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Many Catholics are nevertheless uncomfortable with American gun culture. After all, it’s hard to imagine Jesus carrying an AR-15 slung over his shoulder, for good reason. Our Lord allowed himself to be unjustly arrested, condemned, and executed, all without any resistance—he even rebuked Peter for his use of a weapon in resistance (John 18:11). 

Yet it’s a fallacy to believe that because Jesus wouldn’t have carried a weapon then we shouldn’t either. It’s what I call the “WWJD Fallacy.” The WWJD movement was an attempt by Evangelicals to imitate Jesus as closely as possible by asking before any decision, “What would Jesus do?” It’s a well-intentioned idea, but it often fails in practice. Are you considering medical school? Well, Jesus wasn’t a doctor, so I guess you shouldn’t be one, either. 

With the exception of certain saints like Francis of Assisi, most of us are not called to precisely imitate Christ’s life in all its particulars. Instead we follow Christ in the context of our own individual state of life (this is the benefit of the witness of the Saints—we can see a diverse panoply of ways people have lived as Christ’s disciples). And some of those states of life include protecting others from harm.

Contrary to what some modern Catholics may want us to believe, the Catholic tradition is clear that using weapons can be justifiable in many instances. The Christian Middle Ages is full of conflict and weapons, including even bishops leading troops into battle. The thought that a Christian couldn’t carry—and use—a weapon would have been as laughable to these Catholics as the idea that a man could declare himself a woman. While I’m not claiming that every such use of weapons in the Middle Ages was just, it’s clear that historically the Church has understood the need for people to defend themselves—and others.

Catholics are not obliged to own or carry a firearm. Owning and responsibly using a gun is a prudential decision that should take into account many individual factors. Yet Catholics are obliged to defend the right of individuals to own and carry a gun, because resisting tyranny and protecting the innocent is the duty of everyone.

— Eric Sammons in The Catholic Case for Guns

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