As Millions Arm Themselves ...WHAT'S YOUR SOURCE OF PROTECTION?
Donald D Schroeder
Here's the way to security from crime and violence — without guns!
HANDGUN sales are soaring In the United States. And many are rushing out to buy shortened shotguns or rapid-fire rifles for self-defense. Others are learning martial arts such as judo, karate or kung fu. People around the world are astounded to see millions in the United States arming themselves out of frustration that government isn't able to do anything about rising crime. Pollsters find more and more American citizens saying, "I have to rely on myself. I can't depend on government to protect me!" What is the cause of such fear evoking crime and violence? And why are governments often unable to protect their citizens?
Crime, Gun-control Dilemma
A flood of weaponry, military and civilian, is flowing in many nations. Almost anyone with enough money can buy a gun, if not legally then illegally. The rapid proliferation of personal arms for self-defense and other purposes is creating an enormous dilemma. Frequently, guns are falling into emotionally unstable hands. Or into the hands of criminals or terrorist organizations. Weapons loaded for self-protection against criminals frequently end up being used to settle heated family or social arguments. Or end up being mistakenly or accidentally discharged, killing or maiming family members, innocent intruders or children. Or end up being stolen from homes by robbers, strengthening the arsenal of the criminal world. In the United States, the frequent use of arms by criminals, and gun violence by others, has led one group of alarmed citizens and lawmakers to demand more vigorous gun controls. Equally vigorous and vociferous are efforts by citizens and lawmakers to protect private ownership and purchasing of guns. Gun control in the United States is an emotional issue. On one side of the debate, gun controllers believe there must be stricter gun controls — some even say gun prohibition — if society is to reduce the abuse of guns, accidents and the chance of weapons falling into unstable or criminal hands. They interpret the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment* to apply only to the support of a state militia, not the right of everyone to possess arms free of government regulation.
* The Second Amendment states: "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."
On the other side are antigun control groups. They fear that any restrictions on gun ownership or laws forcing registration of weapons or ammunition, open the door for eventual government confiscation of arms. From guns they derive personal pleasure in hunting and target shooting, or depend upon them for self-defense of their lives and property. Many in this latter group believe an armed populace is the only way citizens can deter crime and government tyranny. They insist the Second Amendment guarantees all noncriminal citizens a right to keep and bear arms. And they believe strict gun-control laws are not only unenforceable without stepping on other constitutional rights, but such laws do not deter criminals who don't obey laws. Some, of course, take positions somewhere between extreme views on either side in the gun-control debate. Many feel only handguns, because they are so concealable and deadly, must be strictly controlled, but not long guns. The way people feel about gun control depends upon their confidence in human government and in government's ability to control crime and violence. Yet the issues that have produced the gun-control debate soaring crime and lack of confidence in government — are the very issues almost no one is facing or providing solutions to. Of course not! For most persons do not understand the root cause of criminal and violent human behavior. And what must be done to deter criminal and injurious human behavior.
It's What's Behind the Gun
The existence of guns, per se, is not the primary cause of violence or criminal behavior. But wrong values, attitudes and wrong character in human beings are! When you mix wrong human attitudes and wrong character with easy access to guns, gun violence will inevitably increase. The big issue that needs to be answered to solve the growing personal security crisis is the right way citizens should be living and treating one another. And how government should treat violations of law so others will be deterred from repeating crimes. When a society achieves right ways of living, the criminally and violence-minded, not law-abiding citizens, will live in fear. And law abiding citizens will have confidence that their government and society will protect them. The Creator, through the pages of the Bible, reveals the real causes of crime and violence. But humans, for the most part, have rejected the way that leads to peace in the streets and in the home!
Cause Is Spiritual
You've heard the phrase, "He's in a bad spirit today!" There is a "father" of that bad spirit — just as there is a father of every evil and criminal attitude. Your Bible reveals that the real father of that bad spirit long ago rebelled against the government and laws of God. The Creator originally gave him rulership over the earth. But he allowed lust, greed and competition to rule his mind. He decided to become an aggressor and conquer God's throne. He wanted to take control of the universe for himself. The first archcriminal had his name changed from Light-bringer (Lucifer, in Latin) to Satan, meaning "adversary." The numerous angels that followed him in his rebellion were thrust back down to earth and became demons (Rev. 12:9). Few today realize that Satan and his evil host have swayed all humanity with wrong attitudes and with clever deceptions. Many don't believe Satan exists. But Jesus Christ said Satan is the father of murder and lies (John 8:44). He is the author of violence, lawlessness and criminality. But how did man first become subject to Satan's attitudes and deception?
