Asking the Question, “Do You Allow Guns on Campus?”

It is hard to believe but in a few short years my first born, my “baby,” will be heading off to college. The browsing has begun and next year we will begin making visits. Truly shocking to this GenX’er dad – not only is the college decision looming before me, but like so many other things that are different than “when I was young,” because my daughter is smarter and more gifted that I was at her age, distilling down the possibilities will be difficult. But try as we might to avoid it, we have to deal with the reality . . . our daughter will soon be going to college and we will have to help. :-)

As we have conversations about the possibilities, we know that her interests and passions will be significant determiners, the shear cost of a college education will be a factor and the application process itself may require an advanced degree. Despite all of these things that make us want to run away and hide, we have begun making our list of questions and filters for schools: some serious, others not so much . . .

  • Which schools are the “best” ones for your interests . . . or for the interests that your parents hope you will be interested in?
  • What are your dreams and will this school help you get there?
  • Who gives good financial aid or has some version of a no-debt programs?
  • Who as the best food?
  • Seven Sisters? West Coast, East Coast or that middle part?
  • Small college or large university?
  • What schools are located in cities that the parental units are willing to visit?
  • What is their policy concerning guns and/or concealed weapons on campus?

Even as I write this post, that final question seems absurd to me.

Yes, I know that there is a contingent of folks who believe that any restriction of gun ownership is an attack on their liberty and constitutional rights, but guns on college campuses? When I was in college I could barely be trusted with choosing my major, let alone carry a firearm. So, despite the shocking amount of legislation that aims to ease gun restrictions on college campuses or forbid colleges from banning concealed weapons, I will simply choose to believe that most folks, even strong gun advocates, would not support policies that would allow students to carry guns on campus.

I also know that most of the schools that we may end up choosing probably will not allow students to carry firearms – as most states either ban guns on campus or allow schools to determine their gun policy [See map above] - but even some great schools are located in states that have or have had legislation that, if passed, would make it possible. You can see a complete list of legislation here. Of the 20+ pieces of legislation introduced in 2012 or carried over from 2011, thankfully most did not make it through this legislative cycle, but I have no doubt that advocates of guns on campus will be back again.

If you are interested in seeing some of the colleges and universities who have signed a pledge to keep guns off of their campuses, please see this list from www.keepgunsoffcampus.org and if your school has not signed, please encourage them to do so. And if you want to see one school that has begun to loosen their ban/restriction of concealed weapons on campus, here is Liberty University’s Gun Policy which includes a list of schools that they lift up as having similar policies.

I write this post not battle some straw man, to incite unnecessary panic or to pick a fight with anyone – yeah, good luck with that I know – but rather to highlight the need to be aware of what’s going on in the realm of guns on our nation’s college campuses. Other than a very brief and surreal interaction during a recent presidential debate, the absence of a national conversation on gun control or gun regulation has been deafening; and as a parent, a Christian and a citizen of the United States of America, the silence is not okay.

I do not want my child going to a college or university that has loose gun policies, so I’ll be paying close attention to legislative trends, especially over the next few years. If you feel the same way, I would encourage you to keep your ears open and stay connected to Keep Guns Off Campus by following them on Twitter or liking their Facebook Page. You can also keep up with the larger conversation via The Brady Campaign. And if you have other groups or schools who are fighting the move to loosen gun restrictions on campuses, please feel free to share.

Thanks for reading.

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Why This Christian Will Never Own a Gun

Sign the petition: Christians Standing Together Against Gun Violence.

Photo by twak on flickr

As a Christian and a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) I often struggle with Scripture and how God intends for me to live in the world. Jesus and our faith demands of us to make difficult decisions in life that often stand firmly against our own upbringing, our own wants and, at times, our friends and family.

I believe that, today, the question of gun ownership and fighting gun violence is one of those times.

Trust me, I do not wade into the topic of guns lightly. After posting on this topic here and here, I am fully aware of the passion with which people approach this issue and the subsequent conversations about it. While some would say it would be wiser and even safer to avoid such engagement, I disagree. For if I, as a Christian, cannot find a way to engage in healthy and helpful conversations with those  who disagree with me, Christian or not, then, I am abdicating my responsibility to live the kind of life that I believe God hopes for me to live in the world.

Still, I know that there will be some immediate reactions by many who might react to any opinion that seems anti-gun, so let me try to pre-empt some of the obvious pushback that is likely to be directed my way.  I have no delusions that commentors will, in fact, read this blog before commenting, but for those of you who do and are interested in fruitful conversation, know this . . .

  • When I say that I will never own a gun because of my Christian faith, that does not mean that I am saying that you are not a Christian if you do.
  • I do understand that there is a difference between owning a rifle for hunting and owning a handgun for self-defense. And while I would never own either, my Christian sensibilities are not as challenged by those who have grown up in a culture of hunting as by those who advocate widespread handgun availability.
  • This is not about the 2nd Amendment or gun control, but rather a public expression of how my faith informs the way I chose to live in the world.  There is a time and place for conversations about civil engagement and faith, but in this post, my primary authority is not the US Constitution, but my faith in Jesus Christ and God’s unfolding reality as told through the Bible.

Gun ownership, gun violence and gun control are obviously not new debates in our nation. At the same time, I do think that the ideological, philosophical and theological foundations that give structure to the arguments about guns in our culture are beginning to manifest themselves in ways that are tearing apart the social and cultural understandings that have brought this country together for a very long time. In the name of free speech, we are experiencing a rise of violent political rhetoric; in the defense of freedom, personal interactions are increasingly tinged with violent posturing; and  recent shootings – mass or otherwise – are creating a fatigue that further normalizes gun violence in our culture.

As a Christian, a pastor, a father, a citizen of the United States and member of the larger global community, this is not an acceptable reality, nor does this align with the many ways in which I believe Christ calls us to live. There is much in the teachings of Christ that offer me pause, but in the case of guns, any way I look at the questions of owning a gun and the risks involved to the larger community, it is abundantly clear to me why I will never own a gun.

I first begin with my place in the greater community. I choose not to own a gun and provide an opportunity for the violence that so often accompanies guns because this is how I would hope others would be in the world. Yes, many will label me a fool and accuse me of creating an atmosphere of inviting gun violence into my life, but when it comes to faith, my actions, while defying logic to many in the world, is an expression of my deep commitment to God.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

Secondly, nowhere in Scripture does Jesus give us permission to solve our problems, respond to aggression or even defend ourselves with violence. In word and in deed, we are often called to fight injustice and violence with words and actions that are distinctly NOT violent, even in self-defense. Turning the other cheek, defending with a swordstoning of the prostitute, etc, Jesus reminds us of other powerful ways to respond to those who would chose to goad us into violent conflict. Yes, we do those things out of self-survival and self-defense, and justified by society or not, viewed through a lens of the Christian faith violence of any kind cannot be justified.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

People may call this approach to faith and life absurd, weak or out of touch, but this is where my Christian faith leads me to stand and I consider this posture of non-violence in word and deed, to be one of power, transformation and graciousness. Again, because this is where my faith leads me, does not mean that I think any less of those who decide that gun ownership aligns with their faith, only that I have chosen differently.

I believe is that at some point, people of faith must stand side-by-side speaking together to let the world and one another know that there is a different way to live and respond to that which may threaten us . . . and it is one that does not involve guns, so if you would like to add your name to a “petition” is support of church leaders everywhere who are engaged in importnat work against gun violence, please sign sign and share This Petition:  Christians Standing Together Against Gun Violence.


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