Opposing Sides on the Gun Problem
In the wake of another shooting on Saturday, this one at a mall in Allen, Texas that left nine dead, including the shooter, politicians on both sides of the gun debate immediately issued their talking points in the media. What these elected “leaders” said was entirely predictable. They regurgitate these talking points without much thought because it’s what they always say.
For those advocating for “common sense gun control” (i.e., anti-gun), guns are always the problem. It doesn’t matter the circumstances or the alleged shooter. Personal responsibility is rarely, if ever, assigned to the person who bought the gun and pulled the trigger. There is always someone or something else to blame — Republicans, Fox News, the NRA. In the case of the Allen shooter, the Mainstream Media even floated the idea that the alleged Hispanic shooter was motivated by White Supremacy or neo-Nazi views.
Those who support the 2nd Amendment (i.e., pro-gun) are quick to point out that it’s not the guns, but the people who pull the trigger who are to blame. Mental illness, faulty background checks, or criminals who shouldn’t have a gun in the first place are responsible for gun violence in America. Don’t blame the gun. Ever.
The Middle View on the Gun Problem
If recent surveys are accurate, it would appear that the vast majority of Americans take a middle view when it comes to dealing with the gun problem in our country. That’s where I find myself. For full disclosure, I hunted when I was a kid and I currently own one handgun (a Cobra series 38 special that was inherited) that I have never used. I support the 2nd Amendment but do not belong to the NRA. I’m in favor of universal background checks and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill using red flag laws, but I am not in favor of banning whole classes of weapons or enacting onerous laws that would effectively gut the 2nd Amendment.
I support gun ownership, but I don’t understand the obsession, bordering on idolatry, that some politicians have with guns. Taking a photo for your family’s Christmas card while holding AR-15s in front of the Christmas tree doesn’t proclaim, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” But, hey, that’s just me.
“Thoughts and Prayer are Not Enough” to Solve the Gun Problem
So, how do we tackle the problem of violence, including gun violence, in America? For Christians, it begins with spiritual solutions because, at its core, the problem of guns in America is a heart issue. Now, that’s not what some, particularly on the left, want to hear. In fact, any talk of using spiritual weapons to fight these battles is likely to result in pushback. In response to the latest shooting, President Biden said:
“Too many families have empty chairs at their dinner tables. Republican Members of Congress cannot continue to meet this epidemic with a shrug. Tweeted thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
He is not alone in that sentiment. Many Democrats, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, have said the same thing in recent days.
The Power of Prayer to Solve the Gun Problem
Whether intended or not, President Biden’s and Rep. Jeffries’ statement that “thoughts and prayers are not enough” seems dismissive of the power of prayer. While we must always “put feet to our prayers,” (faith without works is dead), we must never take prayer lightly or for granted. In fact, I believe that there is more power in prayer than in anything that Congress or the President can do. Scripture reminds us of this truth:
“The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.” James 5:16b-18
I don’t know about you, but prayer that can hold off the rain for 3 1/2 years and then cause the rain to fall again seems pretty powerful. If politicians and people truly believed in prayer — not just giving lip service to prayer’s power — then they wouldn’t appear to treat prayer — and those who pray — with contempt and derision.
It will take people of goodwill on all sides of this issue to take meaningful steps that can begin to address gun violence (including inner-city shootings in major urban areas, not just mass shootings). These steps are a natural complement to prayer, not a substitute for prayer. Without prayer, there will be no power to overcome the evil one and, the death and destruction that he brings upon families and upon our culture.
Violence generally and gun violence specifically acts of evil. Whether these evil acts are perpetrated with a gun, a knife, a car, or a bomb, they can only be overcome with spiritual weapons, including prayer. Unless we can agree on the source of evil — sinful hearts in need of a Savior — then we will never truly solve the problem of evil committed by people with guns. And, we will continue to talk past one another, with our “failure to communicate” standing in the way of ever uniting to fight against the true enemy of the people.