“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”–Wayne LaPierre

The only way to stop a bad guy is to kill a bad guy. The only way to stop violence is to commit violence.

I have the right to defend myself, even if that means I need to kill another person to safeguard my freedom, my liberty, and  my rights. I will defend the theological virtues of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with my life.

Correction: with someone else’s life, not my own.

If I buy a gun to defend myself, my home, my family, what am I saying? I am willing to risk taking another human’s life to protect my own. I will defend myself from the tyranny of fear—the fear of crime or the fear of government—by any means necessary. And I am willing to risk another person’s life to secure my life, my liberty, and my happiness.

You break into my house with your gun. I grab my gun and I point the barrel at your heart. I am more important than you. The life of my family is more important than you. My things are more important than you. I have judged your hopes, and your dreams. I have judged your life—your struggles, your failures, your successes. I have considered all the people who may love you despite your shortcomings, and I have weighed their hopes and prayers and dreams for you. I have judged you unworthy of the gift called life. I pull the trigger and I end you and all that you hoped to be.

A good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy with a gun.

But was I good? In my judgment, where was compassion? In my judgment, where was love? I considered all the relevant evidence: you, me, and what was mine. But when I looked at you, why didn’t I see myself? Did I not see that we share the same divine image within us, buried underneath our respective failures, sin, and evil thoughts and desires? Why did I see only a criminal? Why did I see only a monster? Why did I not see my brother? Why did I not see dignity? Why did I not see love? I saw only a bad guy with a gun. I am not my brother’s keeper, I decided, I am his executioner.

Justice requires love, not judgment. But to save myself, I judge and I kill. That is not justice, that is not love. That is vengeance. I take the divine image—an image that lives in the heart of all creation—to the target range and shoot at it. I become the bad guy with a gun, and I can only be stopped by a good guy with a gun. So I place the barrel under my chin and pull the trigger, ending me, and all that I hoped to be.

Judas and the temple guard arrested Jesus as he prayed in Gethsemane. They came bearing swords, spears, and clubs. Today, they would have come with guns. Peter drew his sword; today, he would have pulled a gun. A good guy with a gun and bad guys with guns would have fought for the life of the man who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” One side would try to take it, the other side would try to save it. But both sides would abandon him.

Jesus told Peter to put his sword away. “If you live by the sword,” Jesus said, “you will die by the sword.” Today, he would have told him to put down his gun. The men with swords took Jesus to be beaten, scourged, mocked, and crucified. Today, men with guns simply ignore him and his simple, beautiful promise of peace:

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with an empty hand.