Paul Moore: First and second things — freedom to bear arms, the right to life

A tricycle is seen near the scene of a mass shooting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park on July 4. (CNS/Max Herman, Reuters)

In My Father’s House / By Paul Thomas Moore

In the essay “First and Second Things,” Oxford Don and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis described a deceptively simple concept, “You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”

I was reflecting on this recently in the context of two issues: the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and the calls for stricter gun laws that have come in the wake of the latest mass shootings, including at the Uvalde school and more recently at the July 4th parade in Highland Park (another troubled young man with a semi-automatic assault rifle). In both issues, the right to life competes for precedence with personal freedom. I keep coming back to the question: how does less respect for life make us freer?

My brother called me from Canada after the Uvalde shooting and he was quite upset. He didn’t know how anyone could do such a thing, and he asked what I thought about it. Taken aback by his intensity, I confessed I found the news frankly overwhelming, and didn’t know what to do with it. There was silence on the line, and I knew I was in for it, “How can you say that, Paul? How can you stick your head in the sand?”

FREEDOM TO BEAR ARMS, RIGHT TO LIFE

Soon after, I read about how Peoria’s 10th homicide victim of the year had died after being shot multiple times. The coroner described the man’s injuries as being “incompatible with life.” I remember how the ads during the recent primary election campaigns talked about candidates’ commitment to defend Second Amendment rights.

First and second things.

I’m not an American citizen — nor a gun-owner — and I’m aware many will say I don’t have a right to speak on this issue. (In the same way, many pro-choice advocates would say that as a man, I don’t have a right to an opinion on abortion.)

I’m more than willing to concede there are many legitimate uses for firearms: for farmers protecting livestock and crops, hunters, and yes — for self-defense. But I’m not the only one who believes the freedom to bear arms has been stretched so far that the right to life has been relegated to second place by unrestricted access.

Furthermore, I’m more than willing to concede there are many legitimate uses for firearms: for farmers protecting livestock and crops, hunters, and yes — for self-defense.

But I’m not the only one who believes the freedom to bear arms has been stretched so far that the right to life has been relegated to second place by unrestricted access.

Really, who was the Uvalde shooter defending himself against when he broke into an elementary school with an AR-style rifle he had legally purchased only days after his 18th birthday? Or the 21-year-old Highland Park shooter when he climbed onto a rooftop for a better line of fire on Independence Day parade attendees below? His AR-style rifle was purchased legally as well.

“WE MUST NEVER ACCEPT THIS AS NORMAL”

Pope Francis isn’t an American citizen (nor a gun owner, that I know of). He prayed for the victims, but also made an appeal to common sense and common humanity by stating, “It is time to say, “Enough!” to the indiscriminate trafficking of guns.”

Bishop Louis Tylka echoed the pope’s prayer — and his plea — when he posted on social media after the Uvalde shooting, “I join with those calling for action on gun control in our nation.” I recalled my brother’s attitude toward my emotional numbness in response to Uvalde as I read the conclusion of Bishop Tylka’s post: “We must never accept this as normal.”

Sanely, Canada removed the “freedom” to buy assault weapons, and just recently introduced a law to freeze handgun sales and limit magazine capacities. However, it’s open season on the unborn in Canada, and “assisted dying” (suicide) is the law of the land. No nation is immune from societal schizophrenia when it comes to the conflict between protecting life on one hand, and personal freedom on the other.

Still, the Declaration of Independence is clear, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Notice which one comes first.

“But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:33)

PAUL THOMAS MOORE is a Catholic communicator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at paulthomasmoore@hotmail.com.

 

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