Thursday, June 16, 2016

In Defense of Owning a Gun

Karen Prior is in the blue blouse here on the PBS panel.
My friend Karen Prior, an English professor at Liberty University, a fine writer and author and a national figure in the conservative Christian movement, recently wrote a personal piece defending her ownership of a handgun. It was a gun her husband gave her for Christmas, following a series of threatening incidents she experienced on her daily runs.

I will not argue the irony of giving a gun as a present on the birthday of the Prince of Peace.

Running alone in the country can be dangerous.
As you know, I am strongly anti-gun (I'd love to see every damn one of them melted and plowshares made of the metal), but I also respect Karen and people like her who are reasonable, calm and intelligent (unlike moi). Her 2012 piece (here) appeared in the huge national magazine Christianity Today and led to her appearance on a panel about gun ownership on the PBS program "Armed In America: Faith & Guns" (here).

Karen wrote that "as a Christian I try to cultivate my willingness to lay down my life for the sake of the gospel or for the life of another, I don't believe I'm supposed to risk my life for a would-be rapist. To me, being pro-life means protecting my own life, too."

Another irony I find in so many pro-gun arguments is that the arguer is "pro-life," but also pro gun. Guns have one use: to shoot living things, generally with the intent of killing them. I don't know how that squares with being "pro-life."

Karen also explains that she is not opposed to gun regulation, but that it must take into consideration individuals' desire to protect themselves from the violent America we have become. As much as I despise guns, I can't argue with her convincingly about that point. I know a lot of quite reasonable who own guns, who treat them with a combination of respect and fear and who believe they are safer because of that ownership. I don't believe they are safer--and the statistics are strongly on my side--but perception is a strong part of any belief system.

I believe Karen makes a reasonable--if not unusual--argument in favor of owning a gun, but I do not agree with it. I believe there are many alternatives to guns that will leave an attacker unable to follow through with violence (if the user of, say, pepper spray is trained, as any gun owner should be). We don't have to kill or threaten death in order to be safe. But we probably do need to be trained in self-defense--again, as we should be even if that self defense is with a gun. 

(Photos: and

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