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Why People of Conscience Reject Gun Control After Each Mass Shooting

John Adams once famously said, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Now, if you read the writings of John Adams, you will quickly find out that he was actually fairly ambivalent to organized religion in his day, but very much saw the utility of religion as a guiding moral force in society. Men and women of conscience are absolutely essential to the functioning of our republic as it currently stands.

I’m going to submit to you today that every mass shooting conducted in modernity was perpetrated by men and women who lack that very conscience. As such, they are an existential threat to our republic’s existence. So, how then, could good men and women of conscience reject gun control in the wake of such tragedy? Well, I am one such man. I do emphatically reject rigorous gun control and the abolition of AR style rifles in America and the reason why rests with the eternal debate between the conscience and the constable.

Governed By the Conscience Or The Contable

Chuck Colson served as a political aide to President Richard Nixon and famously did some time in prison as a result of Watergate. He subsequently converted to Christianity and became a large influence in modern evangelical America. Now, whether that fills you with delight or disgust, is not the point.

In the same form of John Adams, he put forward the notion that Americans will either be governed by the conscience or the constable. He went on to warn that Americans, in the wake of unconscionable acts, would in fact surrender freedoms and liberty to the constable. However, in either case, we will, in fact, be governed.

I started to do a little research so as to authoritatively discover if he was the first to coin the phrase, “conscience or constable”, but then I remembered this is a blog titled Unprecedented Mediocrity and I don’t have time for that. Go look it up yourself. However, what I do know of history is that how men and women are governed has been a thorough and robust debate around that very question. What I have observed of human behavior in my 40 plus years of life has affirmed that “conscience or constable” is very much the question of our day.

You Know This Is True

Right now, there are a few of you scoffing at that notion and that skepticism is likely driven by what you assume my end political statement is going to be. “Will he be using this conscience or constable nonsense to affirm or repudiate my pre-existing opinions on gun control” is really the question on your heart right now. After all, it is human nature to seek affirmation for our own opinions.

Yet, search your heart and you know that “conscience or constable” is how you govern your own household. I work hard to teach my kids emotional resilience and to let their conscience be their guide as to how they react to a poor video game showing of Roblox, Minecraft, Fortnite, or whatever other nonsense is on the screen. Yet, when their conscience fails them and I have to listen to screaming and crying over a video game, the constable in me awakens with a fury.

I will snatch up some iPads, bans electronics, and cause general lamentation among my own children when the constable arrives. Raising children is a delicate balance of building up and empowering the conscience while utilizing the constable in us all to enforce safety and good order. What is every First Sergeant in every unit other than a constable who has seen so many unconscionable Lance Corporals that the constable has now taken over like Vader did Anakin. Conscience or Constable my friends, that has been the great debate of government throughout all human history.

Gun Control, Conscience, and The Constable

I will not support government playing the role of the constable upon millions of conscionable men and women who own firearms as a result of one unconscionable man. I will not relegate millions of conscionable men and women defenseless to the power of a unkind constable in the wake of a mass shooting. No matter how tragic it may be. You want justice, but brother, this ain’t justice. It’s not right. If you didn’t understand the meaning of the cover photo, that’s Atticus Finch, standing in the gap in the name of justice, against a mob who thinks they are, in fact, pursuing justice.

Look, if you lost a loved one to a shooting, you have a right to demand the abolition of guns. You get to grieve how you grieve without judgement. Personally, if my family were killed by a man named Bob and I would advocate for the abolition of every Bob, Billy, and Billy Bob in America. I’d just need for other Americans who love conscionable Bobs and Bills to stop me. Just because I’ve given up on the conscience of Bob doesn’t mean I get to invite the constable upon them all.

It Is Actually Not A Left or Right Issue

Now, before you think this is some right wing defense of guns, let me clarify with this statement. What were the past four years of the Trump administration other than many conservatives begging for the constable in Trump to save them from the perceived threat of the left? That’s right, good men and women will willingly invite the constable, kind or unkind, when they perceive that the conscience of society can no longer keep them safe.

Please, my friends, stop now for a moment and think. Deep in your heart, what was it that you really wanted from Trump, when years ago you would not have considered such a man? Liberals, in the wake of Trump, what is it that your heart is searching for now? Do you not want law and order as it pertains to gun ownership when you pass a ban? It’s hard to not want the constable of our preference, is it not?

