Guns have been high on the list of controversial issues in recent months. Some lawmakers are proposing new restrictions on gun ownership, while others just as ardently defend our Second Amendment rights, and there is a great deal of anger on both sides. Personally, I don’t believe that any of the proposed legal solutions will do much if anything to change things.
Like most pastors, my opinion has been sought, or at least people have wanted me to agree with their position, which isn’t exactly the same thing. Crossing political lines can be hazardous to church health, so I have kept mostly quiet on the issue. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been praying, seeking answers, reading, and thinking about what we can do to curb our violent death problem in America.
Here are some of my preliminary thoughts:
First of all, let’s admit that we do have a violence problem. Far too many Americans are killed by violence. That includes those killed by guns, but it isn’t limited to guns. Guns are the most visible and debated part of the issue, but they are only part of the problem.
Let’s also admit that we have suicide problem in America. Did you know that there are more suicides-by-gun than there are homicides-by-gun? And did you know that the vast majority of suicide attempts with guns are successful? Most people who attempt suicide by other means live to get help. Most who attempt suicide-by-gun never get another chance. Keeping guns out of the hands of those with depression and suicidal tendencies is an important part of the discussion. But treating and helping those with depression, violent, or suicidal tendencies are an even more vital part of the discussion.
Let’s also admit that we have a huge drug and alcohol problem in America. How many of the suicides and homicides were influenced by substance abuse? How many people used a gun after their hopes and dreams had been destroyed by substance abuse? It’s hard to find direct answers to that question, but it is an important part of the problem. Those with addiction issues need healing and help before they become another statistic.
Let’s also admit that we have a family and domestic violence problem in America. Gun ownership by healthy and responsible families is not a problem. Many (maybe even most?) of my friends are proud gun owners and some are very highly skilled marksmen. But there are also many families with long histories of domestic abuse and major anger (and even rage) issues. Gun ownership in these families is disturbing, but the real problem is that these families need healing and peace.
While we’re talking about issues, let’s admit that we have a gang problem in America. The breakup of the family (and especially a shirking of responsibility by fathers) has led to an increase in gang membership. Many of these, especially in our larger cities, are violent. Familes need healing, and mothers and fathers need to accept responsibility before the gang and violence issue is going to change.
And I will step on toes with this thought, but let’s admit that we have an entertainment problem in America. Many of our movies and games are drenched in violence. They promote violence, teach violence, and encourage violence in the name of fun. I find it ironic that some of those who are most in favor of gun control seemingly have no qualms with promoting a violent movie. We have become a violent culture, and we need change and a new way of thinking about what we enjoy and what our entertainment has done to us and to our children.
Do we have a gun problem in America? I choose to answer that in another way. We have a very serious spiritual, emotional, and moral problem in America. Gun violence is a symptom of many bigger issues, and merely treating the symptoms won’t solve the problem.
Our problem is not really a gun problem. It’s not primarily a legal issue or even a constitutional one. It’s not a liberal or conservative issue, nor is it a Democrat or Republican issue. Laws to limit guns won’t solve our real issues; neither will rallies to promote gun ownership. The truth is that we have a very serious spiritual and moral issue in this country. And you can’t solve a spiritual issue by passing laws. We need to stop treating the symptom and start building strong communities, strong churches, strong families, and strong morals.
The bottom line? We need an act of God that will change us spiritually and morally before we can hope to dramatically change our violent tendencies and our violent deaths.
We need God.