See what everyone’s responding to. Read the full issue here.
Thank you very, very much for the interesting article quoting various Presbyterian gun owners (“Presbyterian gun owners address the complexities”).
I grew up in a rural area and ministered in communities where some families relied on hunting to provide food in … central New York State. While I do not own a gun and do not hunt, I respect those who do. I find that police officers, those who serve in the military, and veterans in our churches take the responsibilities of gun ownership very seriously. The trust afforded veterans especially is seen by many as part of the respect our nation shows to those who put their lives on the line for their country. Listening to them and others has helped me both support gun ownership and restrictions on gun ownership, especially in the general population, that can save lives.
I deeply value the wide range of views found in the PC(USA). We do damage to our witness and our members when we promote only one outlook. I suspect this article will speak to a lot of church members and plan to share it with them.
Blessings on your works,
Rochester, New York
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
Jesus tells us this in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:9. But how does a small congregation of would-be peacemakers like ours reconcile this with a world full of guns?
Our adult Sunday school class at First Presbyterian Church of Haddon Heights, New Jersey, has been using the last edition of Outlook as a study guide to view the issue of gun violence in America and how we might address it. Together, we have read and discussed the articles in this edition, and have come away with a sense that changing the mindset of Americans ‘loving guns more than other people’s children,’ will take some time to achieve.
We congratulate the editors and writers of the June 2023 edition… We encourage all like-minded peacemaking Presbyterians to read this edition and decide how they want to incorporate Jesus’ call.
William “Bill” Reeves
First Presbyterian Church of Haddon Heights, New Jersey
I’ve read with interest your recent articles on gun violence. I’d like to bring to your attention 3 aspects of the “gun debate” that are largely overlooked and ignored.
First, the phenomenon of gun ownership is largely a class issue. The enduring American myth is that we are a classless society. That is certainly not true as many disenfranchised folks have been quick to point out. As with any class system, those on the upper rungs of the ladder tend to look down their noses on those with lower class status than themselves. At least those with lower class status perceive this as the case. We Presbyterians are largely middle class. We are homeowners. We are secure in our careers and enjoy the benefits of living in neighborhoods with adequate law enforcement. Those in the working classes do not necessarily enjoy these privileges. Gun ownership seems to be a working-class phenomenon. Gun ownership was the single greatest predictor of those who voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Secondly, I’d like to point out that the AR (short for Armalite, the original inventors of the M16) are popular, not just because they look like military rifles, but because they are accurate, inexpensive and incredibly modular. For less than ½ the price of a traditional hunting rifle, one can purchase an AR-15 and buy the upper receiver kit to convert it to a 30-caliber hunting rifle. Such a conversion takes minutes with simple hand tools. Similarly, such kits exist to convert these rifles to handguns. For less than the price of a conventional rifle, one can own a target rifle, a hunting rifle and a pistol!
Third, I point to the challenge of scale. At last count, there are between 16 and 23 million AR-type firearms in the U.S. alone. Prior to the 1994 Assault Weapons ban, AR-type rifles were rare. Colt was the only manufacturer and their primary customer was the U.S. military. Colt lost the contract and hundreds of companies tooled up to compete for the lucrative contracts. When the Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, the market was awash, not only with complete rifles; but also with aftermarket and replacement parts that are interchangeable between manufacturers. Convinced that another ban was inevitable, an industry arose to allow individuals to manufacture key components of the rifle in their own homes. The failure of Prohibition was not due to organized crime; Prohibition failed because individuals could make wine, beer and spirits in their own homes. Recent Supreme Court decisions most probably will eviscerate gun control as we know it within the next decade. My point is that the ship has sailed on any suggestion of another assault weapons ban. At this point, AR rifles are almost as ubiquitous as Swiss army knives.
I offer no simple solutions. As with any class issue, the first step involves seeking to understand those whose life experience does not mirror our own. In recent years, Presbyterians have sought to take seriously the challenges posed by race, alternative sexualities and our own complicity in a system that marginalizes alternative experiences. It’s time to begin honest conversations with those who occupy different positions in the class structure than ours. What are firearms the answer to? What are the values associated with firearms ownership?
I confess that I am loath to open such conversations with my colleagues, given the almost universal disdain for the topic that I have encountered. Thank you for bringing the subject up.
