I believe that, in general, all men with families should own a firearm and learn how to use it properly as a part of a comprehensive defense strategy against aggressors. I say "in general" because there people who are so uncomfortable with the concept of a firearm due to misinformation and propaganda that they can be excused from this duty out of ignorance. But I also personally feel the weight of the duty to combat this ignorance.
I also believe that Catholics should be in the forefront of the defense of the right to bear arms in our country. Based on constant teaching and summarized in the following catechism points, the Church has always upheld the right to the use of means such as firearms for legitimate self-defense.
2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”
2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.
2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.
The description of the killing of the aggressor not being intended is worthy to note, because it exactly ties in to a point I heard reiterated often in one of the self-defense courses I took. The instructor started with a trick question "Do you shoot to kill or to wound?" The answer is "neither—you shoot to stop."
To the ignorant, shooting to stop rather than to kill might sound like a distinction without a difference. This is because the "knowledge" most people have about fire-fights is garnered from film dramatizations on television or in movies. Someone shot by one round from a high-powered rifle often flies back 5 feet which completely goes against real-life experience, not to mention several dozen or so laws of physics. Someone running toward you can be hit in the chest several times and yet still have enough oxygen in his brain to reach you and slit your throat with a credit card shiv. This is why emptying a magazine into an attacker to stop him is not considered excessive but necessary.
I could go off on this tangent even more, but let it suffice to ask if you really think that the "good guy" is always a better shot in real like like he is in the movies. My point is to show how practicing self-defense with a firearm, as it is presented by the NRA and other groups, lines up with the classic double-effect principle espoused by the Catholic Church. Death is the second, unintended effect, and learning to shoot accurately should never be equated with becoming a killer.
Any prudential argument against personal gun ownership must provide an alternative method for stopping a criminal aggressor. To date, I haven't really heard one that doesn't smack of fantasy and wishful thinking. A politically liberal Catholic friend of mine once said to me "I'm for gun control. People should rely more on their guardian angels for protection." Well, his major premise—we should rely on the protection of the angels—is correct. But I have seven dependents who all have guardian angels. How does anyone know they didn't all team up and make sure their pater familias possessed the means and the will to use lethal force to defend them from criminal aggressors? Spiritual beings like angels—as well as God himself—normally rely on human agency. You might as well argue that a man could either work for a living or trust God to provide food on the table. Obviously the angels-only strategy is based on an either-or fallacy which religious people routinely dismiss.
The only other alternative means I can think of have to do with martial arts or non-lethal weapons. These are simply not plausible for most people and would require almost a devotion to techniques that would be prohibitive for men raising a family. Guns level the playing field in a remarkable way.
My intention of writing this post is to counter the troubling statistic that 62 percent of Catholics favor more gun control measures, the highest among religious groups. The problem is, I fear, more ignorance; broadly put I support regulations dealing with guns, e.g., felons should be able to buy weapons, etc. But looking at the actual Feinstein proposals which require destroying weapons upon the death of the owner and you can see that confiscation is the end goal. There is no way these measures can be called sensible, and it is frightening that anyone is proposing them and calling upon religious support for them.
I plan to write many more posts here on this topic of America's First Freedom. I'm not worried that people may see this as "gun-nuttery" or obsession. I'll preemptively cop the Limbaugh plea that I'm just trying to be equal time on this. The real nuts in this "debate" are those who know that stricter gun control laws will not prevent violence but try to pass them anyway. I hope none of the US Bishops fall into this category but are only being utopian and impractical. The truth is I am a total fanatic about my family, and about all other fathers and their families. So I'm going to tag all these posts with the tag Defending Your Family. Because that is what it is really all about.
Jimmy Akin: The Right To Keep and Bear Arms
Matt Abbott: Catholics and Gun Ownership