A Christian Perspective on Guns

In respect of the gun control debate, there are both common goods and competing goods. The common goods are safety, a decrease in violence, and death reduction. The competing good is protecting the Second Amendment rights of the United States Constitution. However, I do not think these goods ought to be competing. In this post, I will defend a middle ground for gun control. I believe in the ability to enforce stricter regulations to help prevent guns and excessive weapons from getting in the hands of those they do not belong, as well as keeping the Second Amendment rights while simultaneously not punishing the masses of gun owners who are mentally healthy and law-abiding citizens.

Two years ago, I bought my first handgun and had to analyze the positives and negatives of this sensitive topic myself. There were several motivating factors for me, starting with safety. Over the last few years, I have had increasing chronic back pain. It turns out I have a back of a sixty-year-old and had a handful of significant issues. This news made me reevaluate my physical strength and health. Add on top the social unrest and getting married, and I felt as though if I needed to, I would not be able to defend myself or my wife in a physical altercation. So, I resorted to buying a handgun. As Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret) put it:

The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.[1]

With a handgun, I have the confidence that I stand an excellent chance of ending any threat to my life or my wife’s if needed.

Background Checks

My story is only a part of the broader debate. I know I am trustworthy to own a gun. I do not have a criminal background, and the required background check I took part in before I was able to receive the gun proved that. I also know I am mentally healthy. My point is there is no danger of me committing any mass shootings or any other illegitimate acts just because I own a gun. The gun itself is not the problem. It is the people who pull the trigger. I would much rather have a law-abiding, stable citizen be able to pull out a gun and use it if there is an active shooter on the premise than for all of us to be sitting ducks because we are not allowed to own guns or carry them in public.

That said, I do believe enforcing regulations would be helpful, and yet some unlawful people are going to find ways around them regardless. I am no legal or mental health expert, but I do think there needs to be a greater effort on the part of making sure anyone on shaky legal or mental ground is not able to buy a gun. Kerby Anderson, host of Point of View Radio Talk Show and President of Probe Ministries did some research on background check persecutions recently. What he found was a prospective gun buyer has to complete Form 4473 truthfully and correctly (like I did). If you lie on the form, it is a felony that can result in as much as ten years in jail. However, a substantial number of individuals do lie on the form. In the year the government office audited these forms, there were 112,000 tries by forbidden individuals to purchase a gun that were halted by the background check. That is 112,000 federal gun offenses in which the offender signed the form and thus supplied all the data necessary to sentence him. This consisted of convicted felons (36%), individuals subject to protective orders (30%), and others convicted of domestic violence (16%). These are the kinds of individuals who should not get a weapon. The audit reveals that around 30 percent of those individuals who fail a gun background check are arrested on another criminal charge within five years. Here is the disturbing fact: Out of the 12,700 incidents that were examined, there were just twelve prosecutions. Twelve prosecutions out of more than 12,000. That is one prosecution out of 10,000. As terrible as that seems, it is much sadder because the federal government just conducts gun background checks for twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia. Here’s an idea. Let’s implement the gun laws we already have.[2]

Furthermore, per the Department of Justice, below two percent of all inmates had a gun bought from a retail source at the time. Most individuals with a malicious purpose (crooks, extremists, mass shooters) don’t get their firearms at a firearm shop, as these firearm background checks deter them. That shows that several of these latest shootings are the exception. The trouble is that the method hangs on individuals self-reporting such matters as illicit drug use. Anderson points out, that Hunter Biden, for instance, almost surely breached federal law for being dishonest regarding his drug trouble. He was certainly not indicted. Improved reporting is important. The shooter in the Sutherland Springs church assault ought to have been blocked from buying a weapon, although the Air Force neglected to report his illegal record. Yeah, we are able to accomplish more to repair the system, although we ought to be practical, keeping in mind that it will just be a two percent answer.[3]

High-Capacity Magazines and AR15s

The president would like to prohibit high-capacity magazines. That is a magazine that carries more than ten rounds of ammo. I think there is wisdom in these ideas, which could lead to increased safety. However, note that a tiny handgun (like the Sig Sauer 365 that fits in your pocket) can carry twelve rounds of ammo and the magazine is just four inches long. Even the Glock 19 I own holds fifteen rounds of ammo. So, would that make me a criminal? Why would someone require high-capacity magazines or an AR15? “Consider that any intruder would be carrying either a semiautomatic handgun or a semiautomatic rifle, equipped with a high-capacity magazine. A homeowner would want to have similar firepower and ammunition to counter what would be in the hands of the intruder.”[4]

There needs to be a limit to this stringency because there is no sense in taking away guns from law-abiding citizens or in some way punishing them. There is no sense in affecting the masses on account of a few bad apples that will remain bad apples regardless of what changes. Furthermore, David Brooks of The New York Times has pointed out that:

Past efforts to control guns have not dramatically reduced violence. The Gun Control Act of 1968, the Brady Act of 1993 and the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 all failed to reduce homicides significantly… a 2000 study commissioned by the American Medical Association found that it [the Brady Act] did not lead to a reduction in the overall murder rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did an analysis of 51 studies of a series of gun control regulations. It could not find evidence to prove the effectiveness of gun control laws.[5]

I believe in common sense that if something does not work, try something else. In this case, it may prove more effective to focus on different solutions.

