting and so we thought we should push it off for a month so that cooler heads might prevail, and for a lot of people the Las Vegas incident was an emotional experience certainly, and a justified emotional experience for that local community, a somewhat sort of emotional experience for the nation. It’s a different sort of experience. I want to note that. I think some people overreact on social media and they expect people to respond in a certain way that is similar to people that have actually experienced the event and I think that is an unwarranted position so we need to be thoughtful in how we even react to national affairs, whether they are community events, statewide events, etc. At any rate, Tim, I’m so glad you’re here to help us think through these issues today. I know we’ve sort of made this a broad tent, moral case for gun ownership. Perhaps we can just start with more broadly speaking, why do you think it is that people or specifically if you want to make it Americans we can do that, why we Americans should have guns.
Tim: Yeah. In terms of the case for gun ownership, there’s two ways you can go about this. Most people when they think about guns, public policy. They tend to think of a utilitarian argument or what you could call a consequentialist argument. You look at the studies. You look at the data. You look at the criminological evidence to see if guns lead to more harm or more benefits and you make public policy decisions based on that simple calculation of where the consequences line up. I don’t have a problem with that approach, but I think it’s a bit too simplistic. Definitely there’s more to morality, unless you’re a consequentialist of course, but there’s more to morality than just the outcomes or the consequences or just utilitarian interests.
Kurt: So just to clarify here. A utilitarian or consequentialist might be someone who thinks along the lines of “What sort of works for us and what are the outcomes?”, but here you’re saying it’s more than the utilitarian perspective and maybe the effects do support our case, but you’re saying there’s more to it than that. Is that right?
Tim: Certainly. When
many people talk about gun ownership, they often use this term “I have a
right to own a gun” or there is a right to keep a firearm for self-defense,
and certainly if you look at the way the constitution is written, the Second
Amendment protects a right to keep and bear arms. Certainly, utilitarian
concerns are relevant, but at least in terms of public policy debate, there’s
also this concern of is there a right to keep and bear arms and if
so, what’s the scope of this right? When it comes to the utilitarian argument I
do think that the consequences or the arguments of that sphere support our
position, support the case that there should be a right to own a gun, but I
don’t want to frame the issue as just one of consequences. I think rights
are also relevant. The argument I would give, usually when I talk about gun
control, if I want to talk about gun control to somebody, sometimes it’s just easier
to give the consequentialist argument. Here are the
facts. Herea are the stats. If I had to give the quick
one-minute case for gun ownership, that’s what I’d do, but when talking about
this academically like in my classroom, I always bring in rights because there
are rights and the question is does my right of self-defense extend to the
right to own a gun and so the case I would give is first, everybody, I would
derive the right to own a gun to basically the right to life. Start with the
claim that everybody has a right to life. My life is valuable. I have intrinsic
dignity. I have intrinsic value, and so my life is worth protecting. Since I
have the right to life, I also have the derivative right to defend myself. It’s
strange to say that I would have the right to life, i.e. I have the claim on my
own life, but I don’t have the right to protect that. If life is valuable, and
you can derive a right to protect that life, so the right to self-defense is
derived immediately from the right to life. Okay. So far we’ve gotten from the
right to self-defense from the right to life. Now, the right to self-defense is
kind of a broad concept. You can defend yourself through a variety of things.
You can use your fists, knife, pepper spray, baseball bat, or a gun. The question
then becomes when it comes to self-defense, what is a reasonable means of
exercising this right. Obviously, I can defend myself using this cup right next
to me or the lamp on the table. Those are ways of defending myself, but are
they reasonable means of self-defense? Well, that’s the
further question. For public policy concerns, if we’re going to recognize
the right of citizens to defend themselves, citizens have a right to life which
is the most basic right that governments should protect, they also have a right
to defend themselves and the question then becomes “How should the
government allow citizens to defend themselves?”
Kurt: When you’re talking about how should citizens defend themselves, are you having in mind here only defense from other citizens or do you have in mind here say, other groups of people that might attack an individual.
Tim: Self-defense in general is just warding off an attack on you by some other party. That can be a criminal. That could be the government. Self-defense doesn’t extend just to my need to protect myself from a mugger and robber, but also to the need to defend myself from foreign government or rogue terrorist groups or even the government of the country in which I live. Self-defense is a broad concept.
