Why This Christian Will Always Own a Gun

My friend Bruce Reyes-Chow has proclaimed that he will never own a gun, and he’s encouraged all fellow Christians to sign a petition against gun violence. I won’t sign it, because I don’t sign petitions. Well, I do sign silly petitions. I don’t sign real petitions, because they’re silly. They don’t do anything. And Christian leaders are real fond of them.

But that aside, I own a gun now, and I plan to own one until I’m too old to take to the field and hunt. 

Bruce makes a half-hearted exception for “those who have grown up in a culture of hunting.” But that does not include me. I did not grow up in a hunting family. My love of hunting is my own, and I do love hunting. I started hunting in my 20’s, and I took it upon myself to apprentice under a friend from church who is an experienced hunter. He taught me several lessons that stay with me to this day.

– My gun has a trigger lock.
– My gun is stored in a locked safe.
– My shells are kept in a different place from my gun.
– My children do not know where the shells or either of the keys are.

Also, when I’m hunting, I am absolutely militant about hunting safely — minding my muzzle, unloading before approaching a road or coming back to the truck to take a break — and I will only hunt with others who practice gun safety.

But, of course, this isn’t what Bruce is writing about. He’s writing about gun violence in our society. And in that I agree with him, even as I sit in a Sri Lankan hotel and watch BBC coverage of yet another shooting in America, this time at a shopping mall in New Jersey.

Bruce is writing about people who use guns, not to hunt, but for self-defense. He writes,

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…

I do not own a gun for self defense. I own a shotgun, specifically designed for hunting. It’s not available to me for self-defense. If my house was broken into, or I was threatened, I can’t get to my gun in a timely fashion.

Also, as a gun owner, I see no justification for the manufacture and sale of assault weapons. There is no legitimate purpose for such a weapon.

Handguns fall in a strange gray area in between. They are not used for hunting, and they are protected by the Second Amendment. But, again, I see no legitimate use for one, and therefore I will not own one.

So, in the final analysis, I agree with Bruce. As Christians, we should stand up against gun violence. I’m just not so sure that means never owning a gun.

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  • As long as you don’t go all NRA-from-my-cold-dead-hands on us, you’re okay in my book!


  • Bill Samuel

    I think it’s sick to get your jollies from killing innocent creatures that God made.

    • Jesse

      I think it’s sick that you eat plants that God made for beauty.

    • ME

      I generally agree with you Bill, but, unless you are vegetarian it’s very hard not to be a hypocrite while holding this view. What’s really the difference between eating a hamburger and hunting? Both are unnecessary and for enjoyment.

      • Matt

        Which is why being serious about being opposed to violence and suffering need to abstain from inflicting violence on any living being, or having others inflict violence on their behalf (which is what buying meat is, paying someone indirectly to commit violence).

  • Albert

    I’m a christian. I don’t carry a gun, but I’m planning to. Not so much for self-defense, but defense of those entrusted to my care. Don’t know if I’d use it to protect myself, but my wife and children are another matter. If I did protect myself it would be because I believe it’s best for my children to grow up with a father.

    • Tanya

      Albert, I won’t go to the mat about this, because . . . whatever. Chances are you’ll never use it, and chances are it won’t fall into the wrong hands. But I wonder what the logic is? Did Jesus say, “turn the other cheek, unless you’re protecting somebody else.” Did he leave armies to protect his family and friends from those who might do them harm? No, his friends got hurt. Its a little hard to say about his family, but tradition suggests his brother James was martyred in Turkey. I’m betting plenty of little Christian children grew up without a father, because there is no record of Christians defending themselves with arms.

      “Entrusted to our care,” is not a biblical phrase. I’m thinking “Love your enemies . . . and “if you love only those who love you, what good is that?” are actual biblical phrases.

      I don’t think I’m actually a full-on, flat-out pacifist. But I’m sobered by the fact that the early church seemed to be. Not sure what that should mean for us.

      • Albert

        Tanya, It’s true that Jesus didn’t say, “Turn the other cheek unless you’re protecting somebody else.” What he did say was, “If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other to him also.” However, I’m not inclined to turn my son’s other cheek so they could hit him again.

        It’s also true that “entrusted to my care “isn’t biblical. I never said it was. As a matter of fact, none of my comment was meant to be biblical. Just my current thinking, flawed as it is. Maybe my heart needs to change, but right now I know without question that I’d protect them with my life, or the life of whoever was threatening them.

