Our top 5 commonly asked questions on guns:
- ls gun violence a gun problem or a heart problem?
- Is it my God-ordained right to carry or own a gun?
- Is it possible to implement gun restrictions and protect Second Amendment rights?
- How can I be distinctly Christian in how I approach guns and gun violence?
- How can I help?
BEFORE BEGINNING, take a deep breath and say a prayer. Let us lament and agree that the gun violence situation in America is not acceptable. The point is not to agree on everything, but approach guns in a uniquely Christian way. We should not be beholden to any ideological tribe. We should not perpetuate platitudes and talking points that are not made in good faith. We should not disrespect another person because they have a different opinion. Grace and humility.
1. Is gun violence a gun problem or a heart problem?
Sunday to Saturday: Both. There is easy access to guns which are designed to kill as many people as possible in as little time as possible. Profits and power are put before commonsense. At the same time, many hearts have gone cold valuing the right to bear arms over commonsense gun regulation. For many Americans, guns, gun culture, and the Second Amendment have become idols. Skye Jethani said it best in his January 6, 2020 With God Daily devotional titled Dashboard Deities, “When they (people, objects, ideas) come to define our lives, our identities, and our loyalties, idolatry happens.”
“This is a false dichotomy– it is either the heart or the gun. Both are involved. People say Cain killed Able with a rock. Are we going to ban rocks? Well, no. From an evangelical perspective, a Biblical point of view about the fallenness of human nature, guns enable people who are sinful to kill larger numbers of people more efficiently.” Michael W. Austin, “God and Guns.” Think Biblically, 21 May 2020. https://www.biola.edu/blogs/think-biblically/2020/god-and-guns
“Saying that guns don’t kill people is like saying mosquitos don’t cause malaria or that influenza is not caused by a virus. Sure, there might be more going on than the mosquito or the virus. But you can’t have malaria without a mosquito. You can’t get the flu without a virus. And you can’t have a gun death without a gun.” James Atwood, Collateral Damage (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2019) 33.
“Guns aren’t the problem. Continually loving guns in a way that fosters violence instead of loving others in a way that restricts guns is the problem. This happens because people in our country love guns and their rights to guns more than they love the lives of the vulnerable people in our midst. That heart problem, that we love guns more than we love people, continually permits this kind of violence upon innocent victims.” Drew Tucker, “It’s Heart Problem, Not a Gun Problem? Maybe You’re Right…” FriarTucker.com, 3 December 2015, http://www.friartucker.com/blog/its-a-heart-problem-not-a-gun-problem-maybe-youre-right
“There is not going to be an absolute solution to this problem. But if we are going to reduce gun violence, if we are going to make it more difficult for people with a fallen, sinful heart to express that sinful heart through the barrel of a gun, then we should do that [gun reform].” Michael W. Austin, “God and Guns.” Think Biblically, 21 May 2020. https://www.biola.edu/blogs/think-biblically/2020/god-and-guns
2. Is it my God-ordained right to carry or own a gun?
Sunday to Saturday: No. The Second Amendment is not Scripture nor should we conflate the two. Is there a legal right to own a gun? Yes. Can you make a moral argument to own a gun? Yes. Using Biblical language to justify owning and carrying a gun is wrong.
“If you are going to pull God into this conversation, then you have to say this is a right that is true of every human. If you say it is a right of every human, then you can’t just limit it to Americans. You have to say that everybody has that same right even when we disagree with them. Or if you say that this is specific to America, on what basis do you make the claim that God has specifically chosen America out of all the nations to be the world’s police officer? I would be interested in a Biblical justification for that.” Mike Erre, “134 – Is Gun Ownership a God-Give Right?” Voxology, 28 February 2018. https://open.spotify.com/episode/1P1Cs1RrenTG84MfDaAWjP
“I will never understand how carrying an AR-15 down the street, and justifying it as a God-given right, looks like Jesus . . . Holding on to something that causes such destruction and looks much like this world does not look like Jesus to me. It does not smell like the aroma of Christ. It looks like fear, intimidation, and a quest for power. It looks like clinging to individual liberties and freedoms above the common good.” Taylor Schumann, When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021) 190.
“When Christians appeal to the Second Amendment like they would a passage of Scripture – that worries me. I don’t think that they think it is on par with Scripture, but they think it settles both the moral and spiritual issues. It settles the legal issue…but as Christians that is not the final word for us. Michael W. Austin, “God and Guns.” Think Biblically, 21 May 2020. https://www.biola.edu/blogs/think-biblically/2020/god-and-guns
“While there may be times when our Christian disposition and our civic conversation correspond quite nicely, there are also moments when our Christian disposition are in tension with our civic conversation. And when that’s the case, we are on the side of Christ because we have declared Christ as our Lord and Savior. So the first place for you and I as a Christian community are called to have a conversation about gun violence is not the Second Amendment, but the Sermon on the Mount.” Mark Davis “Lament the Violent”, St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 4 March 2018, https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/st-mark/lament-the-violent-pg5TGZKxIim/#episode
3. Is it possible to implement gun restrictions and protect Second Amendment rights?
Sunday to Saturday: Absolutely. In all of the reading, listening, and watching we have done on guns and gun violence, we have not run into one person advocating for the confiscation of guns. There are certainly those that do advocate for the confiscation of guns, but they are outliers. The same goes for those that want no restrictions of weapons.