Kurt: Right. For a contemporary example, you mentioned terrorist groups. I think people might have that in mind. For us Westerners, I think there’s a great example right now in the country of Spain where Catalonia has declared independence from Spain and now we might be witnessing further civil unrest. There already has been some civil unrest, but when the military comes in, there’s going to be a showdown and if one side has weapons, specifically guns, and the other side doesn’t, you can bet which side’s going to win. I think that’s something we need to consider. I’ll let you continue on.
Tim: When it comes to reasonable means of self-defense, for something to be reasonable some criteria have to be met. First, it has to be something that gets the job done. It has to dispense a proportionate amount of force. That’s one constraint. Another is that it has to be something that you can easily deploy. Something that is manageable for you to use. Take for example, and what counts as reasonable is going to be person-dependent. Take a baseball bat. For someone like you and me, we’re able to use a baseball bat.
Kurt: We can duke it out.
Tim: Yeah. We’re reasonably in shape. We’re not disabled or handicapped so we can use a baseball bat relatively efficiently if we have to defend ourselves, but not for other people. You might be elderly or you might be disabled or infirm. The baseball bat might be a great tool to defend yourself, but if you don’t have the physical capabilities to use it, then it’s kind of pointless, so when it comes to the government’s allowing us a reasonable means of self-defense we want something that can be as strong as possible, that is something that large amounts of people can use without requiring special abilities to be able to sell one, and when you speak of the nature of crime, criminals select their victims because they think there’s a reasonable chance that they will get what they want from their victim. If you’re a criminal and you want to take advantage of somebody, you’re going to pick somebody that you think you’re going to get an upper hand off of. When it comes to crime, there’s a fundamental inequality. There’s physical disparities in other words and these physical disparities are very often exploited by criminals so criminals will select precisely those who are most vulnerable. Criminals will select precisely those whom are at a disadvantage compared to them. When it comes to a reasonable means of self-defense, we need something that can control that disparity, so there’s a fundamental disparity in crime and the best means, and I guess the most reasonable means of self-defense, would be something that would allow as many potential victims as possible to control for those disparities. Now many people can defend themselves with a baseball bat, Many people can defend themselves with a knife. Many people can use pepper spray in self-defense. Those are all perfectly legitimate means of self-defense and for many people they’re reasonable, but those weapons pale in comparison to the value of a firearm in self-defense. There have been many studies conducted on this and you would think it’s the common sense armchair position, right? But there’s actually science backing this up that resisting a crime with a firearm is the most effective way of defending yourself. Comparing multiple forms of resistance against assault, robbery, rape victimization, comparing knives, screaming, punching, kicking…
Kurt: A firearm gets the job done.
Tim: Yeah. You would think why do you have to do a scientific study on this? It seems to be the armchair click. Right? But there is science there. If you want to appeal to the science there are plenty of studies out there supporting this claim. One interesting thing about the science is that when it comes to women who use firearms in self-defense, you actually see an equalizing effect firearms provide. Women who use firearms in self-defense stand a much less likely chance of getting injured than women who fight back using any other means including non-resistance and so…
Kurt: So a firearm does much greater than say, pepper spray.
Tim: Because it multiplies the force. All you have to do is just point, pull the trigger. You don’t have to worry about if I spray him once is he going to stop or is the spray going to be blowing back to me? A firearm is something that if you’re shot, you’re gonna hurt. It’s gonna damage you. It’s gonna injure you. There’s definitely this force multiplied component to a firearm and again, it’s not something that you need special skill to use. Most gunfights are conducted at short range and so all you really need to do is just point and pull the trigger. You don’t have to be particularly strong. You don’t have to be particularly agile. You can be an old lady and you can use a firearm to defend yourself against a 25 year-old burglar who breaks into your house. Again, this is all common sense, but there is a lot of science, a lot of social science supporting this.
Kurt: So let’s say we’ve got this good case regardless of the utilitarian or consequential, you know, the facts. Nevertheless as you say, the facts seem to support this case, but I think a lot of people would say, “Is it really worth it when we have mass shootings? I live in the suburbs of Chicago. Some parts of Chicago itself are very dangerous because of gang violence and gun violence. Wouldn’t it be a better world or at least a better country if we just got rid of guns?
