This is a controversial question in American political culture right now. Some strongly advocate for legal restrictions on gun ownership and possession. Others strongly favor the restriction of the legislature and the rest of civil government to the dictates of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights. As they see it, an armed populace is ultimately safer from crime and can’t be controlled as easily by domestic or foreign governments.
But even if a young man believes in the Second Amendment in this way, it may be a stupid decision to purchase a gun. His thinking may be clouded with slogans and visions from action movies rather than a sober evaluation of his actual circumstances and risks.
My argument for this is simple and two-fold. The first reason is that handguns are expensive to purchase and also expensive to keep since practice with them requires the cost of ammunition and usually a designated place. The second reason is more important and universal: A growing stash of saved wealth is usually the main tool of personal freedom and independence, not a handgun.
- “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich” (Proverbs 21:17).
- “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it” (Proverbs 21:20).
Undoubtedly there are circumstances in which a handgun (along with discipline and proficiency in using it) is more valuable than all the money in the world at that particular moment. But much of the entertainment industry is concentrated on people facing such scenarios, making them seem common. Outside of fantasy, those circumstances are quite rare for virtally anyone who is reading these words. As far as “resistance to tyranny” goes, the government has its citizens outgunned. Practically speaking, after the skill of staying out of trouble altogether, the most important tool one can possess in dealing with government hostility in the U.S. is the ability to afford a lawyer.
The most common villain every person faces throughout all the world and all history is poverty. It is a “robber” and an “armed man” (Proverbs 6:11; 24:34). This is true even in affluent societies. Financial emergencies and setbacks, personal and societal, are a hazard of life. Thus, the most important weapon to defeat that villain is a growing stash of cash, and/or an expanding bank account, and/or a compiling collection of assets designed to produce income or at least be liquidated (not things you acquire to consume, but things you acquire to sell or make money from). If, while doing that, you believe you can own a handgun responsibly, go ahead and get one. But without amassing some wealth, purchasing something that unnecessary and expensive is stupid.
The fantasy of needing to be able to deal with an armed opponent is distracting you from the real threat you face. The Second Amendment’s vision of human life may be true, but that doesn’t make a young man’s decision to purchase a handgun wise. Being distracted into giving up money you will probably need to acquire something you probably won’t need is irrational.
- “The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth (Proverbs 17:24; ESV).
- “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense (Proverbs 12:11; ESV).
If you are dependent on and responsible for a car, for example, the ability to repair or replace it is probably a more pressing need than to deal with hostiles who have taken over Nakotomi Plaza.
The problem is that, one either gets in the habit on saving money or of spending all one’s money. Many people get set in this habit at an early age. If you have the wrong habit, it is human nature to accept it as normative and rationalize it. Instead of figuring out what is the best way to live, we utilize all our brain power to justify what we have already been doing.
When many American teens get jobs, they do so to be able to buy things they want over and above what their parents are willing to spend on them. This seems responsible but it means they get habituated to earning money for things they want to immediately purchase and use. That habit is insufficient for a productive adult life.
Many realize that they need to save, and assume that they will change their behavior when they get a “real job.” But a lot of people find that the “real job” barely covers real expenses. Unless they’ve already cultivated the habit of saving money, it will be very difficult to change their behavior. It is much better to have already developed an obsession to save rather than an obsession to have things you don’t need at the expense of saving. You need to get to the point where depleting your savings causes as much mental pain as not having some luxury you want.
As always, God wants us to be wise in order to empower us. Nothing in Proverbs indicates that it’s actually wrong to acquire and enjoy luxuries. But that enjoyment needs to be done in a way that doesn’t sabotage you as a person and rob you of financial freedom.