Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, is the stanchest pro-gun legislator in the state, and today, nobody was more outspoken in opposition to a bill that would mandate universal background checks for guy buyers.
At one point during this morning's hearing, the question of "what would Jesus do?" came up. And Cornish offered this interpretation of scripture: "I think that if Jesus was around today, he'd protect his family with violence if they had to."
[jump] Cornish's comment echoes an argument made in a January National Review opinion piece written by David French entitled "The Biblical and Natural Right of Self-Defense." From that piece:
In Mosaic law, God obviously continued his mandate of the death penalty for murder (as well as for blasphemy and other crimes) -- but not for all killing. He specifically carved out an exception for the defense of one's home: "If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him . . ." (Exodus 22:2). There was bloodguilt if the thief was killed during the day, however. Note the grace that God gives the citizen in the midst of the fear and ambiguity of a nighttime invasion -- even a "thief" (not a rapist, not a murderer) can be killed at night, but in the clarity of day, the "thief" (again, not a rapist, not a murderer) should not be killed...But would Jesus object to having the government run a background check on him before he buys his AR-15? That question seems more pertinent than whether or not he'd protect Mary Magdalene with violence if push came to shove.
While the New Testament certainly removes from the individual Christian any justification for vengeance (leaving vengeance to God's agent, the state) - lex talionis (eye for an eye) was always a rule of proportionate justice, not self-defense. In fact, Jesus's disciples carried swords, and Jesus even said in some contexts the unarmed should arm themselves. The sword's use was only specifically forbidden when Peter used violence to block Christ's specific purpose to lay down his life.
The idea that one is required to surrender his life -- or the lives of his family, neighbors, or even strangers -- in the face of armed attack is alien to scripture. There are many examples of martyrs surrendering their lives in the face of evil, but such an act is highly contextual and in response to the individual call of God on a man (or woman's) life. I know of no precedent for the idea that we are called to surrender the lives of others (such as our spouse, children, or neighbors) in response to deadly attack.
And with that said, here's some background (via Forum Communications) on DFL Rep. Michael Paymar's controversial proposal to expand background checks:
[Paymar] said he tried to craft legislation acceptable to rural lawmakers who support guns. The National Rifle Association opposes his bill and Paymar said he is not sure rural lawmakers can cross the NRA on this issue.A committee-level vote on Paymar's bill is expected this evening. Cornish claims he has enough votes, including a couple from DFLers, to kill the bill.
When Paymar released his bill [earlier this month], he was surrounded by police officers, but no sheriffs.
Police chief representatives said they support the universal background check that is required for anyone who wants to obtain a pistol or semi-automatic weapon. The only exception would be a weapon transfer within a family.