Tim: There’s two ways you can go about this. First, just looking at the consequences or the criminological data. It’s not exactly as clear-cut as you would think. There’s a lot of data out there showing that when it comes to gun laws, allowing people to own guns, and carry guns and otherwise have them around for self-defense, is a good deterrent to crime, is a good way to stop mass shootings, and it’s a good way of just reducing crime in general. It’s not as clear cut as that. Even in the world in which nobody had a gun. Let’s suppose that we could suddenly snap our fingers and then every gun on Earth would disappear. There would be still a need for an effective and reasonable means of resisting citizens against crime, because if you snap your fingers and all guns disappear, it’s not as if these disparities in crime are also going to disappear. You’re still going to have criminals prey on people who stand at a heightened risk of being overpowered and you know, harmed, so granted, you might be able to get rid of some cases in which you have somebody harmed or killed by eliminating all guns, but you don’t get rid of the underlying circumstances that give rise to this need to own a gun. As long as there’s crime, if there were no crime, that’d be something completely different. I think it was Madison who said if men were angels, no governments would be necessary. If there were no crime, then there wouldn’t be any need for self-defense period, but as long as there is crime, as long as there are criminals who prey on the weak, there will always be a need for a gun and so you can control guns all you want, but as long as there is crime, there’s still that need for self-defense.
Kurt: But surely crime occurs in other countries than the United States and I’ve seen some charts going around on social media, especially after the Vegas shooting, that in countries, let’s see what was it….
Kurt: Deaths per gun per capita or something like that. How would you respond to people that say, “If we took away guns there would be less death in our country.”?
Tim: The most well trotted out example of this would probably be Australia. In 1996, Australia had a gun buyback that drastically reduced the number of guns in the country. That was in response to a mass shooting like the one we had here. People claim that, well you look at the effects of that gun buyback, you look at what happened after that gunback. Firearms suicides. Firearms homocides both dropped. Therefore, the gun buyback, reducing the supply of guns reduced firearm related fatalities. Right? It’s not so clear that’s the case. You have to look at the trends before and after the gun buyback. When it comes to firearm suicides for example, it was already on a downward trend at around the mid 1980’s and so pick any year between now and say 1986 and you’ll see that firearm suicides were already on a decrease. The question would become did the gun buyback accelerate the rate at which the firearm suicide rate decreased and the answer’s no. It was already on a downward slope and there was no really magnifying effect that you could ascertain from the gun buyback. The same thing with homocides too. Homocides are already decreasing, it was already on a trend where everything was decreasing. It’s tempting to conclude that the gun buyback had an effect if you just look at the effects after the gun buyback, but you also have to look at the trends before that. It’s a simple specification error. You have to look at before and after the gun buyback and this effect by the way is not unifrom across all of the country. One of my papers with a co-author, we look at the case of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom banned handguns. You’d expect that if you adopt this pro-control narrative that the handgun ban would reduce homocides. Not exactly. In fact, homocides spiked after the handgun ban which is not to say that the handgun ban caused the homocide rate to rise, but it’s a very strange effect that you would see on the expectation that a handgun ban would reduce crime rates, so it’s not as all clearcut as you might seem. In fact, there are many papers out there showing, I mentioned this is in one of my papers, that the effect of gun availability in countries really depends on the culture of that country. These effects don’t operate uniformly across other nations and so you might have some countries in which gun ownership or gun availability, reduced gun availability is correlated with decreased crime rates, but it’s not the case with other countries, so it’s really more a factor, really more dependent on underlying structural or cultural circumstances within a nation. Not so much the availability of guns itself.
Kurt: Tim. We’ve got to take a short break, but when we come back from the break here, I want to pick your brain more about whether Christians specifically can be people that have guns and maybe we’ll talk about some other surveys and studies that you’ve been a part of or have studied and looked at and then we’ll also be hitting you up here for a round of rapid questions which I know you don’t know anything about, but that’s the plan. We like to spring it on you. You’ve got a couple minutes here to think, “Oh know. What’s coming next?”
