We Christians all know that because of sin violence enters the human story early.
Genesis 4:8 NIV Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
From that first instance time violence soon becomes endemic.
Genesis 6:12 NIV God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.
God hates violence. We see that especially in the prophets.
Ezekiel 8:17 NCV He said to me, “Do you see, human? Is it unimportant that the people of Judah are doing the hateful things they have done here? They have filled the land with violence and made me continually angry. Look, they are insulting me every way they can.
Hosea 12:1 NCV What Israel does is as useless as chasing the wind; he chases the east wind all day. They tell more and more lies and do more and more violence. They make agreements with Assyria, and they send a gift of olive oil to Egypt.
The Bible says that the result of violence will be for divine destruction of the people who practice and favor it
Obadiah 1:10 NCV You did violence to your relatives, the Israelites, so you will be covered with shame and destroyed forever.
Recent mass murders using automatic weapons, like the ones in Buffalo, Tulsa, Uvalde, and at churches in Ames, IA, and Laguna Woods, CA, never mind the mass murders by guns since Columbine, force us to pay attention again to violence here in the United States. They also prompt our endless debates about guns.
I believe that fewer guns in fewer hands will lead to fewer gun deaths. There is some evidence to suggest this does in fact happen.
Over one hundred people are shot and killed every day in this country. Twenty-five times as many people are murdered with firearms than in other rich countries, and twenty-eight times as many women. Guns increase the total number of homicides: last year, there were as many murders in Philadelphia as in England, despite the population of England being thirty times the size. These deaths are disproportionately clustered amongst poor communities and African Americans, with black Americans ten times more likely to be shot dead than white Americans. One million American women have been shot at by a domestic partner. Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children. And so on.
The question is whether anything can or should be done about the proliferation of guns, especially automatic weapons, and if so, what.
Australia faced that question in 1996. After thirty-five people were killed in a mass shooting in Tasmania, the government took robust action, banning all semi-automatic and automatic weapons, imposing longer and stricter waiting periods and more rigorous licensing and storage restrictions, and requiring a “genuine reason” to own a gun (which included hunting and target shooting, but did not include self-defense). Since then, the government has bought back one million semi-automatic weapons, halving the total number of gun-owning households in the country. The number of gun homicides has dramatically reduced in that time, and the overall homicide rate has halved.
Of course, there are political and legal obstacles to reform in the US which do not exist in Australia. But pro-life Christians in this country have a track record of advocacy for what they believe is right in the face of congressional and/or juridicial intransigence. If we pro- life Christians were as enthusiastic about the death of men, women, and children as we are about the abortion of an unborn child we would fight for sensible gun control with the same fervor. Congressional and/or juridical intransigence would not stop us from demanding change. Just look back at the more the 50 year battle put up by pro-life Christians after the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision.
Three points I want to make here.
1) Gun violence is a large and tragic problem which afflicts America far more than comparable nations, and disadvantaged Americans more than anybody else. This is a grievous injustice.
2) International examples suggest that this injustice could be reduced if tighter gun restrictions were applied. Regression analysis comparing US states has shown that greater restrictions are strongly correlated with lower gun deaths, (regression analysis is a reliable method of identifying which variables have impact on a topic of interest. a regression allows you to confidently determine which factors matter most, which factors can be ignored, and how these factors influence each other) although unsurprisingly there is plenty of debate about the whys and wherefores of that.
3) The benefits of tighter gun controls, both for potential victims and the communities in which they live (and die), outweigh the limitations on personal freedom that they involve.
Owning guns is legitimate, and guns have reasonable recreational uses, including sport shooting and hunting. I will acknowledge that citizens have the right to bear some “arms,” but that the right to bear other “arms” should be infringed.
This is the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
There is a wide spectrum of arms, with carving knives at one end and weapons of mass destruction at the other. Somewhere in the middle are automatic weapons like AK-15 style rifles. There is also a wide spectrum of control. On one end, we might issue a warning on the packaging, refuse to sell them to children, or restrict their carriage in public spaces. At the heavy end, we would arrest anyone found making or owning one on suspicion of domestic terrorism.
We regulate other potentially dangerous things of everyday life—like driving, drinking alcohol, and drugs (prescription and illegal). To make society safer, we regulate these and similar activities.
The "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms" is not absolute. This "right" is balanced with the “right” of other people to eat in a restaurant or have a night out, go or play baseball—or the “right” not to be blown to smithereens while shopping, or in school, or at a party or attending church or while walking down the street.
The benefits of using carving knives are greater than the risks of being stabbed by them, on the other hand the personal freedom to own an automatic weapon is dramatically outweighed by the chance of killing and maiming innocent people. Sensible regulation should be a function of lethality (how many people it could kill), purpose (what it was designed for), and utility (what it is typically used for).
Counter to arguments from the National Rifle Association, regulating rights does not restrict freedom but makes it possible. We Christians, for example, champion the right to practice religion freely while gladly submitting to building and zoning codes, noise laws, and many other “restrictions” for the sake of community harmony.
I don’t condemn anyone for owning a gun, but I want people to realize the power of the violence they hold in their hand when they have a gun. And that just because you have a right to own a gun does not mean you have to exercise the right to use it.”
So, while I support the legitimacy of owning guns, given the violence of our land and God’s hatred of violence, I believe that we should also see a need to regulate the purchase and use of guns. We Christians should work to ban weapons whose main purpose is to kill a lot of people very quickly, to keep guns in general out of the hands of unstable personalities, and to ensure that everyone who buys and owns guns can demonstrate they know how to use and store them safely.
Will this alone eliminate American violence? Hardly. The problem runs too deeply in our veins as descendants of Cain. Other contributors (like the glorification of guns and violence in TV and movies, to name just one) must also be addressed. Nonetheless, increased gun control is one small step that could become the first of many that together forestall our divine destruction.