      • Chris


        If the route you take is to argue from scripture that Jesus said such-and-such in order to make the statement that “there is no record of Christians defending themselves with arms,” then you are going to lose all day long.
        Jesus did in fact tell his disciples as he had sent them out to their respective ministries that if they did not have a sword then they should sell their outer garment to purchase one. This is an explicit call and allowance for (even deadly) self-defense if called for. Swords were never for decoration or for play. They were to be used, for serious defense. You may argue if you like that love is a higher calling. That’s fine. But according to scripture Jesus actually promoted the idea of deadly force when confronted with violence.

    • George

      Albert, sounds like you are starting to come around. I used to be married to a person that abhored guns. Once when we were on a trip, a lunatic tried to kick our motel door down, the first thing that she said was “Where is the gun?”. Ironically, I had forgotten to bring it that time, and boy was she upset about not having protection. Bottom line is if you are not concerned about self protection, don’t even bother putting a lock on your door.

  • Jimmy

    it’s always easier to get christians on board with a cause if involves buying, as opposed to abstaining.

    So, I’m going to get some chick-fil-A for lunch to protest gun violence!

  • I lean towards your position there Bill, but I have to ask: ask you a vegetarian/vegan? In my mind one can only have such a position if they actively avoid indulging in the results of killing animals. (Though of course, the ethics of vegetarianism are entirely malleable and don’t apply universally to all different cultures and times, but I digress.)

  • Courtney

    I’m so thankful for the seriousness with which my spouse, the above bearded wonder, approaches owning hunting gear. I truly could not live with him were it otherwise.

    I do not hunt, but I eat meat. I respect those, like Tony, who honor the process of getting meat to the table, wasting nothing. I’m thankful my family sees every step of the process so each person can decide if s/he wants to take part in the eating of meat.

    • I think they should change the URL of Tony’s blog to patheos.com/blogs/BeardedWonder. Who’s with me!?

  • Growing up in a (relatively) mild form of cowboy culture—watching westerns, “rugged individualism,” etc.—instilled in me a love of guns at a young age. However, they’re pretty much at direct odds with my adult-onset Quakerism, so while I don’t doubt that handguns are legal (and I still own two), I’m finding it increasingly difficult to rationalize their presence in my home. Your final two sentences sum up a complicated issue pretty well, though (even if I’m not terribly pro-hunting).

  • Peder

    Tony, great post. Agree with everything you write (ESP the gun safety piece while hunting). I too fell into hunting in my 30’s and love it, less the shooting part and more so the whole getting dirty outdoors experience of it. If you ever put a hunt together and need people to go, let me know.

    The one thing I disagree with you on is the assault weapon piece. It’s a fair point to question why anyone would want a gun that looks like an assault rifle but those available to the general public are no different than the semi-auto shotgun you’re holding in your picture above. That is, one trigger pull, one shot, not the “fully” automatic machine gun Kelly type of gun that less informed people immediately associated with the word assault rifle. As you know, fully automatics are banned from the general public and I believe are illegal to own as a civilian. In the end, it’s the person who does bad things and not the gun. If a bad person wants to commit a gun crime and they can’t find a semi-auto that looks like an M16, then they’ll get one that looks like your hunting rifle/shotgun and operates in the same fashion, either way, the victim would be just as dead or wounded regardless of what the gun looks like.

    As for handguns, perhaps there’s an ethical decision one might make against owning one but outlawing them may just concentrate ownership to those who don’t care about laws in the first place, not sure that is a better end result. If you could get rid of all handguns, that would be great, I agree, but unfortunately the cat is out of the bag and that solution is not realistic. Interesting story this week, my guess is these types of things happen more than get reported because crimes typically only get reported when they are successfully carried out or when bad things happen.

    • Larry Barber

      Not be pedantic, but that’s a pump action that Tony’s holding.

  • I have no opposition to the use of a gun to hunt animals, even though I don’t particularly care for hunting, and as such would never own a gun to do so unless life absolutely required it (in which case I’d call Tony).

    In national conversations like this (i.e., pro-gun-defense and compatibility with Christian faith), particularly where American pro-gun culture is concerned, I often wonder: does the culture’s values inform how a Christian lives, or do Jesus’ values inform how a Christian lives in their culture?

