One of the more shocking moments I had in the past few years was when I was invited to speak at a major evangelical university in Virginia and was in the student union and there were sign up tables there— right next to the ‘sign up for a short term mission to share the love of Jesus’ table, was a table signing students up to be members of the NRA. Which of these things is not like the other? But I digress.
The next chapter in the book is by Prof. Yolanda Norton. To be completely honest, I did not find the chapter entitled ‘A Mother’s Lament’ all that helpful in dealing with the gun problem from a Biblical point of view. The analogy between Rizpah (who was after all the wife of the King) and the loss of her sons who were sacrificed because of a perception that God had brought a famine due to the fact that Israel had reneged on a contract with the Gibeonites, seems far removed from the problem of racism in America and the violence that ensues against African Americans, especially those of lower economic status. We can agree that public mourning and an outcry for justice through mourning may help to raise consciousness however briefly, but in the end this is an ex post facto approach to gun violence, not a solution.
More helpful is the chapter by Christopher Hays entitled ‘Do Not Be Afraid’ which begins with some very disturbing statistics which belie the usual rationale for buying guns– namely self-protection. For instance, those who have access to firearms at home are nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who do not, and firearms assaults are 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least. States with permissive gun laws see more mass shootings. More guns leads to more deaths. Period. So the misleading cliche ‘guns don’t kill people’ is at best a half truth. To be more specific bullets fired by people from guns kill people, but the ready access to guns and bullets definitely increases the danger of being shot and even killed in such locales. In short, guns in the hands of private citizens are more likely to do harm than to provide protection. And sadly, sadly, those who call themselves Christians are more likely to own guns than those who don’t. To whom I ask, in a NT full of exhortations to self-sacrifice and taking up one’s cross and following Jesus’ example where exactly do you find ‘a Biblical right to self-defense’. I can’t find it. That’s fear talking not Christian faith talking. But it is also true that the more devout a Christian is, the more Biblically literate he or she is, the less likely they are to rely on guns to provide protection or solve their perceived problems. Whew— thank goodness. And there is a reason for this correlation. The more devout are more likely to rely on God than on guns for guidance and self-protection. I am reminded of the beginning of Psalm 127:
“Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.”
Chris ends his chapter with the following reflection that should make us all think (and understand this is not a polemic by me against owning a hunting rifle or the like), “So not only do I know that a gun in my home is far more likely to kill me or someone I love than it is to protect us from someone trying to harm us, I also know that wielding power over life and death is not the way that God calls me to live…To place my trust in guns is to deny my trust in God.” (p. 70). What do I think of this argument? I think it is basically right, though I don’t think it is necessary to include weapons used for hunting purposes within its purview. While those weapons can be used against human beings, they basically are not. That is not their purpose. And the dictum abusus non tollit usum applies– the abuse of a privilege or right doesn’t rule out it’s basic and proper use.
The focus, in terms of legislation should be on universal background checks, elimination of military and automatic weapons from gun sales to the public and the like. When such legislation has been passed in other countries, this has dramatically reduced the instances of mass killings and gun violence involving human beings in general. Frankly we need such legislation now throughout our country. It is simply false that the second amendment entitles private citizens to own any gun they like. The amendment refers to a ‘well ordered militia’ which is to say the founding fathers had something like the national guard in mind. And in any case a private individual is not, and cannot be called a militia. That’s flatly illogical. A militia is made up of multiple persons.