Rev. Paul Masters
Pastor, New Horizon Presbyterian Church
Council Bluffs, Iowa
I write only to say thank you. As I’m sure you know, [“Presbyterian gun owners address the complexities“] could have been about people in most parts of the country ….
I am a Presbyterian in SW Oklahoma that is torn. I, too, am a gun owner. I, too, believe there needs to be more regulation. The problem is where to draw the line.
But thanks for an article that is balanced and fairly portrays both sides of the issue. It is indeed complicated. If more of us would approach it with grace and a willingness to really LISTEN to the other side, maybe we could actually get somewhere.
Grace and peace to all,
The Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of the original meaning of sections of the Constitution in its interpretation. Therefore, that idea should be applied to the Second Amendment. According to the book 1619, the Second Amendment was added to protect slave owners from slave rebellions. It is no longer viable because the issue is now irrelevant. The cost of lives is so overwhelming. The Second Amendment is no longer an aid to life, liberty, and happiness, but is instead a cause of death, threat to freedom, and great sorrow.
Castro Valley, California
Thank you for the recent issue with articles on gun violence. This will be a valuable resource for churches and other groups that are trying to address the growing levels of gun violence in our communities. I am involved with a group that has organized two Guns to Gardens safe surrender events in Louisville. People motivated by their faith are the backbone of this effort and the best hope for changing hearts and minds about why possessing more guns does not make us safer.
Dear Editor Ott,
Thank you for an excellent issue of Presbyterian Outlook exploring possible Christian actions to respond to the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. This new format for PO addressing a single topic in depth is far more valuable than sticking to the old general coverage ….
I am writing because I think Professor Linicum’s article (“Do not destroy the one for whom Christ died”) has the right target for viable action – the Second Amendment itself – but an impossible solution. With the states so lined up on opposite sides of the gun rights divide, getting a new amendment to the Bill of Rights is not a political possibility.
However, I believe that the current membership of the Supreme Court contains, in its purportedly central belief that the Constitution must be read in its original meaning, the possibility of coming back to a literal reading of the Second Amendment. And such a reading would allow for a huge reduction in the number of guns — and where and how guns will be stored.
…The Supreme Court has, over the past century, increasingly expanded the meaning of the word “person.” Personal rights have been newly found and more egregiously, corporations have been treated as persons, and very privileged persons at that: having rights that individuals cannot equal.
But the Second Amendment says nothing about “persons.” It speaks only of “the right of the people.” As your illustration for the Linicum article reminds us, in The Declaration of Independence, the most central statement of our founders’ thinking, “the People” means the collectivity, the whole nationhood.
And what the second amendment says is that we, as a nation, have the obligation to defend our new nation against foreign invasion and domination. Without the capacity to support a standing army, the call for a militia of the people (whole citizenry, not persons as individuals) was the obvious answer.
In short: a simple ruling by the supreme court that declares that the Second Amendment means what it literally says, would enable the limitation of arms ownership to those who are trained, that gun owners can be registered, just like automobile drivers, and that guns must be stored in ways and locations that they are available in war, but not accessible to those who are not appropriate.
Having owned guns for most of my life and having fed my family with moose meat during my first pastorate in Alaska, I would hope that the legislation that could emerge after such a ruling would allow for hunting and appropriate recreational shooting but would get guns out of the hands of all who are part of the growth of fear which generates more fear in our society.
The writers you gathered in the June 2023 issue have the skills and the contacts to find ways to initiate the strategy I suggest. I hope some of them will find ways to work together and do it.
John Niles Bartholomew
St. Johns, Florida
I purchased extra copies of the Gun Violence issue to share with family and friends. Thank you for taking the courageous step of reminding us that gun violence is an issue for all of us, regardless of whether we own a gun. The lie that guns make us safer has been exposed. Children are particularly vulnerable when a gun is in the house, but so are those who are prone to depression following a stroke or concussion. Be SMART for Kids is a nonprofit dedicated to reducing gun violence by promoting safe storage and other responsible practices around firearms. They have a wonderful website that is available to all who are interested: https://besmartforkids.org/
An excellent fair-minded examination of a sad and tragic issue facing this country. To cleanse this wound, God, himself, must intervene.
Charlotte, North Carolina
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