    Of course, the conversation then includes varying views of what people believe Jesus’ values are when it comes to using any kind of weapon or instrument to cause harm or death on another human being in the name of self defense. My conviction accords with Reyes-Chow’s: pro-gun-defense is incompatible with Christian faith.

  • Sarah Erickson

    I appreciate the thoughtful way you approach this, Tony. Would that more hunters did too. That said, I’m not a gun owner and won’t likely own one. But I learned to shoot skeet when younger, and my dad taught me basic gun safety. And I appreciated that, too.


  • Craig

    This may sound like a goofy question, but I’m wondering why my affection for a Barrett 50 caliber rifle couldn’t legitimize my ownership of one, like, for example, my affection for a classy car, a fine fly-fishing rod and reel, or some expensive first-edition book might. Is there something perverted about loving such a rifle (in contrast to loving a old motorcycle or a fine piece of furniture)? I suspect there might be, but I’d like to better understand why.

    • Craig, while I’m totally against anyone owning a Barrett 50 cal…yeah, I get it. They’re awful sexy.

  • Will

    Tony, I have thought experiment for you with owning a gun for defense. Do you believe that it is biblical to have a military and police forces for the defense of the populace? If so, are they not specially trained and authorized to execute the ministry of justice? That sounds a lot like ordination to me, but I know that you are opposed to ordination. So in that line, why would you say that defending people from attacks is not something anyone should be able to do?

  • Nick

    Doesnt the bible say that if a man doesn’t provide for his own he is worse than an infidel? Could that provision be providing for protection of the family? Plus I am against gun violence, but banning the guns from law abiding citizens is not the answer. Some idiot that is motivated to comit a crime will find a weapon regardless of the laws. If he’s intent on breaking the one law of murder, certainly breaking weapons regulations won’t phase him.

    • The point isn’t preventing murder, which is, of course, impossible. The anti-gun point, or at least the anti-proliferation of guns/easy access to them point, is that ease of access allows for easier murder. So while banning guns (which I don’t necessarily advocate) wouldn’t make all murders (or guns) disappear, it’d be an additional step between them and their, pardon the phrase, execution.

  • ME

    Agree with your argument in principle. In principle it would be ok for a very, very rich person to own his own nuclear weapon if he kept it safely locked away and only used for underground testing.

    Pragmatically, our gun culture has become so destructive I think it’s time to throw the baby out with the bath water and ban all guns.

  • Peder

    I am not sure banning all guns would get the desired result. Didn’t we try banning alcohol once? How did that work out? In my opinion, people hurt people, not guns. If someone wants to kill someone, they are equally dead if they choose to use a gun, a baseball bat, a knife, a car, you name it. I think anti-gun emotion sometimes ignores common sense and just focuses on the method of violence and not violence itself. People murdered people before guns were around, I am sure when swords were invented, some people had similar concerns that we needed to ban them too. I think maybe the best solution would be to just ban murderers, not the guns, swords, and baseball bats.

    Craig, as for the Barrett gun. Depends on the source of your affection. Is it because it’s a marvel of engineering or do you admire because of its killing ability. If the later, then sure, a little creepy. I would also argue that isn’t a realistic method of self defense because I think it’s meant to be used at very long ranges – not sure anyone has a justifiable need for something like that, except perhaps the military which is also argued against in this string.

    • Craig

      The basis of attraction is difficult to satisfyingly articulate. The object of desire is maybe the weapon itself. While it would be far less desirable if its lethal and destructive potentials were disabled, I don’t similarly desire all tools of lethal and destructive capacity. I don’t, for example, desire to possess a bottle of anthrax spores or a nuclear missile. The desires is not sexual, but like sexual desire it is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t share it. Such desires looks ludicrous from the outside (what it so attractive about breasts, legs, and hair?). Perhaps the desire is just too primitive, rooted the lizard portion of my brain evolutionarily geared toward survival and physical advantage. The mere primitiveness of the desire, however, should not entail its perversity.

  • I don’t own a gun at this point, but I agree with Tony. There’s nothing wrong with owning a gun, it’s all in how you care for it and use it. I’ve almost every type of weapon in my life and, I have to admit, there’s something satisfying about shooting. Target-wise and hunting, of course. It requires skill, hand-to-eye coordination and, especially for long distance shooting, an almost zen-like state of calm. Same goes for hunting, although part of that particular satisfaction may be rooted deep in our past.