“The Second Amendment belongs to all Americans. It does not exist for the sole benefit of those who love guns or who choose to arm themselves. It belongs to us all.” James Atwood, Collateral Damage (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2019) 47.
“To our shame, we have deliberately chosen not to do anything to keep thousands of our neighbors alive. Such callousness is not a sign of a great country. It is a sign of a country that is cold-hearted and looks especially ridiculous compared with other countries in the world. . . We are capable of preventing thousands of gun deaths by putting in place a few simple measures that would protect lives. We can do this without threatening Second Amendment rights.” James Atwood, Collateral Damage (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2019) 56.
“The Second Amendment itself carries with it the idea that gun ownership is to be ‘well-regulated’ — that is, there are reasonable limits to one’s rights to keep and bear arms. Remember: it is the only amendment that has a built-in regulation.” James Atwood, Collateral Damage (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2019) 92.
4. How can I be distinctly Christian in how I approach guns and gun violence?
Sunday to Saturday: First and foremost, no matter how you are treated, treat everyone with dignity and respect because all humans are made in the image of God. Second, do your homework and move beyond platitudes and the perfunctory talking points. Third, look at gun violence as a pro-life issue. Fourth, realize that you will not agree with everything Christians or non-Christians suggest, and that is okay.
“Our fundamental starting point, with guns and everything else, is this: What policies help us live well together? What’s best for the most? What’s good for the common good? What policies are vital for humans to thrive? We are not just thinking individualistically but as ‘polis,’ as a people — less about ‘I’ and ‘me’ and more about ‘we’ and ‘us.’ There is something that unit us that is deeper and more profound than all the stuff that divides us. Something unites us across party lines and blows all the labels and categories out of the water: our shared humanity.” Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin. Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence (Ada, MI: Brazos Press, 2019), 248.
“The Christian ethical question for a long time has been, ‘Okay, what do we do now?’ Right now there are bad guys. There is someone who may want to rob your house. If that other person has a gun, should I have a gun? Should cops have guns to combat that? Some Christians have said, ‘Well, right now it is almost a necessary evil. We have to have that right now in a fallen world.’ And other Christians have said, ‘No, you turn the other cheek. If they take your cloak, you give them your tunic as well.’ Violence begets violence, and if you turn away with peace, that is the beginning of peace. And Jesus, when we look at his death and the violence against the son of God- the whip and the cross-he doesn’t stand up and start a fight. He doesn’t start a revolution. He remains silent. He absorbs the violence instead of retaliating.” Adam Graber “Force for Good?” Device and Virtue, 28 June 2020, https://www.deviceandvirtue.com/podcast-posts/2020/6/28/s4e8-force-for-good
“Wouldn’t it be great if the church of Jesus Christ stepped out front to stop the killing? After all, God created the church to be salt, yeast, and light to this world, not to march in lockstep behind the corporate gun lobby. God calls the church to obey Jesus’ words even when, or particularly when, they conflict with the dictates of this earthly commonwealth. God created the church to lead – out front – and to bear witness to the love and justice our Lord described in Matthew 5 and 25. The almighty God did not commission us to serve as a mirror for a self-seeking, self-serving society. God created us to be a light in the darkness, which the darkness cannot extinguish (John 1:5).” James Atwood, Collateral Damage (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2019) 189.
“It is a core part of our mission to offer thoughts and prayers. But our prayers must include confession and the promise of repentance, hope and the plea for strength to do what is right, a calling to account of those in power– especially when we hold power ourselves — and the admonition of evil and yearning for the kingdom of God.” Rosalind C. Hughes, Whom Shall I Fear? (Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2021) 101.
“Absent an imminent, immediate threat to liberty, the focus of Christian gun owners should be on their responsibilities, not their rights.” David French, “Christians, Gun Rights, and the American Social Compact” The French Dispatch. 6 September 2020, https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/christians-gun-rights-and-the-american
“Get comfortable saying, ‘I don’t know.’ This is where we start. If you feel intimidated by not having all the answers, chances are, the person you’re talking to feels the same way. They want accessibility. They want to talk to someone who doesn’t make them feel embarrassed for not knowing something. . . In my experience, a posture of humility is an asset, not a liability.” Taylor Schumann, When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021) 180.