Kurt: Great. Awesome. Stick with us through this short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Alright. Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. Just thinking here. You heard the ad there for the Illinois Family Institute and Dave Smith. My family, extended family was just at the Illinois Family Institute banquet last night, their annual fundraiser. It was a great opportunity to see some old faces. Julie Roys is the host of a show on Moody called Up For Debate. I get to see her. It’s great. She kind of called it like a family reunion because I see her about once a year at that event. We’re going to bring her on in a few weeks. She’s got a new book out on I think it’s restoring the feminine soul or something like that. At any rate, it’s great to see a lot of good friends there at that event last night and I appreciate that work that Dave Smith is doing with his organization. Today we’re talking about gun ownership, the moral case if there is one, and Tim Hsiao is our guest and he’s laid out a nice, pretty simple basic case for us and you’re welcome to if you’re following us here on the Livestream, you’re welcome to throw some questions our way. If you’ve got a question for Tim we might have a chance to get to that after the discussion, but before we continue that discussion Tim, are you ready for a round of Rapid Questions?
Tim: Let’s do it.
Kurt: Okay great. He sounds a little prepared Chris. It sounds like maybe Michael gave him a heads up. I don’t know. Tim. If you’re unfamiliar here, these are just going to be short questions about your everyday life. Things you like, that sort of thing. We’re going to have sixty seconds and you’ll try to answer as many as we can, so here we go.
Kurt: What is your clothing store of choice?
Tim: Oh. Burlington’s Coat Factory.
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Kurt: What song is playing on your radio these days?
Tim: I don’t know actually.
Kurt: Favorite sport.
Tim: I hate sports.
Kurt: What’s your favorite movie?
Tim: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Kurt: Have you ever planked?
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Kurt: That’s a shame. Have you ever driven on the other side of the road?
Kurt: What’s one thing you’d be sure to keep with you if you were stranded on an island?
Tim: My gun.
Kurt: I gotta pause the clock there. Hang on a second. This is the first time I’ve ever paused the clock. You’re stranded on an island.
Tim: I could use it for hunting, you know.
Kurt: That’s great. Wow. Stranded on an island and you’re keeping your gun. That’s awesome. That is a creative answer. It’s true, for hunting.
Tim: You don’t know. There might be savages on the island.
Kurt: I guess I’m assuming here that you’re nice and lonely, but it’s true if there’s wild boar or some animal that you didn’t want to risk harming your body attacking for food, a gun would simplify the process. That is awesome. We’ve got to continue the clock. Hopefully, I didn’t restart it here. If I did, I’ll just give you a couple more questions. Alright. You ready?
Kurt: Okay. Which celebrity are you most like?
Tim: I don’t know. I’m not a celebrity person.
Kurt: He’s not a pop culture guy, Chris.
Tim: No, I’m not.
Kurt: Alright. Hokey Pokey, Electric Slide, or the Macarena. Surely, you dance.
Kurt: Okay. If you were a baseball pitch, which one would you be?
Tim: I don’t know baseball pitches. Fastball. Is that a pitch?
Kurt: Okay. He likes the fastball. Last question here. What fruit would you say your head is shaped like?
Tim: A grape?
Kurt: A grape. Alright. We didn’t get the buzzer because I had to restart, but Tim Hsiao. Thank you so much for playing a round of rapid questions. What did you think? Were the questions what you expected?
Tim: No. Not really.
Kurt: Good. That’s the way we like it here. Just something a little lighthearted and the answer about the stranded island. That’s just great.
Tim: I always keep my gun around me.
Kurt: You’re a man with conviction and you follow up on those beliefs so that’s good. We like consistency of beliefs definitely. If you’re just joining us here on the show listening in here online, our guest today is Tim Hsiao. He teaches humanities at Grantham University. His research focus is on applied ethics in which he has published numerous peer-reviewed papers on a number of topics, gun control, sexual ethics, and even the morality of eating meat, and if you want to learn more about Tim you can go to his website, Timhsiao.org. Alright. Tim, in the first half of the show you sort of laid out this case for us, a case for the right to life which would entail a right to defend one’s life and how some of the more advantageous ways to do this, especially for people that aren’t as physically fit as we are would be ultimately a firearm and that you followed up your position by saying that numerous studies have illustrated that this is the case, that the statistics support the notion that a firearm is as you said an equalizer. It’s very beneficial, but nevertheless, we’ve had these concerns that there are these cases of mass shootings, especially gang violence. It seems that the world would be better off if there weren’t guns. Tell me again why you think that would be a bad notion.
