On the question of guns, our church doesn’t seem to lean one way or the other. Like the evolution question, I think we have people hold various opinions. But also like evolution, the topic of gun control evokes emotion and there’s a tendency to keep mum about it lest feelings get ruffled.
I wish I could say “this is what the bible says about guns”. But they didn’t have guns in bible times. (You knew that, right?) The nearest Jesus gets to the issue is telling Peter to go buy a sword. Was Jesus therefore in favor of arming his disciples? We can confidently say no because Jesus rebuked Peter when he actually used the sword: “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword” (Mt. 26:52). Unlike Mohammed, who used violence both to defend and to advance his religion, Jesus forbad his disciples from using violence. The only thing they were allowed to “carry” was a cross.
So since we can’t appeal to the bible about guns, a good starting point for debating gun control is to perceive something both sides of the gun debate have in common: they’re both really scared. Dig a little and you’ll find primal feelings under this debate. Both sides are really scared that a madman will open fire in their local mall or elementary school. And it’s hard for us to be rational when we’re scared.
But I think one side or the other will have to concede on gun control because America is now in the truly bizarre place of having at least one mass shooting every day. You read that correctly. According to ShooterTracker website, shootings of four or more people have taken place on average more than once a day this year. We’re going to have to decide what to do about the post cold-car arms race.
As I see it these are the options:
Option 1: get used to it.
Option 2: arm the public
Option 3: disarm the public
Option 1 is the most likely. It’s been 16 years since Columbine and we don’t have decisive legislation to either arm or disarm the populace. We either need much more guns or much less guns. But staying in denial is much easier so we’ll probably choose option 1.
Option 2 was recommended by a the county sheriff in Ulster last week. He asked gun owners to carry their guns in public. RIT announced today that their security guards will now carry guns. Some years ago a member (now departed) told me he brought a gun to church every Sunday. He told me that intending to reassure me.
I’m tipping my hand when I say that as much as I loved and trusted this man, him bringing a gun to church didn’t make me feel safer. Option 3 involves convincing my NRA friends that they’ll be safer with less guns. That’s not impossible. Consider this:
· The guns used by the Muslim couple in San Bernadino last week were purchased legally
· Americans own 300 million working guns, but gun violence has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. It’s illogical to believe more guns make us safer. In the last four years, more Americans have died in the US from guns (including suicides and accidents) than from the last 4 wars combined.
· A gun owner is 26 times more likely to use it on someone he knows than on a stranger committing a crime
· 40% of guns are acquired without a background check (according to a Harvard study). In other words, we haven’t really tried gun control yet.
I trust most of my NRA friends with guns and I wish all gun owners were as trustworthy as they are. But they're not -- far from it. So there comes a point when religious leaders have to weigh in on issues. My opinion is that easy access to guns makes us unsafe. We should regulate sale and ownership of all civilian guns stringently -- much more stringently than they are now.
If you differ from me, I am happy to hear your counter-argument.