  • As a Brit, this is rather academic to me: I’ve never really seen a gun, except in a museum.

    But I was just reflecting: I find it hard to imagine Christ owning one – for hunting, or for self (or family) defence. But according to the story, at least one of his disciples brought a sword to Gethsemane – the closest analogue in that society. He was censured for the way he used it, but surely we are to conclude that a big steel weapon was a commonplace thing among the band of disciples. I draw no particular conclusion – but it cuts across the assumption that the earliest believers were entirely of a pacifist disposition.

  • Jordan

    One of the things here in Canada you have to do, in order to hunt and purchase guns, are a firearms safety course as well as a hunting course (usually combined). All the safety practices you mentioned are taught and you have to pass written as well as demo tests (like the road test with driving). That’s the basic course, and it allows you to own a long gun. Everything else requires further courses and are more restrictive on who is allowed to own them. I took the course when I was 13, as part of a Hunter Apprenticeship program, and “apprenticed” with my dad. This program, and what you described, I think, are the way to do it. And I’m ok with this form of gun ownership too.

  • Roger Flemming

    You didn’t shoot that. Sombody else shot those birds.

  • Truely an emotionally charged topic and thus common sense does not prevail. The hypothalamus working overtime producing the hormones as people testify they belong to a loving compassionate, gentle, turn the other cheek, refuse all violence God (Jesus) thay argue over their rights to own guns for fun.

    Indeed it will take a 1000 cinema shootings before the land of the free realise they are trapped in selfish wants. Who cares what God wants – I WANT A GUN for fun.

  • I fail to understand what yalls gettin’ so exercised about. Gun ownership is a cultural given in the U.S., especially in the South and West. After all, this country was founded upon armed, violent seperation from its rightful King. Why would you expect it to become a Canada??


  • Jeff Straka

    I just don’t understand how one can “love” killing an innocent, unarmed animal. I can understand the necessity of it, say, in the pioneer days, as a way to feed your family. But I doubt they would have viewed it as “fun” or as “entertainment”, but likely as a chore for survival. Maybe someone here can explain it to me, but I see modern-day hunting (and fishing) as simply a way to elevate our species above all others, to give ourselves a sense of power and domination over creation, that WE are in control over life and death.

    • Craig

      Jeff, I wonder if it would help to first consider the love of hunting as we see it in certain breeds of dogs. My first dog was a pointer, a dog bred for bird hunting. She came alive when I took her outdoors; her senses became focused and everything about her was, without any training, tuned for the hunt (in urban environments she was a disaster). All this appeared to be deeply rooted in her nature. I don’t think that it is hard to believe that, for evolutionary reasons, some people are somewhat similarly constituted, becoming similarly engaged sensorily and cognitively when hunting or fly fishing. It can be a thrilling experience to those inclined, even if, at the same time, we also somewhat regret killing (or certainly the suffering) of our prey. A reflective hunter or a fisherman will often feel the need to justify these activities.

  • KB

    It’s great that you’re such a careful gun owner. I keep my nuclear arsenal all nicely protected too.

    The question is whether accessible gun ownership is good for the wider population, and I think it’s pretty clear that it’s not. The proliferation of guns, and guns getting out of the hands of those who are so so careful and have their heads screwed on into the hands of those who…well, aren’t calls into question what is actually helpful. This shouldn’t be approached from the point of view of what’s best for the stable, the good, the on a level, but for those in society who struggle. There needs to be balance, of course – otherwise we’d have no steak knives either. But the number of large scale massacres just seems to point to the fact that things are way off balance right now. This doesn’t mean I disagree with you entirely, just that I think that gun ownership should be way way way harder.

    But it won’t happen. It just won’t. You’ll sooner see tea and scones banned in Britain. You f*ckin love your weapons over there. It’s a national fetish. Look at all the film posters and trailers: guns, guns, guns. So, until then, until there’s a change not in policy, but in psyche, people are going to keep on getting shot. And you’ll just have to take it as acceptable collateral for the American dream.

  • Karl Murphy

    That is a great dog! do some research, handguns are used for hunting, I have taken deer and small game with revolvers and semiautomatic pistols..
    Handguns have many legitimate purposes.
    So do so called assault weapons, I shoot a very challanging target course with them.

    • Craig

      One can boil water with C-4. This provides a citizen with an legitimate purpose for possessing it?