Tim: Well, the claim that the world would be better off without guns is a claim about the whole world so it’s easy to look at a mass shooting and say, “Well, this mass shooting wouldn’t have occurred if a gun wasn’t present”, but talking about the world, that gets more complex, because certainly while guns do have these bad effects, you also have to take into account the fact that many people use guns to resist crime, and so would a world without guns be better than a world with guns? I’m not sure about that. Again, as I said earlier, and I’ll get into this a bit more detail in a minute. In a world without guns, you still have these real fundamental physical disparities that criminals exploit in violent crimes. It’s not as if removing our guns is going to remove all crime. That’s the first thing. Second, in the actual world, guns are used a lot for self-defense. Most survey estimates indicate around 1-2 million, depends on what type of measurement you use, but all survey estimates show at least a million self-defense gun uses each year.
Kurt: Is that right? Is that worldwide?
Tim: No. In the United States.
Kurt: You’ve got to be kidding me. Wow.
Tim: The methodologically strongest study by Gary Kleck and Mark Gertz shows around 2.1 million, but on all surveys that’s been done on this topic, I think 18 surveys, specifically mentioning self-defense gun uses in the U.S., all show that there are at least twice the number of criminal uses of guns. Of these defensive gun uses, the vast majority, around 99% of them, are in cases where the gun is never fired, they’re cases where somebody shouts, “I have a gun!” or “I’m licensed to carry!” or they brandished the firearm. The gun isn’t even fired in most self-defense gun use cases.
Kurt: It’s just an equalizer as you said.
Tim: Yeah. Just the threat of a gun is enough to get many criminals to break off their attack. That’s a pretty significant number. I believe there are around 300-500,000 criminal uses of guns in the U.S. each year so it’s just looking at the numbers in terms of self-defense gun uses. There was quite a lot and people use them many times for self-defense and aside from that, there is as I mentioned earlier, a world without guns, there’s still a real need for self-defense. You look at for example, police response times. In 2008, only 47% of all crimes were ever reported to all police. The majority, more than half of all crimes weren’t even reported to the police. Out of that 47%, only 28% of those of police responses came within five minutes. 30% came within 6-10 minutes and around 33% occurred within 11 minutes to one hour of reporting. Given that the police can’t always be around protecting you, there is a real need for an individual to have some way of effectively protecting himself and I think a firearm is the best way of doing that, so even in a world where there are no guns, the police can’t always be around, they can’t always protect you. There are situations, there are many situations in which you will have to take that into your own hands. You will have to defend yourself. Just answering your general concerns, it’s not at all clear that a world in which there are no guns would be better than a world in which there were guns.
Kurt: Sure. But people need to protect themselves. I’m happy to grant that, but it seems like some sorts of guns are overkill. Awful pun, I guess. In the United States, the sale of fully automatic weapons has been banned for a long time now here, semi-automatic guns and for people that don’t know what the difference is. Mind you, I’m not a gun expert and there are gun afficianados, but as I understand it, the chief difference betwee them, is that an automatic gun is you can hold down the trigger and it will just fire bullets, versus a semi-automatic where you have to pull the trigger every time, one click per bullet. It seems here in the United States there are regulations on the sorts of weaponry that we can have. What has your research found and what’s your perspective on that sort of regulation?
Tim: So just commenting on the types of guns you can get here, you can actually, it’s difficult, but you can actually own a fully automatic firearm. There are legal ways of attaining. You have to go through a special ATF vetting process. You have to submit to a special background check. I think the ATF might even come and expect your home at random teams and you have to pay a special tax to them, stuff like that. You can get your hands on a fully automatic weapon. When it comes to gun crimes, the vast majority of gun crimes are committed with handguns. Looking at fully automatic weapons for a second, I think there have only been since the 1940’s and 30’s, a handful of cases I can count in one hand in which an automatic weapon has been used in a crime. The vast majority of crimes are ones in which a handgun or some other semi-automatic weapon is used. Sometimes people will say “Well, okay. Do you really need an AR-15? Do you really need a long gun? Surely all you really need to defend yourself is just a handgun? Aren’t those other weapons unnecessary?” There’s several ways of looking at this. First, going back to this point about self-defense, as we mentioned earlier, self-defense is a broad concept. It’s not just self-defense against criminals, but also there’s this argument that many people make that self-defense against governments. There’s a possibility that the government may go bad and so we need to defend ourselves against the government. When you look at the record of governments in the 20th century, it doesn’t really inspire confidence in you when it comes to state-sanctioned citizen slaughter. If you were unjustly killed in the 20th century, you’re more likely killed by your own government than by anything else and so what history tells us is that when governments tend to go bad, they go very bad, and so it’s useful for the citizens of a country to have a kind of insurance by which they can keep a check on government power and obviously, my AR-15 is not going to be able to take on the full might of the U.S. military, but it still functions as a useful deterrent. All the guns in the U.S., if the U.S. government were to ever go rogue, it would pay a dear cost because of the amount of guns in the U.S.. It’s also worth noting that it’s not just a matter of force vs. force. You look at cases where very well-established, very well-armed governments were hampered by very small resistance forces. For example, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, it didn’t work out because even though the Soviet military was very very advanced, it outnumbered the Mujahideen there, they put up a very very strong resistance using weapons that compared to what the Soviets had would be primitive.
