Calls for a gun ban in Toronto fit well with Church teaching, says Councillor Joe Mihevc. Photo by Michael Swan

Toronto gun ban has theological backing

By 
  • July 3, 2012

TORONTO - Toronto politicians aiming to eliminate handguns and ban ammunition have Church teaching on their side, says one Toronto councillor with a PhD in theology.

“We’re not a pacifist Church. We have been the Church that has argued for a just war position,” said Joe Mihevc.

But that doesn’t put the magisterium on the side of private gun owners, according to Mihevc.

“There is evil in our world, and that evil sometimes has to be confronted using force, but it has to be waged by legitimate authority,” he said.

“It is not something exercised by an individual. It is exercised by a legitimate authority. If you apply those principles in the case of gun ownership and the use of guns, I can’t see the case (for civilian gun ownership).”

For decades the Holy See has argued at United Nations disarmament conferences that small arms should be included in the UN Arms Trade Treaty on the grounds that they cause more deaths than all other weapons combined.

Armed defense is something appropriate for nations, not for individual citizens in a state where rule of law is effective, Fr. Tommaso Di Ruzza, a Vatican expert on disarmament and arms control, told the Catholic News Service last year.

The bishops’ conference in the United States has been in favour of a ban on handguns and restrictions on private gun ownership throughout the long, bitter debate over gun control south of the border.

“We believe that in the long run and with few exceptions — i.e. police officers, military use — handguns should be eliminated from our society,” wrote the U.S. bishops in a 2000 statement on the criminal justice system.

Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan is pushing ahead with his proposal for municipal bans on handguns and the sale, storage and use of ammunition.

“Somebody said we should be turning swords into ploughshares,” he told The Catholic Register.

Vaughan launched his campaign for gun control bylaws following the Eaton Centre shootings June 2 that killed two young men and hit five bystanders. It came just days before a brazen murder on a crowded patio in the downtown Little Italy area.

With 143 victims so far this year, gun injuries and fatalities are up 40 per cent from 2011, but are roughly at the same level they were in 2009.

Vaughan is asking the provincial government to retain data from the long gun registry in defiance of federal government plans to permanently expunge the expensive record of gun ownership.

He is also campaigning for a nationwide ban on handguns, following on an unsuccessful petition launched by former Toronto mayor David Miller in 2008.

Given suicides, police officers killed and wounded, accidental deaths and criminal assaults, the city has to respond to protect citizens, Vaughan said.

“There’s a very significant moral issue here,” he said.

Catholic opposition to private gun ownership makes perfect sense, said Vaughan.

“It doesn’t surprise me the Catholic Church has that position. It’s consistent with their position on life,” he said.

Toronto’s current mayor opposes both a ban on handguns and city restrictions on ammunition.

“You’re not going to get these guns out of the gangs,” Mayor Rob Ford told a press scrum. “They’re not going to register their guns.”

Not doing anything because a city law won’t completely eliminate guns and crime, or because gun registries are a burden for hunters and other legal gun owners, is not acceptable, said Mihevc.

“It’s a pretty difficult case to make that guns contribute to the common good,” he said.

“It is true that it’s not a perfect solution, but it is a response that pushes the yard stick in the right direction.”

Just as a law against abortion won’t eliminate all abortions, laws that restrict gun ownership put the law on the side of life, said Mihevc.

“The law is a teacher. Many people take the lesson. Some don’t,” he said.

 

What the catechism says

2262: In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord recalls the commandment, “You shall not kill,” and adds to it the proscription of anger, hatred and vengeance. Going further, Christ asks His disciples to turn the other cheek, to love their enemies. He did not defend Himself and told Peter to leave his sword in its sheath.
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.”

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