That is what is happening with gun control in America. Those who fear guns and its impact on society are inviting the constable upon their fellow citizens. But here’s the thing. The constable doesn’t give up it’s power when the threat has abated. The failed war on drugs is nothing more than people who are scared of drugs, empowering the constable to bring pain to conscionable men and women who may like to get high. Pick the modern political debate and sooner or later, it will come down to conscience or constable.

I’m Not Ready To Give Up On The Conscience of America

I can’t speak for every American, but this platform has allowed me to at least speak for myself and give voice to others who are of similar mind. I’m not ready to give up on the conscience of America. Don’t get me wrong, we are as messed up group of humans in history as you will find. I am greatly concerned with moral and civic decay, but I’m not ready to give up.

China has given up on the conscience of their people and they have played the unkind constable unlike anyone since Nazi Germany. Russia had a small window to trust the conscience of their people and yet, they returned to the constable in Putin and may never be truly free again. Europe has shown a deep distrust of the conscience and they are not as free as one would think.

I’m not ready to give up yet. America is too great of an experiment in human history to hand it over the constable and for me, the 2nd Amendment is all that stands between a nation that at least has the choice to try and be governed by conscience rather than the constable. Conscience or constable, Democracy or Authoritarianism, the 2nd Amendment or gun control.

The Choice Is Your America

That’s how I see it. That’s how millions of conscionable men and women in America see it and that’s why, though our hearts break with every mass shooting, we are not ready to give up on conscience just yet. You may fear guns, but an unkind constable you should fear more. If you have any doubt about that, just ask yourself what you would have feared more if Trump had indeed remained in power after January 6th? Guns or the constable?

As for me, I’ll still trust the conscience of millions of gun owners who never commit a single crime before I’ll surrender those guns to a constable of any political persuasion. Perhaps it is a fools errand, but a fools errand I’m willing to run. This great experiment we call America deserves as much. There is nothing new under the sun and “conscience or constable” is not a new debate in history. I just think history makes the choice obvious. However, the choice is yours America and you must decide that for yourself.

Jeff Edwards

3 Comments

  1. Jeff, why does it have to be a everything or nothing discussion. I agree that even “common sense” gun laws would never stop someone who legally purchases a firearm or weapon to do great damage to their community. I DO NOT believe in banning firearms but ABSOLUTLEY believe there’s a common ground that respects both legal purchasing and owning with checks and balances on ownership. Here’s the thing I think gun owners forget…15% of the population want to ban guns, 15% say over their dead bodies and 70% really don’t care one way or another. The US banning guns is a MYTH. Don’t be mislead by fake news. the 2nd amendment is entrenched. Let’s find common sense ways to keep weapons out of criminals and mentally health challenged individuals hands. BTW I don’t have all the answers.

    • Scott, how many government officials have to flat out say they want to abolish private ownership, ban certain weapons, and make the exercise of the 2nd amendment so expensive and tedious that it all but eliminates the 2nd Amd from large swaths of the population? Gun control advocates play the long game, and each encroachment on our rights weakens them.

  2. I’m not convinced.

    First, there is real evidence that the US has a severe gun violence problem. We are unique among developed democracies in that we have a gun death rate that resembles the developing world (in 2019, better than Mali but not as good as Uruguay. Seriously. Uruguay. https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare/). So, we aren’t doing a very good job of protecting our citizens from violent death, which is one thing nearly everyone agrees the government should do – that is, monopolize lethal force.

    Second, you imply that liberal democracy hinges on private gun ownership. As examples, you cite (cherry pick) China, Russia, and Nazi Germany. But a less biased and wider examination of the relationship between liberal democracy and gun ownership contradicts your argument. Democracies around the world have strict gun control but are no less “free” than the US. You try to preempt this argument by claiming that Europe is not “as free as you think.” But that is simply false. Most European nations manage to provide their citizens the full benefits of democracy without subjecting them to high levels of gun violence http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4x.htm.

    The above observations suggest we are asking the wrong questions. A wrong question is “Can the gov’t regulate guns?” The answer is yes. No Amendment is absolute – 2nd or otherwise. The government clearly CAN regulate firearm ownership just as it CAN regulate some forms of speech (the dangerous kind. see Schenck v. United States (1919)). Another wrong question – the one you ask and answer here – is, “What about democracy?” to which the answer is “What about it? Democracy is doing just fine elsewhere without widespread gun violence.”

    The question we should ask is whether there is a compelling public interest in regulating guns. Since the US resembles a third-world country when it comes to gun violence, the answer to that question is a resounding YES.

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