Gun Control and the Gospel
In 1774, the British Parliament passed the Coercive Acts. The goal of this legislation was to cease the sale of guns and gunpowder to American Colonies and to seize as many guns and gunpowder from the colonialists as possible. The Coercive Acts were passed shortly after the Boston Tea Party. The British were trying to protect themselves from the revolutionary colonialists by disarming them.
Of course, the Coercive Acts backfired, and it can be argued that nothing lit the fuse of the American Revolution more than the seizure of these weapons. Remember, in 1774 there was no United States of America; the colonialists were citizens of Great Britain, subject to the British crown, so it was their own military that was seizing weapons from them. These 18th century Americans thought that this was unjust, and they eventually organized their own militias against the British military – their own military.
The battles between these organized militiamen and the British Army is what we know as the American Revolution, and a great deal of the Revolution was fought before the American Colonies declared independence from the British on July 4, 1776. Before the Revolution, the Colonies understood themselves to be very separate entities. Think of England, Wales, and Scotland; they are all part of Great Britain, but they are all very separate lands. This is a good way to understand the pre-revolutionary Colonies. The American Revolution is what brought these colonies together to become one United States of America.
These new United States were first joined together under the Articles of the Confederation, but this document didn’t provide enough definition for a federal government to be formed by these independent states. So, in 1788, the Articles of the Confederation were replaced by the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution formed the very federal government that we know today with Congress, the President and everything else. But these new Americans – former British colonialists – who were just coming out of a revolution against their own government due to the abuse of power were very skeptical of a big, central, federal government. So, in 1791, Congress ratified the Bill of Rights which were the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. If you read the Bill of Rights, all 10 of them lean towards protecting the people from the abuse of power by the federal government. One of these amendments is the Second Amendment.
Anyone who tells you that the Second Amendment is difficult to understand has a political agenda because it isn’t difficult to understand. Its purpose is to protect the right of the people to form a militia. Remember, the people had just formed militias against their own federal government (which was the British government at that time). That same federal government tried to seize the peoples’ guns and ammunition to stop such militias from being formed. The Second Amendment was written to provide the people protection and the reassurance that this new federal government would not be allowed to do the same thing by seizing their firearms and preventing them from forming militias. The point is, the Second Amendment has everything to do with people arming themselves against the government and its military and very little to do with people arming themselves against one another.
Now, that was 1791; the American Revolution was real and recent. The need for the Second Amendment was obvious. This is 2018; it is a very different time and it seems that, to many people today, the bigger threat to our lives, our liberties and our pursuits of happiness is not the abuse of the federal government but the violence of the citizenry. In 2017 alone 15,549 people were killed by a firearm in the United States. Compare this with 15 fatal shootings in England and Wales in 2013. Keep in mind that the population of the United States is six times larger than the population of England and Wales, but if you adjusted those figures it would be about 90 killings versus more than 15,000 in the United States. England and Wales have very strict gun control laws, and almost no one in either of those countries owns a gun. Considering these statistics, it seems obvious that stricter gun control laws are necessary and, perhaps, that the Second Amendment should be changed. The Bill of Rights is certainly not infallible, by the way.
On the other hand, consider Syria, where, since 2011, 250,000 have been gunned down by their own government and by their own president, Bashar al-Assad. The citizens there have been oppressed by their government for years, but they lack sufficient firepower or outside help to ever really have the hope of fighting for freedom. Now, before our western arrogance comes out and we say, “Well, that’s Syria. We are not like that,” it’s not so far-fetched or hard to imagine that an American president could come to see himself as a king or dictator. This would obviously become a great threat to the freedom of the people – not being allowed to own and keep firearms and, ultimately, to form resistance militias against the government.
I have three points to make in all of this. First, Christians, you should be educated, wise and not reactionary before you enter any secular debate. Second, there is no clear Biblical position on gun control, and there are really good points to be made on both sides of this debate. Some Christians are going to land on the side of protecting people from the citizenry and support stricter gun control laws, and some Christians are going to land on the side of protecting the people from the government and will support continuing to give people relatively easy access to gun ownership. There isn’t really a right or wrong answer, and the Kingdom of Christ can and will go forward with or without the Second Amendment. Third, Christians can disagree with one another and not lose fellowship. Christians should never let a conversation about gun violence divide the church. Just because a person thinks that we should have stricter gun laws does not make them a “baby killing liberal.” Similarly, just because someone thinks that the Second Amendment is an important American right does not make them an “uncompassionate redneck.” Thoughtful and good Christians are going to disagree on this issue, and there are good points to be made on either side. Removing guns would reduce gun violence. Disarming America would undoubtedly make for a safer America, unless, of course, the government turns on the people and the people have nothing with which to defend themselves. Arming Americans and preserving Second Amendment rights certainly does, to some degree, secure American freedom against the abuses of power by the federal government, but it will continue to allow for the citizenry to use those weapons against one another.
Hopefully, and prayerfully, someone will come up with a third solution that makes America safer while preserving American freedom. Christians should hope for this and pray for this; just don’t let something small and temporal like an American law divide the eternal church of Jesus.