It started in 1866, that is, the beginning of gun control laws in Ottoman Turkey. Article 166 was the first, then further laws were enacted in 1911 and 1915. First permits were required, then came a government list of all gun owners, and finally, a ban on possession. It was gradual. The entire process took 49 years. Finally however, the citizens were disarmed. The government, of course, was not. The death toll? So many their number was never fully counted, 1 million to 1.5 million Armenians, mostly Christian people, who had become helpless before their enemies.
In the Soviet Union the process advanced much faster. Gun control laws began under soviet resolutions in 1918. Then they enacted Articles 59 &182 of the penal code. First came licensing of owners, then a ban on possession with severe penalties. By 1926 ownership of firearms by citizens (not government) was a fact of life in Soviet Russia. The death squads and violent persecution of Russian Christians and dissidents began in 1929. It took only 3 years to go from full gun control to the murder of Russian civilians. The death count? A minimum of 20 million with some historian’s estimates ranging up to 50 million. Only the Lord knows the full number.
More easily within our memories is Rwanda in 1994. That was the year 800,000 innocent civilians were murdered in just a few weeks. The anti-gun laws were enacted in 1979 – Decree #12. Gun owners, guns, and ammunition had to be registered. Owners had to justify need. Concealed guns became illegal and the government gained the power to confiscate. The end result? 800,000 Tutsi people killed, mostly by machete.
We could go on in similar fashion remembering Nazi Germany (ban on possession 1938), Red China (1957), Uganda (Firearms Act 1970), and many more with the count of unarmed, civilian dead, killed by their own governments ranging around 170,000,000 in the 20th century alone (see the Genocide Chart, JPFO.org for a quick summary). All of this ought to be a sober reminder, pointing us back to those old Bible stories and doctrines that served Christian societies for so many centuries.
It was under King Saul we read (1 Samuel 13:17-22) how the nation of Israel was oppressed by the Philistines. Raiders came from the camp of the Philistines in three companies, each turning in different directions. Times had become desperate and dangerous. Saul was camped in Geba of Benjamin, but the nations enemies were spreading out to wreak havoc on the people. This is when the Scripture writer drops in this little tit bit for our consideration. He writes, “Now no blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, ‘lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.” So, here the nation was, under direct attack by their long-time enemy. Israel had already been disarmed and cowed into submission. The text lets us know that, “all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his ax and his hoe. “ They supposed they would have a king who would lead them out against their enemies (1 Samuel 8:20). What they actually got was a sometimes heroic leader and an often waffling, indecisive, cowardly man to rule them. Now as the enemy spread out over the land, the people found themselves unarmed and undefended.
Did God give His people victory in the battles that followed? Yes He did. However, the obvious message from the text is that it is ruinous and morally wrong for God’s people to be disarmed and defenseless before their enemies. This was not His command nor law for them. It is a description of slavery, not liberty, for they were (as are we) called to liberty, under the Lord.
Some of our Christian brethren are shouting at us that in all circumstances it is our duty to turn the other cheek. This philosophy derives from the idea that only the New Testament may be used to inform our doctrine. When I ask people on-line how they might defend this idea my questions are either ignored, or the discussion abandoned. They cannot answer any close questions as to why the Old Testament has, by them, been rendered of no account. Like the Pharisees, they have strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel. The foolishness of modern American evangelicalism is always bared to daylight when we start discussing issues about how to actually live in this fallen world. They have eliminated the Old Testament which makes up about 70% of the entire Bible. Then, they stumble around the New Testament text snapping at theological mismatches of verse and doctrine, attempting to make sense of their, now, truncated Book. All of this derives to the detriment of the kingdom and the church.
When the Jewish people returned from captivity in Babylon to re-build the Temple and the holy city, they met tough resistance. As work on the city walls advanced their enemies began to offer threats. There was no army to protect this frightened band of inchoate settlers. Sensing the doom of their righteous project Nehemiah instructs them to arm themselves. They are to carry a sword or spear in one hand and raise the stone walls with the other. He tells them to fight (Nehemiah 4:14), “for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” That is what the chosen people (remember the New Testament calls us the chosen people), were to fight for under Godly law. This is not instruction for only Jewish settlers in Jerusalem. Rather, it establishes a moral paradigm for righteous men. We are to be defenders of our brothers, our sons, our daughters, wives, and houses. This is a definition of righteousness for Godly people. Now, we are being told to abandon that right principle and become slaves of the state.
We may ask if there is any New Testament principle that might inform our doctrine concerning the carrying or use of weapons. If we remind ourselves that we are to treat our neighbor as ourselves the answer remains unchanged from our Old Testament lessons. Suppose I were to find myself in a parking lot with a couple of guys kicking in my ribs. I would be glowingly pleased to have any of my neighbors step in with a hand gun, machine gun, or assault rifle to save my life. Most of us would consider that to be right neighborly. In my view, it would not matter a wit if the person saving me had a banana clip on his assault rifle or if the flash suppressor were illegal. The Old Testament principle of fighting for our brothers is a fundamentally righteous principle that carries forward into the New Testament era. Basic morality has not changed. The New Testament has not morphed right principle into nothing but a bunch of love and hugging. We need love and hugs, but we also need safety, liberty, and justice. All of these are discovered in the sphere of Biblically-based action.
The current political situation seems to be pushing us toward new laws for gun control. The sin nature of man always pushes fearful men to seek safety in the state. We would prefer to unburden ourselves from the duty to defend our neighbors and families and have the state provide that service. Jeremiah informs us that the human heart is desperately wicked and seeks to do evil continually. This principle applies both to those who run the government and to the governed. If the citizens are unarmed, and helpless before a power-hungry civil government, the results are always the same. Over time, that government will follow its sinful bent and murder its own citizens. An armed citizenry is the right answer, and I mean the doctrinally right answer, to limiting tyranny and defending what is ours. The civil government may go so far but no further. They do not have a right to take everything. They cannot rightfully take our wives, or daughters, our houses – or guns. The right to own weapons is implicit in the command to defend.
This concept of citizens having a duty to defend their liberty used to be well understood by our Christian ancestors. Even as late as World War II the Japanese Imperial Naval Commander-in Chief, Isoroku Yamamoto is said to have warned, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” That was a compliment to the American men of that time. Those cheering for our personal disarmament would have us wear chains rather than the accoutrements of warfare. I will not volunteer for chains.
For Christian Culture,
Don Schanzenbach 12-29-12