By The Rev’d Canon B. Keith Allen
The Heart of the Gun Issue
The tragedy of the Ash Wednesday shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has dominated the daily news. It has sparked a national conversation, which has quickly turned into a debate on civil liberty and gun control. I have been engaged in many conversations with Christians who want to respond to this event. The following is my attempt to respond in a way that shows Christian compassion, civic wisdom, and common sense.
The first consideration is that the root problem cannot be fixed simply by legislation or law enforcement. It is a spiritual problem; it begins in our heart. Our culture has embraced death and denied the dignity of life for the unborn, the ill, and the elderly. In addition, we have removed from our public conscience the reality of a Creator God who made us all with a purpose and in His image.
The psalmist reminds us, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:14-16, ESV) The long-term solution is for the Church to remember this truth and to engage the culture of death by standing for all life and showing the dignity of all people. Sharing the good news of Christ not only from the pulpit, but also in the public square.
Christ sent us into the world to be witnesses and to make disciples. To this end, we must support students who seek to lead Bible studies, support youth workers who seek to love students and show them how to live for Christ and stand together to live the gospel in the world. This is the only way to see the culture change! It will take time, so there are others things we must also consider.
The second consideration is that the Constitution gives each of us the right to bear arms. Our forefathers enshrined this into our founding as a way to ensure the protection of all our rights against enemies foreign or domestic. As I stated above guns are not the root problem, but they are the instruments used in mass shootings. Therefore, the right to bear arms should not conflict with having conversations about things such as background checks, bump stocks, assault rifles, and large capacity magazines.
As a hunter and outdoorsman, I own guns. However, I am hard pressed to see the need for these items to enjoy hunting, clay shooting, or target shooting. They don’t aid in personal self-defense either. They seem designed for combat situations more so than recreational activities. If that were the case, limiting their availability would not hinder the rights of the average gun owner, but would aid in the safety of our citizenry.
As a Christian, I enjoy the right of gun ownership, but also need to think beyond my rights to what is right for all. We must strengthen the background checks for all gun purchases, we must have greater cooperation and collaboration between law enforcement and the mental health community, and we must think carefully about reasonable limitations to assault rifles, bump stocks, and large capacity magazines.
The final consideration is that of security. There is an imminent threat to all students and educators! While we work to address the root problem of the heart and work on legislation and civil protections, we must also take immediate steps to increase the security of our schools. There are structural matters that will limit access to those who would seek to do harm, but these will take time to implement. There are changes as to how we train students and teachers to respond to threats, which will increase the safety of our students and educators.
However, common sense demands that there be a real conversation about how to immediately arm security personnel, those who have been trained to provide a real deterrent to those who would seek to do harm. These can be police officers, licensed security guards, or school personnel that volunteer to be trained. Each community can determine that. What cannot be allowed is for the next gunman seeking to do harm be able to encounter another school that is defenseless.
As I stated, the above is my attempt to answer hard questions with Christian compassion, civic wisdom, and common sense. I hope my thoughts help to create more conversation, not controversy, and together we call all take steps to real solutions for the long-term heart issues and the immediate concerns for safety.
The Rev’d Canon B. Keith Allen has been the Rector of Holy Trinity since January 2010. Father Keith and his wife, Kim, have two children, Kat and John Calvin. Find more info at htacms.org.