Gun Control and the Founding Fathers
The media coverage of the deadly mass-school-shootings of the past few years hints at an argument that without fail, projects in opposite directions. On one side of the discussion of these awful crimes is the conversation which favors the taking away of guns. On the other side of the analysis are the judicious details of the inherent liberty and safety of responsible gun ownership. For all the debate and wisdom that is being offered, there is something obviously missing, something that has been absent from American dialogue for a long time. Even before America’s founding, the opinions of those who lived on this continent have taken the dialogue in a much different direction, in the direction of this missing element.
Consider just one side of these statements. Each originates with one of America’s Founding Fathers:
The precepts of philosophy and of the Hebrew code laid hold of actions only…
Human legislators can undertake only to prescribe the actions of men…
John Quincy Adams.
… Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses.
Signer of the Constitution James McHenry.
Reading the statements above should lead one to ask, what is missing from the wise words of these men who undoubtedly shaped the most successful and civil society in the history of mankind?
Consider the statement of Thomas Jefferson. The complete quotation is as follows:
The precepts of philosophy and of the Hebrew code laid hold of actions only. He pushed His scrutinies into the heart of man, erected His tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountainhead.
“Purified the waters at the fountainhead,” no one writes like this today. It is a shame, for unfathomable wisdom emanates from this oceanic proclamation.
What is Thomas Jefferson getting at? Obviously, his opening sentence has placed a limit on the discipline of philosophy and the ancient code established by the Old Testament Israelites. Whoever it is that he is referring to in the following sentence, this individual seems to take matters much deeper, “into the heart of man…”
Let us consider the statement by John Quincy Adams. The complete quotation is as follows:
Human legislators can undertake only to prescribe the actions of men; they acknowledge their inability to govern and direct the sentiments of the heart… It is one of the greatest marks of Divine favor bestowed upon the children of Israel that the Legislator gave them rules not only of action, but for the government of the heart.
The proclamation of John Quincy opens with the bold statement that human legislators fail to control the actions of men solely through their law-making. Despite their attempts, John Quincy offers that somehow, the heart of man must be addressed. His personal decree closes with the acknowledgment that valid legislation must address not only the actions of mankind but also the governing of the human heart.
The last statement listed above, by James McHenry, is in line with Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams. He hints at something that will prohibit men from pursuing wicked courses. The complete quotation is as follows:
In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses.
“Where Bibles abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses.” What is James McHenry getting at? Doesn’t he understand that America was not founded on Biblical concepts? To the dismay of the infringement absolutists, America’s Founding Fathers gained great wisdom from being regular students of the Bible. The facts show that America’s form of government derives much of its structure and success from this eternal best-seller. But this is a topic for another discussion.
When my seventeen-year-old daughter asked, “Dad, what are you trying to say?” my response to her was that the issue in any of these killings is not the gun, but the heart of the individual behind the gun. I continued that the founders of our nation knew that no army or police force would ever be large enough to stop such crimes if our society removed the influence of the Bible.
As controversial as that may sound today, I challenge anyone to show me where else such wisdom can be found? You won’t find it in other religions. You definitely will not find it in utopian philosophies. Nowhere is the concept of loving your enemies or forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it, or personal responsibility so obviously pointed out by its chief proponent than in the Bible, and specifically in the teachings of Jesus. Those who oppose this view judiciously hack away at the tree branch upon which they stand. Our freedoms and liberties originate with this foundational truth. These freedoms also hinge on another fact, that the founders of this great nation believed in the solid premise that we are all first responders and charged with personal responsibility, what they called, duty.
If I have been able to accomplish anything worthwhile in this discussion of the deadly violence that is growing in America, it is my strong hope that the American populace will once again return to and consider the book which inspired the founders of this great nation. It is also my hope that the American citizens will accept the individual whom Thomas Jefferson was referring to in his bold proclamation. If you haven’t figured it out, Thomas Jefferson was referring to Jesus. In the opinion of Thomas Jefferson, Jesus of Nazareth is the only solution for “purifying the waters at their fountainhead.”
In closing, I would like to leave you with the words of John Winthrop, the speaker of the House during the time of John Quincy Adams:
Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or a power without them, either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man, either by the Bible or by the bayonet.
It is just a thought, but it seems that if the citizens of this great nation would once again allow the teachings of Jesus to permeate our culture, perhaps a great many of these deadly shootings will never materialize. Or, as Thomas Jefferson knew in his heart, that these polluted waters would cease to flow and become “purified at the fountainhead.”
Much of the inspiration for this post came from the quotations of America’s Founding Fathers found in the article titled, The Government of The Heart, in the New Testament book of Mark in, The Founders’ Bible.