I am neither ashamed of nor secretive about being a hunter, fisherman, part-time farmer, a beekeeper and a lover of the great outdoors. I don’t believe any of these practices is inherently harmful or unethical.
Occasionally, I get into a discussion with a pacifist or vegetarian. I can actually see and respect their perspectives, even though I don’t share them. However, I don’t spend a lot of time letting myself be castigated by someone who finds some of my activities unethical, barbaric or cruel while they are munching on a hamburger or downing a chicken sandwich.
I raised four children on venison, wild turkeys and fish. The only difference I can see between most American omnivores and me is that I do my own “dirty work” while they pay someone else to do theirs behind slaughterhouse walls.
I realize I am a throwback to a world long since gone for most people. My hunter-gatherer-farmer lifestyle is not even a memory for most modern Americans. Although I have farming and harvesting methods and options not available to those in the distant past, these are my reality. That puts me in the middle of a debate between two extreme perspectives.
One of those perspectives is that any American has the right to possess (and bear) as many of any kind of firearms they desire and can afford.
Advocates of this perspective point to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
The other perspective is to disarm the citizenry, allowing for the exceptions of those in law enforcement and the military, especially given the horrors of modern-day firearm use and the likelihood that the Second Amendment was motivated by the historic need for a militia.
I know these are a bit of a simplification. Yet from my perspective, neither option makes good sense.
A nationally known gun advocacy group called me the other day. The caller told me that my right to hunt or own firearms was currently under assault. He asked me if I would be willing to listen for a bit as the leader of the organization shared some information that was crucial for all gun owners. I answered affirmatively.
The upshot of the information was that legal gun ownership in America was threatened. I was then informed that the United Nations, which he noted includes China and Iran, was teaming up with America’s anti-gun lobby and being urged on by Hillary Clinton to greatly curtail gun ownership in America. He concluded by asking whether I wanted the U.N., China, Iran and Hillary Clinton to decide if I could own a firearm.
“These folks are marketing marvels,” I thought. “In a few moments, they had invoked about a half-dozen enemies of many conservative Americans.”
I guess they assumed I was one such American and would jump on board.
When the caller returned, he reminded me that I could help defend Second Amendment rights by joining the organization.
I told him, “Thank you, but I am not interested.” Like most telephone solicitors, he didn’t take “no” for an answer.
He said something like, “Mr. Warren, I know we are in tough economic times, but do you realize the importance of the message. Why would you not be willing to join?”
I noted my concerns about the extreme voices being the loudest ones in America. He responded by saying that if any firearm is made illegal, then it was likely only a matter of time before all would be illegal.
“That isn’t necessarily true,” I retorted. “Besides, are you saying I have a right to have an operational bazooka in my closet?”
“Of course not,” he said. “We just want to stay away from the slippery slope of firearms being made illegal. You know that the framers of the Constitution included the Second Amendment for a reason.”
“Yes,” I said, “but the framers of the Constitution had no idea what technology and modern life would do to the world of firearms in two centuries. There is a vast difference in an ancient flintlock and a modern, fully automatic rifle.”
He conceded that he didn’t disagree with me and that he was a military retiree trying to make a living.
I told him that my gripe was not with him but was with the extremist rhetoric and agenda of his organization. We actually had a pretty good chat for a time. The conversation ended when I told him that he could call me again when he was working for a group that was advocating for sensible gun laws.
Thus, I am caught in the middle. I am a hunter and gun owner. Yet I don’t want to be looped in with those who strap on firearms and strut in public to exercise their “rights.”
I am not a barbarian who has no concern for the violence perpetrated by guns in the wrong hands. Frankly, I am as frightened by the prospect of a citizenry with unlimited access to firearms as I am frightened by the prospect of a completely disarmed citizenry. It may be that I should willingly sacrifice my firearms in order to advance the “common good.” I just don’t think that is the answer.
I am left to support leaders who will hopefully continue searching for and finding some sensible gun laws. After all, there has to be some ground between the extremes of “toss ’em” and “tote ’em.”
Reggie Warren is the intentional interim pastor at Bethlehem Christian Church in Suffolk, Va., and former member of the board of directors of the Baptist Center for Ethics.