No justification for the legality of assault rifles


Can you tolerate another essay about guns? By the time this reaches print there may well be even more public massacres, or maybe overdue government action. If not, this might be incentive to bite the bullet, as it were. It has to do with assault rifles, the kind that come from the factory able to fire dozens of rounds before human targets realize they are in mortal danger. My question is: Why are they legal? Why not private bazookas or atom bombs? Most other countries as rights-conscious as us outlaw them. The reason is that they are correctly seen as military weapons to be used in war. 

A family pays their respects Aug. 7, 2019, at a memorial four days after a mass shooting Aug. 3 at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. CNS photo/Callaghan O’Hare, Reuters

We freely and through all administrations since World War II spend that huge a percentage on war. The non-disposable amount goes to legislated places like Social Security and Railroad Retirement. That is how much the Defense Department gets each year, currently $730 billion, averaging out to $2 billion a day. 

You argue that we must defend ourselves. Consider that we spend more on defense than do the world’s next 10 largest nations combined. But then why would allies need to defend themselves when we shelter them under our nuclear umbrella? They must like that.  Their national budgets allow them to provide universal health care for everyone, even foreigners, as happened on an overseas tour I led years ago when an American traveler had a heart attack in Oberammergau, Germany. His medical bill plus the hotel stay of his wife plus airfare plus a nurse companion all the way back to his home in the U.S. was compliments of the German Republic, which did not ask for compensation.

As must be obvious, considerations of war are moral crises since human lives are held in contempt. This justifies popes and bishops speaking out in condemnation of war and rampant militarism. Deeply patriotic church-going Americans still are confused when this happens. They ask what military competence religious figures have to interfere in such secular issues. They must be patiently reminded of the fifth commandment about the immorality of killing without just cause. 

Perhaps you argue that we must have universal gun possession and assault rifles to protect against a government that might somehow turn against us. If we are all armed, the government will not risk overthrow.

The Second Amendment allows for the possession of firearms when forming a militia. Three centuries ago that meant a standing police force. Muskets do not translate into assault weapons. This is why they bar citizens from owning automatic weapons of war. Their respective military forces keep order. We however throw aside morality and intelligence because we are sure the Second Amendment permits it. Only we Americans have this ailment. Only we Americans appeal to “American exceptionalism,” the imagined superiority over other nations that allows us to  break laws we want them  to keep.

The way we regularly console ourselves with “thoughts and prayers” is actually blasphemous. We offer such to the stunned families of victims as though God would honor the prayers of citizens who allow such malfeasance. The moral responsibility of popes, bishops, Catholics and columnists is to object when government leaves its secular sphere and invades that of morality with immoralities like universal access to assault rifles. Justifying it with howls of virility and exceptionalism is one sad excuse for a Christian democracy.