Bishop: Gun Ownership is not an Absolute Right

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In this week’s Rhode Island Catholic, Bishop Tobin shares Church teachings and his personal views on gun control:

The right to own guns is not an absolute right. As a personal right it always has to be balanced with the legitimate rights of other people, and with protecting the common good. That’s a principle that applies to all individual freedoms.

For example, we’re guaranteed the right to free speech, but it’s not an absolute right. It was decided a long time ago that because of the common good and for reasons of public safety you can’t yell “fire” in a theater. And you want to test your freedom of speech? Try talking about your fascination with bombs the next time you’re boarding an airplane and see what happens.

As a society we need always to achieve a proper balance between individual freedom and the common good. Pope John Paul II addressed this in his 1993 Encyclical, Veritatis Splendor, where he wrote: “Freedom must halt before the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil,’ for it is called to accept the moral law given by God.” And in a homily given in Baltimore in 1995, the Pope taught that the basic question before a democratic society is how the members of that society can live together peacefully. “Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought,” he said.

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