Beginning of Human Violence
God created mankind for an awesome purpose. In Genesis 1, verse 26, God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle... and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (RAV). God commanded the first man, Adam, in the garden of Eden, to "tend and keep it" (Gen. 2:15). Adam was given the opportunity to submit to the government of God and replace Satan as ruler over the earth. By building right character, which included proper administration of his environment, Adam could qualify for earth's rulership in God's government. But the first man, Adam, and his wife Eve failed the test. They yielded to doubting attitudes and false reasoning implanted in their minds by Satan. They decided to experiment to find truth. They chose to disbelieve their Maker. For their rebellion the first humans were driven from the garden of Eden. They and their progeny were permitted — since that is what they wanted to do — to experiment with and develop their own governments and ways of living and to experience the results. Cain, Adam and Eve's first son, allowed evil and violent attitudes to develop in his character. God warned him to resist (Gen. 4:6-7). But Cain chose not to. He soon rose up and killed his brother Abel, because he (Cain) was "of the wicked one" (I John 3:12). After this, human beings went their own ways, farther and farther from God and his ways. The results? Endless wars, strife, violence, fear and suffering! Nations armed themselves with ever more sophisticated weapons to protect themselves from, or to threaten, other nations. Yet God did not leave mankind ignorant of right government and right ways of living.
Birth of a Remarkable Nation
From a deceived and corrupt world God called a special nation, ancient Israel. Israel was to be a holy nation, unique among nations. God gave that people the opportunity to be an example of the abundance and peace a nation could receive if subject to the government and laws of God. God promised ancient Israel, "If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them ... I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid... and the sword [warfare] will not go through your land" (Lev. 26:3, 6, RAV). But in Deuteronomy, chapter 28, the Creator warned the nation that if they would not be diligent to keep his laws, "Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country .... Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life" (verses 16, 66). Grasp it! Fear of crime and violence is the result of nations refusing to diligently do what God commands! God commanded ancient Israel to obey the Ten Commandments. That basic law is a dynamic spiritual law codified for mankind. It reveals how to have right relationships with God and fellowman. God's basic law teaches love and respect. It forbids dishonoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, lust and greed. Violation of these laws brings automatic penalties. Jesus Christ said God's laws could be summed up as follows:" '"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." ' " Jesus was quoting out of the law given to God's chosen nation, Israel (see Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18). God revealed to ancient Israel many laws and statutes against various criminal acts. God pronounced judgments against bribery and perversion of judgment among appointed officials. He forbade corruption and abuse of public trust. These laws are cataloged in the first five books of Scripture. These laws were to be taught diligently to succeeding generations so they, too, could be blessed by obeying them.
Responsibility for Right Instruction
God placed major responsibility for teaching right values and attitudes on the family unit (Deut. 6:7). That means teaching, first and foremost, by parental example. It is the breakdown of this critical responsibility that is the first link in a chain of causes that lead to violent attitudes and criminal behavior. But parents are not the only bulwark against criminal and violent attitudes. It was the responsibility of constituted authority, not individuals, to render swift-moving judgment and justice in any case of criminal behavior (Deut. 13:11, 17:13, 19:20). God commanded swift justice against evildoers because criminal attitudes, if unrepented of and allowed to persist, threaten the safety and security of everyone. Today, many criminals do not believe they will be caught or severely punished for their acts. They not only do not fear God, but they do not fear or respect the human — instituted laws of their own society. Many lawbreakers have friends or parents who condone or cover up for their crimes. Many don't fear to break laws against criminal behavior because law enforcement systems have become so enfeebled that criminals feel they can beat the courts or get off lightly if they are caught. Notice God's instruction in ancient Israel for cases where one stole another person's property. It was not, as is frequent today, a small fine, a prison sentence or plea bargaining. Instead, depending on the circumstances, the offender was to work to restore to the owner severalfold the value or quantity of goods he stole (Exodus 22). Under that administration it paid to earn, not steal, what one wanted. And if an individual attacked another person in a fit of rage and injured him with a weapon or fists, the offender "shall pay for the loss of [the victim's] time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed" — that is, the offender had to pay the victim's health recovery costs (Ex. 21:18-19, AV). And in such a community where godly living and deep respect of law is the rule, criminals would soon have no place to hide. No one would protect them or cover up for them. Organized crime couldn't gain a toehold and make profits. Citizens and government would work hand in hand to swiftly deal with lawbreakers. Crime and violence soar in society when individuals are willing to tolerate permissive values or violence in themselves or others. It soars when governments and criminal justice systems become corrupt and permissive. "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Eccl. 8:11, RAV). The apostle Paul taught Christians that though the nations do not live under God's government, God has ordained human government for this age as the constituted authority against criminals and lawbreakers. The major reasons crime soars and humans lose trust in government are that governments often are prevented from swiftly punishing criminal behavior, or authorities become corrupt or oppress law abiding citizens. Ancient Israel repeatedly disobeyed God's laws. The Scriptures record the tragic social and national results. More and more nations are reaping the same consequences.
