Conventional Thinking: The great gun debate
It is common these days to hear an exchange of ideas about guns. The tragic Connecticut shooting rightly brought the nation to its knees, making politicians and the ordinary citizen consider how to view guns.
The White House has unveiled plans for sweeping gun control, such as universal background checks on gun purchasers and a ban on so-called assault weapons. “Now is the time” for more gun control, said the Administration.
Increasingly, people everywhere are fearful that their hometown will be the next target of an evil shooting. As Christians, what should our position be on the issue of guns as a whole? The issue can be looked upon in several ways.
To state the obvious, the Bible does not mention guns. The New Testament canon was composed well before firearms were invented. The Bible, however, does speak about weapons such as bows and arrows (Prov. 26:18).
Jesus Himself uttered, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). Does the Bible condemn the use of weapons? Clearly God commanded Israel’s armies to take action against God’s enemies more than once. Paul indicates that the Government does not “bear the sword” in vain (Rom. 13).
While many admirable Christians throughout the ages were committed to nonviolence, it is a bridge too far to say God forbids the use of weapons. What He clearly prohibits is the unjust and evil use of weapons for murder (Ex. 18).
On Common Sense
A natural tendency is to blame inanimate objects for our own sins. Hearing of an impending divorce because of online infidelity, one is likely to ask, “Isn’t Facebook terrible?”
While inventions and media certainly give shape to our decisions, ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions. As the bumper sticker states, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
Many accidental gun deaths undermine this phrase, but it reveals a larger truth: a weapon is as evil as the person holding it.
The first murder recorded, for example, required no weapon at all. Cain murdered his own brother in cold blood and feared himself being killed in the aftermath. Violence is as old as the Fall.
Lessons of History
While technological advancements in firearms have made mass killings “easier,” there always has been the ability to kill large amounts of people. Through poisoning, fire and artillery, the ancients were able to unleash death on an enormous scale.
The forces of Genghis Khan, for example, were able to fire arrows through the compound bow at a distance of 200 yards with as much or more frequency and accuracy as an American Revolutionary War solider with a musket.
Even so, gun laws are supposed to keep firearms out of the hands of bad guys. In the process, some fear that good guys are prevented from the Constitutional right to own a firearm.
In his essay, “Why I am not a pacifist,” C.S. Lewis was skeptical toward those who conclude “wars do no good.” Lewis, who fought for Britain in World War I, understood wars and violence sometimes become necessary to thwart an aggressive evil.
While history is full of warmongers using weapons to destroy the innocent, it also reveals those taking up arms to defend liberty and justice. I, for one, am glad George Washington owned a firearm.
As Christians, a calm debate is called for in this case. Within the spectrum of the church today, you are sure to find a whole range of opinions, from pacifist to gun enthusiast. Rather than turning on each other to make the issue into a litmus test to see if someone is a true believer, each camp (and parties in between) would be wiser, instead, to apply Christian principles to inform and guide our viewpoints and find common ground on this critical social issue.