MCC: Some firearms regulations could serve common good

by Matthew Davis

ST. PAUL (March 8) - As gun control advocates have focused on the Minnesota State Capitol in the weeks following the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, the Legislature has delayed gun regulation bills. Minnesota Catholic Conference Executive Director Jason Adkins doesn’t anticipate the state’s legislative response to gun control to change this session.

“Gun-violence restraining orders for persons struggling with mental illness has a very small chance of moving forward,” Adkins said. “But it is more likely that the political response to school shootings will be calls for more funding for mental illness treatment and counseling in schools, as well as more funding for school security measures.”

Adkins does not believe political efforts to curb gun violence by addressing mental illness alone will suffice. The MCC has been tracking bills in the House and Senate regarding firearms possession and background checks. All of the bills were introduced in 2017, prior to the Florida shooting. While opposition to gun control legislation often stems from a defense of the Second Amendment, Adkins said it’s important to look at the issue “in terms of rights and responsibilities.”

Just because “shootings begin with wounds in the heart does not mean we are impotent to enact gun control measures to make people safer,” he said. “We have to protect people with prudent laws while we bind the wounds of hurting people and address the social and cultural factors that nurture gun violence.”

The Second Amendment allows for the right to bear arms and has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow for self-defense. “The right to self-defense is part of the natural law, and the use of force one applies in self-defense can be effective force,” Adkins said. “You don’t have to bring a butter knife to a gun fight.

“But the natural right to self-defense and the civil right to own a gun come with duties and responsibilities to the common good,” Adkins continued. “In particular, the public has a responsibility to ensure that those who exercise gun ownership can do so responsibly. Therefore, tools like background checks and gun-violence restraining orders for people with mental illnesses are legitimate regulations of gun ownership.”

He added that the Legislature can also legitimately enact “bans on certain classes of weapons that are meant for military personnel, or that can endanger large groups of people in the wrong hands” because of the right to life. He also noted that “improvements in gun technology can make weapons more dangerous, but also much safer.”

“Legislatures must balance these considerations in their particular social, cultural and geographic contexts,” Adkins said. “There is not necessarily one over-arching set of gun regulations that should apply in all places and at all times.”

Note: The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) is the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota. MCC supports the ministry of our state’s Catholic bishops by:

  • Working with political and community leaders to shape legislation that serves human dignity and the common good
  • Educating Catholics and the public about the ethical and moral framework that should be applied to public policy choices
  • Mobilizing the Catholic community to make its voice heard in the public arena

For further information about MCC visit https://www.mncatholic.org/