Kurt: Or in American history we’ve got the Vietnam War I think, which serves as a great example of that where there the Vietkong because of their guerilla warfare tactics, even though we had more advanced weaponry, we had great losses on that. That’s a great point.
Tim: The first point to be made then is there a need if you want to expand the self-defense argument out to defense from rogue governments, there is a real need for having an AR-15. Second, if you actually look at the data, most mass shootings are committed using handguns. Last year Gary Kleck came out with a study showing assault weapon bans, large capacity magazine bans, wouldn’t really have an effect. They wouldn’t really have changed the outcome of most mass shootings, because in those cases, all that a mass shooting would really have to do was just carry more magazines or switch to a different gun. If we’re going to look at a kind of gun we should restrict, it would be handguns because handguns are used mostly in mass shootings, but of course, handguns are also very valuable just for individual self-defense. It’s kind of a red herring when people say, “Look at these military-ish looking rifles. Who has a need for that?” Those military-ish look rifles aren’t actually used in most gun crimes. More people, and I believe I have the numbers right on this. More people died from stabbings than they do from long guns. Again, most fatalities from guns come from handguns, not these scary looking weapons that politicians like to target.
Kurt: I do want to touch base on the Las Vegas shooting because it was an instance where you’ve got the scary looking weapon and as I understand it, the fellow modified a semi-automatic gun. He added what I think is called a bump fire that basically when it shoots it bumps against the shoulder so it makes the trigger go so it functions like a fully automatic. So what would be your take on that modification?
Tim: Here’s the issue on bump firing. Bump firing is something you can do without a special stock. The special stock makes it easier to bump fire, but really, if you know how to handle an AR-15 or if you use a rubber band or a sling for example, you can bump fire without a bump stock. All you need to do is hold the weapon properly and just finagle it a little bit, so a bump fire band, probably wouldn’t really do anything. It would make it more difficult to bump fire, but bump firing itself would still be possible.
Kurt: So for people that are determined to shoot on a crowd in that way, they could still make it happen. Is that right?
Tim: It sounds like based on what we know about the Vegas shooting. Stephen Paddock, he was, this was all planned out. He was deadset on doing it. He had a bunch of weapons, so it’s not clear that a bump stock ban would have really done anything. If he were that dedicated, he could have learned how to do it himself. Just hold the weapon in a way that he can get it to bumpfire. It’s not clear that a bumpfire would have really done anything, a bump fire stock band would have really done anything in that case.
Kurt: So in this instance it really is the heart of man that’s corrupt and wicked and there would be, for someone as determined as him as I understand it, and even understand where he went to, he was going to make it happen, even if guns were totally banned from the country. We’re getting low on time. I want to get to this last topic of questions. I’m a Christian myself and I know for a number of Christians, Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, to turn the other cheek when we are struck so owning a gun however seems to go against Jesus’s teaching. While you’ve shown here the compatibility of why humans should have a gun, why it’s a good thing, what about for us Christians who might say it goes against our faith?
Tim: Yeah. In Luke 22, Jesus tells His followers that if they don’t have a sword, to sell your cloak and buy a sword. Now, that would seem to me to be a case where, it’s not explicit, but where Jesus is allowing individuals to have some kind of way to defend themselves. Also, sometimes people will argue that when Peter takes out his sword and chops off
Kurt: The ear of the Roman guard, yeah.
Tim: The ear. Jesus says, “Put your sword back in its place.” People are saying….
