More Guns, More Shootings?
In 2012, CT reported that church shootings were on the rise. Some think it's because churches are easy targets in the ongoing culture wars. Whatever the reason, I chafe at calls to allow parishioners to bring firearms to church. I think the fewer guns we have in church, the better. As far as safety goes, not having ready access to a gun can prevent unplanned, otherwise spontaneous outbursts of violence in church.
I know that gun-owners have well-articulated defenses to their right to carry, insisting that having responsible people armed with weapons can stop an incident or attack before it becomes a massacre. They stand on the second amendment as reason for Americans to protect themselves and their families.
Of course I take our constitutional rights seriously, but I can't ignore the theological concerns of bringing guns into nearly all spheres of society. And I can't ignore the cold and callous comments made to victims' families, like the one Joe the Plumber recently made to Richard Martinez and the other parents of the Santa Barbara shooting victims: "As harsh as this sounds — your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights…." I'm not advocating a complete ban on guns, although I'd advocate for a complete ban on assault weapons. (I see no legitimate reason for civilians to carry around such high-powered weapons).
It's not clear how permissive gun policies in churches promote a theology of peace rather than a theology of fear. The gospel at its core is a gospel of peace and reconciliation. We're supposed to beat our swords into plowshares, not multiply our swords. We're supposed to pursue the peaceable kingdom, not pack heat in the pews.
The same goes for college campuses. In our country, we've learned the hard way how a gun in the hands of an angry student or mentally unstable and violent student can prove deadly for students along with faculty, staff, other current and visiting prospective students, and bystanders.
For five years, I lived and worked on a Christian college campus as a member of resident life staff. While I had a great overall experience with students, along with other residence life staff, I sometimes counseled unstable students who posed a danger to themselves and/or others. I was especially grateful that, in response to Ohio law, the school I worked for prohibited students from possessing firearms on campus. As Martin pointed out above, the nature of gun violence is too often impulsive. I believe not having guns on our campus kept us safer.
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