Christian Morality

An important question to ask, especially as a Christian, is “Is it moral to own and use guns?” My answer is yes, especially in the defense of oneself and others. Exodus 22:2 supports self-defense by allowing a person to kill someone who breaks into their home. Furthermore, I think you can love your neighbor by keeping them alive; even if that means you take the life of a demonic person trying to murder your neighbor. That said, I would have no problem explaining my choice to God to shoot someone if, for example, my action saved my classmates or church members from being innocently murdered. Owning a gun does come with an obviously massive responsibility. Thus, we need to seek out the best instruction and stewardship of safety for ourselves and others. Furthermore, I do believe guns should be used in a God-glorifying and moderate way in our contexts. We should never own guns to abuse power and control, or feed pride. We should not go out and look for trouble. We should practice wisdom, peace, and edification in all circumstances (James 3:17-18).

A second question to consider is, “What does the Bible say about guns?” While the Bible does not speak specifically to guns, there are applicable principles. Genesis 1:26 says that humans are created in the image of God. The Bible also tells us in Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12-14, and 1 John 3:15 that there are severe consequences for taking one’s life. Thus, if you put the two together, the Biblical principle is human life is priceless and worth safeguarding because we are created in God’s image.

The Bible does mention weapons. In fact, there are examples of people using weapons for self-defense. In Nehemiah 4:13-14, the people of Jerusalem defended the city with their own personal weapons. We have the instance of the apostles, who had weapons. On the evening Jesus was betrayed, He invited His disciples to bring swords. They took two, which Jesus said was plenty (Luke 22:37-39). At a different time, soldiers (who would carry weapons) came to be baptized by John the Baptist. When they inquired what to do to live for God, John said, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14). John did not say to give up their weapons. The bottom line here is these are examples of a case where personal weapons are not condemned and are also used for protection.

What About Pacifism?

Pacifism is “opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes. Pacifists refuse, on moral or religious grounds, to bear arms or engage in any type of physical resistance. They believe that all disputes can and should be settled in peaceful, non-violent ways.”[6] Various Christians argue that the Bible demands pacifism. They think that the full amount of Jesus’ teachings demand His disciples to give up their weapons and encourage peace. I partly responded to this above, but I’ll add that to allow somebody to murder someone when it is in your control to prevent them is opposite to our ethical thoughts. Though I respect Christian pacifism, I just don’t find it mandatory by the biblical text. My own opinion is that the denial to safeguard innocent life can be serious harm. If a brutal guy came after my wife, and I did not do everything in my control to halt his assault—even if it meant killing him to protect my wife—then I would have broken a deep responsibility as a husband.

What about turning the other cheek?

What are we to do with Jesus’ revolutionary instructions in Matthew 5:39-41? “Do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two.” That really seems like a demand for pacifism, doesn’t it? How does this suit what I have opined above?

Initially, I should explain what the trouble is not. The trouble is not that Jesus is informing us to relax and allow evil to overcome us. That is not what he is telling us. Alternatively, he is informing us how it looks “not [to] be overcome by evil, but [to] overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). We have each found the sense of Jesus’ words here in our daily lives. A great deal of the time, the best means to overcome evil is with no opposition. If somebody says something mean, it is most useful to react with gentleness than with a mean response back. If somebody attempts to cut you off on the expressway, it is generally best simply to allow them to. If we would understand these tenets, our lives would be far more serene.

Therefore, the trouble is not that Jesus is informing us to allow evil to crush us. The trouble is that it seems as though Jesus is informing us that the one sense we must always strive for to overcome evil is through turning a blind eye and reacting with gentleness. It appears he gives no position for utilizing force in fighting evil.

A response to this problem is in realizing the hyperbolic nature of a lot of the Sermon on the Mount. I don’t believe that Jesus is stating to not ever react to evil with force (such as in self-protection) or at all times to literally turn the other cheek when we are smacked. Just like I don’t believe his command later in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:6 means that we must only pray when we are totally unaccompanied or his command in 5:29 means that we must literally remove our eyes. Jesus himself pushed the robbers away from the temple with a “scourge of cords” (John 2:15) and Paul occasionally claimed his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 25:11; 16:35-40). Jesus is using hyperbole to explain what our main temperament and mindset must be; not to declare that we must literally hand ourselves over in each case evil is directed at us.

Conclusion

In summary, I am in support of individual gun ownership as a Second Amendment right, but I am also in support of continuing to try and find ways to reduce the number of guns in the hands of those who are mentally ill and/or have a criminal background to supply added safety for the citizens of our country, minimize violence, and reduce death.

That said, we set our greatest hope in the One who has beaten death, and who leads eternally as the Prince of Peace, “having disarmed the powers and authorities” and “triumphed over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15). As Christ’s servants, we take part in his redeeming work, taking the gospel of peace everywhere we go.


[1] Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret), “The Gun is Civilization,” The Longwood Institute, June 7, 2010

[2] Kerby Anderson, Background Check Prosecutions

[3] Kerby Andreson, Two Percent Solution

[4] Kerby Anderson, Rifle Rhetoric

[5] David Brooks, “The Killing Chain,” New York Times, March 25, 2013

[6] https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-pacifism.html

[7] Matthew 5:17-20

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