Most of mankind today live the way they think is right. They make their own laws. Society has all kinds of ideas of how people should cope with crime. Millions take up guns and other destructive weapons for self defense because that is the only source of protection they believe they can have confidence in. But what defense against personal attacks of crime and violence does a person have who fears and obeys God? Did Christ teach those who would obey him to take into their own hands the weapons to "blow others away" in a blaze of gunfire? Christ said, "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise" (Luke 6:31). Many assume the Christianity that Christ preached makes Christians defenseless in a world filled with crime and violence. They totally fail to grasp the divine help, blessings and protection God can heap on those who obey God and trust him in times of trouble. Even those who profess to be Christians often scoff at the idea of divine protection. They practice a religion "having a form of godliness but denying its power" (II Tim. 3:5). But God is real! His power to intervene on behalf of those who fear and obey him is real! Christ recognized that we live in a world threatened daily by the possibility of crime and violence. He lived in a world like that. So did the early apostles and Christians whom he commanded to pray daily, "Deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13, AV). Can God deliver those who ask for his daily care and protection? "... the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment," answers the apostle in II Peter 2:9 (RAV). God's power to intervene on our behalf is not limited — except by the quality of one's faith and obedience. "And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (I John 3:22, RAV). Please do not misunderstand! God expects us to be wise and avoid the potential for crime and evil whenever possible. Often it's only a matter of using common sense and of staying out of trouble-ridden areas. Our free booklet Crime Can Be Stopped... Here's How explains how to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of criminal activity. Are you doing your part? Do you have God's special help and protection? Are you doing what is pleasing in his sight?
Role of Cultural Attitudes in Violence
Strict gun-control laws alone will not greatly reduce violent crime rates in nations plagued by them. The greatest determinants of whether or not a society will be plagued by violent crime are its social and cultural attitudes and crime-deterring institutions, The United States has a high gun-possession rate and also a high gun-crime rate, But there are nations that, per capita, have even higher gun-possession rates among citizenry — Switzerland and Israel, for example, Yet these nations experience low gun-related citizen crime compared to the United States, There are nations with extremely strict gun-possession laws — such as Mexico and other Latin American nations — that experience high armed crime and homicide rates, The level of violent crime and the weapons used varies significantly among different nations, regions and ethnic groups, The type of weapon and situations where they are used have strong relevance to the attitudes and traditions of individual peoples' or regions in coping with problems. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows American citizenry possession of firearms, From its beginning the U.S. developed a strong tradition of man and boy with gun associated with patriotism, self-reliance, manly skills and defense of home and country, Strict gun controls strike many Americans who identify with this tradition as an attack on admirable qualities in American life. Many foreigners, however, look on in amazement at U.S. infatuation and glorification of guns, American folklore, television, movies and novels idolize both heroes and villains who reduce problems to the simple "solution" of blazing guns, Yet nations everywhere take pride in their own traditions of violence, Many crimes of violence do not involve guns, but fists, blunt instruments or knives. Eliminating guns without eliminating the attitudes that cause crime and violence and without providing strong deterrents by swift-moving justice, would mean many would try illegally to obtain various deadly weapons to protect themselves. Organized crime and unscrupulous dealers are ready to cater to any illicit demand, If snub-nosed pistols and revolvers are banned, long-barreled weapons will be cut down — and they are even more deadly substitutes. If domestic gun production is halted, smuggling will begin, and anyone familiar with a lathe or a few handyman tools can make a serviceable weapon, Only the reestablishment of the government of God over the earth will force mankind to face repentance and turn from the violent ways that now afflict society, It will take that kind of force before the majority learn to live in peace and service to fellowman,
How Nations Control Guns
