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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Hard Topics -- Gun Control

In March of 2015 Newsmax reported that "the number of Americans who live in a household with at least one gun is lower than it's ever been." In January of 2014 Infowars reported that household gun ownership was surging in a 40-year trend reversal. (Funny how it doesn't seem to jibe with these statistics.) Who are we to believe? According to the Infowars article, 56% of Americans do not keep guns at home. Then this interesting piece of information. "In the 1970s gun ownership was at 50 percent, falling slightly to 49 percent in the 1980s, 43 percent in the 1990s, and down to 35 percent in the last decade. In 2012, the figure was at 34 percent." Whether you side with Newsmax or Infowars, it would seem that household gun ownership isn't as high as we've been led to believe. On the other hand, we've also been led to believe that we are in a gun crisis. You know, with all these mass shootings and all. And, really, there's no point in denying it. Too many people are getting killed in too many shootings, regardless of where you stand on the question of gun ownership and gun control.

My question, however, is not about gun control. My question is about the problem. If it is true that gun ownership is down from the 70's but gun killings are up, it would appear to be obvious that gun ownership is not the problem. Guns may be a pet tool of those who wish to kill, but if it is true that killings are up, if it is true as the president has claimed that "No other country has this problem" and that "we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world" (let's put off examining the reasonableness of those claims for the moment), what is the cause? The president and many other loud voices are saying it's guns. The statistics and reason suggest otherwise. What changed from the earlier days in America when gun ownership was prevalent but mass murders were not?

I think that part of the problem is that we can't look at what the problem is anymore. By undercutting the biblical perspective that "the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Gen 8:21) and replacing it with the much friendlier "people are basically good", we cannot look at people as the problem anymore. It's "things". It's violent video games and horror movies and crazy religions and "an atmosphere of violence and an acceptance of bullying, noninclusiveness, and intolerance." Oh, and, of course the presence of guns. Because, you see, if you look at the statistical evidence, when a society has no guns, gun violence goes down. Please, please, please don't actually think about that because if you do it might make you weep. Of course gun violence goes down, but does that equate to a decrease in crime or violence? No, no, we won't go there.

The Bible, on the other hand, is not silent on the topic. While our government and its cronies, the media, are tromping about working to control things, the Bible says, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel." (James 4:1-2) James says, "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (James 1:14-15) And, in case James isn't good enough for you, no less than Jesus says, "Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone." (Matt 15:17-20) Or, to put it in terms of the topic at hand, "to have a gun does not defile anyone." It is a problem of the heart. It's not a problem of nurture, but nature. It is not a problem of society or video games or movies or guns. It's a problem of the sin nature. And limiting access to guns won't change nature. Our culture has moved further and further from a community and closer toward rigid individualism where "I'm the most important". In a community, morals and values are shared; in our society they're radically individual. "You can't tell me what to do" is the mantra. Based on an inherent heart of evil, we're letting loose the dogs of sin and wonder why it's getting worse.

Please pay attention. I am not arguing against gun control. Nor am I arguing for it. Our Constitution (our Bill of Rights) prevents the government from an outright ban. Simple logic prevents the lifting of all controls. (Imagine, on their 18th birthday, the government issues a weapon to every American. "There you go, kid. Use it wisely." Yeah, that would be a nightmare scenario.) Like the question of dealing with the problem of ISIS, where some military force might limit some of the damage ISIS does to some extent, it may be that some greater gun control to curb some gun violence to some limited extent might help. That's not a bad thing. But don't believe the hype ... in either direction. Gun control will not solve the problem of the heart. Neither will free access to guns. Statistics fail. Unbiased views don't exist. And the Bible claims that the problem is not guns or society or ... all the other stuff people list. The hard part at this point, then, is for us Christians to realize that we have the solution in Jesus Christ and need to work at "distributing" Him to a once-"Christian nation" that is now a mission field. I don't know if the harvest is ripe in America, but I do know that we're told to go and make disciples. Here and now would be a good idea.

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