Kurt: That’s a mandate.
Tim: Isn’t Jesus saying it’s not good to use a weapon in self-defense. Note that Jesus doesn’t say for Peter to get rid of his sword. He just says for Peter to put the sword back in its place, meaning that there is a place for a sword, but in that proper context, in that context, why Jesus condemned Peter was because Peter was trying to take issues into his own hands and usher in things not in accordance with God’s plan. I don’t think Jesus of the Bible would not allow Christians to use swords. Guns weren’t obviously around back then, but you can extrapolate the same argument to guns. Now when it comes to teachings like turning the other cheek or love your enemies as yourself, I don’t think Jesus in there, what He’s saying when He says “turn the other cheek” is, He’s not giving an absolute prohibition on self-defense. He’s talking about more getting even with someone. He’s talking about…
Kurt: Seeking revenge.
Tim: Yeah. Taking revenge on someone. Many of the passages in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks in this way, in a non-absolute way. For example, when Jesus says, if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Right? He’s not literally saying “If I do something wrong, I have to cut my arm off. Right?” He’s making a symbolic gesture about just how significant sin is, and in the same way I think you can read the comments about turning the other cheek, in a way like that, not as an absolute prohibition on self-defense, but on the need to show yourself to be a Christlike person and not to harbor any grudges against those who wrong you.
Kurt: Well, that’s a great explanation there, Tim, and I think too, we might add to that, in Jesus’s, the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as yourself. And if we ourselves believe we have the right to life and the right to defend our lives, then that also applies to our neighbors and we should be willing to defend them in that same way. I think we could draw that principle as well.
Tim: To love somebody is to will what’s good for them and so if I’m going to love my family, I’m going to will what’s good for them. If somebody breaks in and somebody threatens them, I’m going to defend my family because their life is valuable. They are made in the image of God.
Kurt: Great. We’ve run out of time today Tim, but thank you so much for laying out the case here for gun ownership, a moral case, that gun ownership is a moral issue and even us Christians need to think about this in not just a constructive way or a broad esoteric way, but we also need to consider the statistics and facts too which do seem to support that case, that principled case, so thank you for helping us out today.
Tim: No problem. It was a pleasure being here.
Kurt: Great. And that’s Tim Hsiao, and if you want to read more about his resources, you can go to his website TimHsiao.org to learn more about him and his work. So, it is with my great pleasure that I click this button.
Kurt: Alright. That means we’ve got some comments and questions from the mailbag. Two things here today. We’ve got a comment here from Travis here and let’s see, I’ve got to find it now. Travis listened to the episode, I believe it was last week, on salvation by allegiance, here it is. He writes in. He says, “Popular Christianity really needs to reorient their whole notion of salvation in a 1st century context, and discussions like your recent episode like salvation by allegiance will naturally fall into place.” So Travis, I want to thank you for listening to that episode. That’s an interview with Dr. Matthew Bates, and we really looked at that ancient notion of pistis and what faith really is about in that context and Bates argued that faith in that context means something closer to our modern sense of allegiance, that faith today has taken on a new meaning, one really that doesn’t accurately describe what the Bible talks about there, so Travis thanks for listening to that episode. Travis is the host of the Rethinking Revelation podcast, so if you want to search that you can hear about Travis’s own perspective and positions on numerous biblical passages and the guests that he brings on. Thank you for that again Travis, and also we have a question here from we’ll say C, and C has a very very good question and so I want to read you her lengthy question here and I know she’s been patiently waiting. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to address this just for time constraints. She writes,
“The subject might look daunting or cringeworthy, but I promise I’m not looking for a fight. God has put in my heart to seek truth so I’m obeying His call by reaching out for an apologetics viewpoint.” Her question is this and I’m going to expound and I asked for a little bit of clarification and she provided that so bear with me here as I go through her question. She asks, “What can or should I conclude about the United States since they were founded on the premise of forming religious states as mentioned in your separation of church and state podcast and saw fit to negate people from those rights that were grounded by God. I suppose if states were willing to alienate others due to their denominations, what would stop them from exacting that further to people they shipped in. As a black woman, I struggle with how to approach this topic faithfully and I just need some perspective other than, “Man. These people sucked.” Any direction advice, or even resources would be great as I reconcile this nation’s history and stop being frustrated. Thanks and God bless you in this wonderful undertaking.”