UNITED STATES — The United States does not have unrestricted availability of firearms. More than 20,000 federal, state and local statutes are concerned with the acquisition, ownership or carrying of firearms. Federal law prohibits gun sales to felons, minors, the mentally incompetent, narcotics addicts and illegal aliens. Some cities and states have strict gun-control laws — a few cities practically forbid handguns to citizens unless needed in professional security work or law enforcement. Those restricted from handgun purchases by local regulations buy weapons elsewhere. Most cities and states have less strict handgun laws or their gun laws are loosely enforced. Since the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, all gun dealers must be licensed and interstate sale and mail-order gun sales between nondealers is banned. Dealers must record the identity and address of gun buyers, but there are no such restrictions on the resale of weapons by buyers. The 1968 act makes importation of cheap handguns (Saturday-night specials) illegal. Parts can still be imported, which has led to such weapons being assembled within U.S. borders. Around 90 percent of guns bought since 1968 can now be traced, estimate government officials. But scores of millions of guns sold before 1968 are not traceable. In most states there are no screening procedures other than certain age requirements for the purchase of rifles, shotguns or ammunition. Dealers are supposed to require handgun purchasers to sign an affidavit of eligibility. Waiting periods are required so that police may check up on a handgun purchaser's background. Search can verify little beyond a felony record. There is little other effort to verify character or if a purchaser has entirely told the truth• on gun purchase forms. BRITAIN — British law is predicated on the principle that possession of a weapon is a privilege rather than a right. To buy a gun an individual must apply directly to the chief of police in his area. All firearms must be registered with the police. Licenses are granted only after an extensive checkup of the applicant. The applicant must prove he has not been convicted of a criminal offense or suffered from mental disorder. He can be denied a license if he has a record of alcoholism or even heavy drinking. The gun applicant will be interviewed by a police officer, who will also likely check with neighbors and friends about the applicant's background. In general, permission to possess a firearm usually is granted only to supervised members of Britain's gun clubs and on condition that all weapons are kept in secure places away from children and burglars. Farmers who need firearms to control vermin usually can get them. It has been estimated that only 1 in 50 Britons owns a firearm. Nevertheless, use of firearms by criminals and terrorists, and a significant rise in the use of knives or other sharp instruments, has increased considerably in recent years. Growing crime and violence, armed and unarmed, is viewed by many authorities in Britain as the result of general deterioration of respect for law and order. Special riot police of various types are emerging out of the climate of the terrorist bombings during the last 15 years and the riots in Liverpool and London in 1981. Increasingly these special squads do carry firearms and there is some pressure from certain quarters to arm the police in general. AUSTRALIA — Australia has quite rigid gun-control laws, which are acceptable to the population at large. While there are various state regulations on licensing of long guns for hunting or target shooting, all states have strict licensing laws on handguns. A person must have very good reason to obtain a handgun permit from police. The majority of handguns are pistol club guns — they can be used only on approved ranges, or are souvenirs made inoperable by police, or are antiques with ammunition unavailable. CANADA — Canadians likewise do not have the tradition that citizens have an inherent right to carry a gun. While Shotguns and rifles are relatively easy to purchase, all persons wishing to acquire firearms must be more than 16 years of age and must obtain a firearms acquisition certificate. A person must not have been convicted of violent crime or been treated for mental illness within five years of application. A special permit is needed to possess a handgun. A person must have good reasons to possess a handgun, such as security work or a critical need for personal protection. Before issuing a handgun permit, a police officer may visit the applicant's home to see where he plans to store the handgun. A second permit is needed to transport a handgun and yet another to carry a concealable handgun. The latter is rarely issued. FRANCE — Ownership of concealable firearms in France has always been strictly controlled. If you want to buy a small gun you must apply to a police station. After an inquiry lasting several weeks, the prefect who represents the Interior Ministry gives or withholds authorization. French officials are most worried about gun thefts and smuggling of weapons, which usually end up in the underworld of gangsters and terrorists. SWITZERLAND — Under the Swiss militia system, almost every male adult is a serviceman and must keep military weapons and ammunition at home. Yet homicide by guns and armed robbery rates are among the lowest in the world. All sales of handguns require police licenses and are registered. Sale is prohibited to exconvicts, alcoholics and the mentally deranged. If there is any doubt on eligibility, the applicant won't get a permit. Handgun