“The overarching question for churches responding to an era of violence in America is how to overwhelm evil with good and resist evil without making peace with its methods or glorifying innocent suffering. How do we repay abuse with a blessing and continue our work that was called into being by the redemption wrought by Christ’s overwhelming, nonviolent, selfless, and life-giving love?” Rosalind C. Hughes, Whom Shall I Fear? (Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2021) 41.
“The most significant and loving action that Christians can take is to shine the light of gospel truth on the myths and misinformation surrounding the meaning of guns in our society.” James Atwood, Collateral Damage (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2019) 139.
“We don’t have to agree on everything when it comes to questions on policy in order to say we ought to agree with one another on the sanctity of human life and on the satanic nature of murderous violence and to stand together on those things.” Russell Moore, “How Should Christians Talk About Gun Violence?” YouTube, uploaded by The Village Church – Flower Mound, 4 September 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJ5eK2G9R38
5. How can I help?
Sunday to Saturday: Educate yourself. Lament. Pray. This is what Sunday to Saturday is attempting to facilitate. Read our framework for a pathway to engagement and our guided learning paths to learn more.
- Universal background checks
- Extreme risk protection orders (ERPO) also known as red flag laws
- Mandatory waiting periods
- Require gun manufacturers to place fingerprint ID on all manufactured guns
- Require licensing and training
- Ban assault-style rifles
- Raise the minimum age of purchase
- Require mandatory liability insurance
- Support gun buyback programs
- Require safe storage laws
- Limit the amount of guns an individual can purchase each month
- Require gun dealers to have a license to sell from the ATF
“The right place to begin seems to be deep lament. All is not well in the world, and we need to allow the blood that God hears crying out from the ground to affect us. We need to listen to that pain.” Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin. Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence (Ada, MI: Brazos Press, 2019), 15.
“If gun violence isn’t already personal to you, then make it personal. Picture the faces of someone you love when you read the numbers. This conversation means nothing if a number is just a number–it has to be personal. It’s going to be uncomfortable and hard–but important things often are.” Taylor Schumann, When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021) 113.
“Every person who buys a gun should undergo a background check. There are no sensible, good-faith arguments to be made against that regulation, which more than 90 percent of gun owners support.” John Woodrow Cox. Children Under Fire: An American Crisis (New York, NY: Ecco, 2021), Kindle, 4223.
“We need more research, and we need it now. Just between February and late April 2020, the federal government spent $6.4 billion in response to COVID-19—or about $140,000 per death up to that point. It was a reasonable reaction to a contagion that threatened to take hundreds of thousands of lives, but compare that investment to the support for research into gun violence, which has killed more than 350,000 Americans over the past decade. After years of refusing to fund any research, Congress at last devoted $25 million to it in 2019—or about $640 per death that year.” John Woodrow Cox. Children Under Fire: An American Crisis (New York, NY: Ecco, 2021), Kindle, 4255.
“I want to end gun violence. I want no one else to have to suffer as a result of this horrific crisis. But what I want even more than that, is for Christians to take up their place in this fight. I want them to finally open their eyes to this injustice all around them and to show the world we are here and we care and we will work to protect each other. I want us to stop enabling violence and instead seek peace, even if it costs us something. We have the ability to bring the kingdom of God to this earth with our hands and our feet. If the goal of being a follower of Jesus to to be more like him and to invite other people into his kingdom, then this would be a great place to start.” Taylor Schumann, When Thoughts and Prayers Aren’t Enough (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021) 202-03.
“Banning weapons of war (assault weapons ban), requiring safe storage for guns in the home, raising the age requirement to 21 instead of 18, limiting the amount of guns someone can purchase at one time, holding gun dealers accountable for lost guns, and strengthening background checks are all options for gun reform. These have the most evidence of effectiveness to support them and are all supported by a majority of Americans.” Taylor Schumann, When Thoughts_OnlineResource (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021) Resource, 9.
BONUS: For more answers to common questions about gun reform, we highly recommend reading Taylor Schumann‘s Frequently Asked Questions About Gun Reform, which is free on ivpress.com.
More curated resources on guns/gun violence:
BOOK: God, Technology, and the Christian Life
Within many Christian and non-Christian circles there is an underlying assumption that technology will outpace humans; that we will unleash an evil or divine secret we were never meant to uncover. Author Tony Rienke says hogwash.Keep reading
BOOK: God and Guns in America
Few Christian books can integrate and appeal to Scripture without sounding preachy, pretentious, or perfunctory. Even more so when an author takes on a polarizing subject such as guns. And yet this is what Michael W. Austin’s God and Guns in America excels at. Biblically rooted as well as logically sound, Austin’s approachable writing style…Keep reading
ARTICLE: Lockdown – What Kids Think About School Shooting Drills
A must-listen-to, sobering 24-minutes where kids from kindergarten to high school give their thoughts on school lockdown drills.Keep reading