She follows up here in another email. “I do wish to add that my knowledge of the matter includes an understanding that West African leaders did sell their own captives and people to Europeans and eventually attempted to stop it with little success, and understanding that Christian figures did openly denounce the chattel slave trade and chattel slavery and practice and in understanding that in time Christians also worked for the betterment of African descendants in the U.S. well into the Civil Rights movement.”
C here has all of that background which is great and wonderful because it’s really important to understand the whole picture. Sometimes when we see moral injustices we tend to just focus on that limited scope and sometimes getting the bigger picture can help us. I’m not saying that it justifies the action, but that it can help us understand and explain how things came to be. In this case, you noted here the immoral basis under which people became slaves and there are a number of immoral things that contributed and persisted in our country, so to your original question here, what one should think about these states given my episode on the separation of church and state podcast, which thank you for listening to, it’s very important here to understand jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the key to understanding this issue specifically that you asked.
Each state, think of it like a mini-country, a mini-nation. In our country today, the federal government is so huge that we think it can have the final say on anything. That’s not the way the country used to be set up. The way the country was set up was that the federal government would provide a common currency, a common militia, and it very much held ethical issues to be left to the states for themselves to decide. For example, do not murder, that’s a state law. I’m giving you the biblical instruciton here. Of course, as it’s laid out in state law, it’s going to be more specific and precise, but essentially this moral ethical truth that we should not murder, that’s laid out in our state laws. There’s no federal law. There might be a federal law that talks about certain conditions for embassies or foreign relations, that sort of things, but in terms of how we function here, that’s all up to the states, and the tenth amendment really codifies that. The tenth amendment says basically anything else not listed here, we’re leaving up to the states. When we historically look to why that is, so to your question here about how did American as a Christian or neutral nation allow states to choose what or specifically maybe which men were created equal and how they decided that these men and women were not permitted by the same God to have those rights. Why was that? It’s because based on jurisdiction. I will say this. There were some states that did recognize that even early on. They fought for that freedom for people really early on. I’d have to get you the precise stats there. I’ll also say this too. One of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, while he owned slaves, he still fought, believe it or not, there’s a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence that talks about and critiques the King of England for the slave trade and he talks about how the African men were humans, This is a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. I’ll be sure to put that link on today’s episode. You can see that even Jefferson himself believed that Africans were human and so it’s fascinating, I think if I had to say something, I’m not a historian. I’m not trained that way, and I’ve only studied this topic a little bit, I would say that for many of the founding fathers they found themselves in a society that had this social structure, and so how to abolish and bring about the end of that social structure is something that they dealt with and sadly it took too long. It took too long of a time to abolish that social structure and what ways we should have gone about doing that, of course, those are some tough questions, but to really address your matter, specifically your question about why was it that these states didn’t recognize that, it’s because it was left to the states and there were people in charge that should not have been in charge I think and they failed to operate in a fully Christian manner.
We could also get into the apologetic of indentured servitude or even a biblical view of what slavery was like and even American slavery failed to live up to the commands that God gave the Israelites for slavery and so that’s why it’s really a shame, it’s the skeletons in our closet proverbially speaking for our nation and so I think if you do look at the history you’ll see some states started very early in how to bring about justice on that topic, so C, I want to thank you for your comment, question there. It’s a difficult one for sure, but one worthwhile looking at and so I applaud for taking the time to think about these things. Very important, and I can see that you have done your research which is great. Keep up the great work in that regard and thanks for listening to the show. If you are watching or listening on the podcast here, you’ve got a question you want me to answer, I’d be happy to do that when we can fit it into the show. I love getting your comments and your questions. There are a number of ways you can get in touch with me. You can email me at Kurt@veracityhill.com. You can also join our text plan. Just text the word VERACITY to the number 555-888 and you can submit questions that way. It’s totally free and every now and then again, I’ll send out a text message saying maybe who’s coming on the show or ask for topics from those that subscribe to the plan. Those are the two best ways. I’d say you can also tweet at me at Twitter. @Veracityhill is the tag or user name, the handle. That’s what it’s called. Also you can like us on Facebook and send a message that way as well.
That does it for the show today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Evolution 2.0, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. Thanks to our technical producer Chris and to our guest today Tim Hsiao and last I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]I can’t tell the name at 7:00