licenses usually are granted only to people such as watchmen, bank employees and jewelers. SOUTH AFRICA — Since the Soweto riots of 1976, the sale of handguns is soaring. Any white citizen over the age of 16 who has no criminal record can purchase a firearm from an established dealer. Once a choice of gun is made, the potential buyer, armed with the serial number, applies for a license. Provided a good reason is given, usually self-protection, the license is granted after several weeks. ITALY — No weapon of any kind may be bought without a license. All purchases must be registered with police. An applicant has to make a good case for needing any firearm other than shotguns and hunting weapons. Nevertheless, Italy has been plagued by rising gun crime. It is not difficult to get a gun on the black market. SWEDEN — Gun laws in Scandinavia are strict. Swedes must have a license to obtain any firearms. This is granted only after careful examination and then usually only for hunting, sport shooting or because one belongs to a shooting club. There are no mail-order sales. Few Swedes own handguns. WEST GERMANY — A special license is required to carry weapons, which only the police can grant. Only persons with clean records who can prove they need a weapon for self-defense or professional reasons may own a handgun. Hunters and target shooters usually must be members of a shooting club or have an acceptable place to use their weapons. Gun owners can buy guns only from specified dealers. Despite these restrictions, violent deaths by firearms are on the increase in West Germany, many caused by guns acquired illegally. MEXICO — Mexico's Department of Defense registers all weapons in the country, but Mexican officials admit that almost anyone who has the money can buy a firearm without registration. Guns are readily available on the black market. There is a high rate of gun violence and homicide in the country — much of it attributable to personal quarrels and family feuds. CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA — Latin Americans commonly possess guns despite strict firearms laws in most countries. In Brazil, stores selling guns must register with police and keep a record of persons buying guns. Nevertheless, armed robberies are common. Criminals get guns through smuggling, theft or purchase them from a few corrupt officials. Law-abiding citizens, in turn, feel they must arm themselves against city robbers and rural bandits. SINGAPORE — Citizens are strongly discouraged from owning a gun. A decade or more term in prison can be meted out for unlawfully having arms or ammunition. There is a life term for carrying a gun while committing a crime; a death sentence if convicted of using a gun in a crime. MALAYSIA — Illegal possession of firearms carries a death sentence. ISRAEL — Israelis feel much differently about guns than Americans and other nations. Guns are regarded first and foremost as essential tools for collective security from sudden aggression from hostile nations. They are not primarly purchased for personal protection from crime. Any civilian caught armed without a permit for a weapon is subject to an extensive jail term, and sale of ammunition is strictly regulated. TANZANIA — Police deny permission for anyone to own a gun without giving strong reasons. Said one police official: "This is not the United States. We don't think that everyone has the right to have a gun." JAPAN — This crowded country has one of the strictest arms regulations anywhere. No one may possess handguns except police, military personnel, a few government officials and Japanese Olympic marksmen. Hunting rifles, shotguns and air guns are licensed by government agencies. No one less than 18 can possess a hunting weapon, nor can psychopaths, former convicts, racketeers or drifters. Most citizens in Japanese cities, even Tokyo, feel relatively safe from violent crime and don't feel a need for self-protection. Factors that have worked to make the country relatively low on crime are high racial uniformity and the relatively close-knit Japanese home. Children are taught to fear bringing personal shame upon family and name by criminal acts. School and company traditions also teach great respect for legal and government institutions and police. Japanese policemen regularly patrol their neighborhood beat on foot or on bicycle. Their high visibility helps deter crime. And Japanese are willing to cooperate with law enforcement officers. Japanese policemen try to visit every residence twice a year to renew contacts with longtime inhabitants or meet newcomers for the first time. Local block groups also stay aware of residents in their areas and routinely report to police any suspicious activity in their area. Still, police report rising crime as modern permissive values, mainly flowing from the United States, weaken old social and family values. SOVIET UNION — Soviet law provides tough penalties for illegal actions involving firearms, setting prison terms up to five years for anyone who carries, keeps, makes or supplies firearms without a police permit. Hunting rifles must be registered with authorities. When at home, owners must keep such weapons taken apart and locked up. In rural areas these regulations on private guns often go unobserved.