Why Christians must compromise on gun control

The gun-control discussions that emerged after the Connecticut school shooting a month ago will test our ability to engage in compromise and civil discussion. As a Christian, a gun owner, a public-policy analyst and a Constitutional scholar I think the debate has been poorly framed. I believe there is common ground to be had if we are all willing to step back and consider what is driving our own perspectives on this issue.

When I travel the country talking with Christians about public policy and what it means to engage in civil disagreement one concern is always raised: “If Christians know how God wants us to live in the world, how can we compromise with those we know to be wrong? Can we compromise on God’s word?”

I believe that compromise can be part of Biblical engagement on public policy, but it depends on what we mean by this. It also depends on what we believe to be the purpose of government. If we believe that government is the tool by which God’s rule is to be asserted on earth, then compromise is difficult. But, if we believe that the church and the government have different tasks, then our understanding of what God wants our government to be changes.

Both the Old and the New Testaments encourage us to think about government as under God’s authority, but they also suggest that the purpose of government is to pursue public civic justice in what we know is a broken but redeemed creation. With this approach, compromise with others is part of the tact we take in figuring out what justice in different circumstances might require.

Many people who see gun control as an answer to school shootings have little experience with guns. Those who view gun control as the first step to government quashing of the Constitution, however, have little experience with public policy. Neither perspective, alone, is helpful in thinking through how to reduce violence in our country. Both sides are going to have to try to understand resistance to their perspective if any sort of progress is going to be made.

I grew up outside of Chicago in the 1970s and at that time I didn’t know anyone who admitted to owning a gun. When you live in a dense urban area, the idea that tempers frayed by heat, traffic or crowds could lead to people pulling out their weapons is terrifying.

But when I moved to the northwest, owners of firearms suddenly were my neighbors and the people I went to church with. At first I thought they were all crazy, but as I talked with people who see their firearms as an extension of themselves, my perspective started to change. Then, a former student taught me how to respect and handle a gun. I learned to shoot and I discovered how very good at it I am. I am still a city kid at heart, but I also believe that everyone should understand how a gun works, should learn to shoot and should understand that the ability to defend one’s home against intruders is an integral part of how some people see themselves.

But, those who claim the Constitution as a defense against gun control misunderstand constitutional history. The Second Amendment, like all Constitutional rights, is not absolute. Historically, every Constitutional right has been limited under certain circumstances. Free speech, religious freedom, equal protection - government restricts all of these rights when there is a great, compelling social need. It is absolutely true that we must all be on guard against the power of an unrestrained government, but this is why the Constitution makes public policy so hard. There are so many layers embedded in policy construction that slow down the process because, as James Madison said, “men are not angels.” Power must be pitted against power to keep one group from taking over. 

Our system is set up for compromise, and compromise does not have to be a dirty word. In my experience the best public-policy solutions will evolve when everyone at the table tries to understand the perspective of the other side. If we do this, then what seems like compromise actually becomes a more fully developed understanding of the complexity of public policy issues.

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Read the entire article but did not see any suggestions of what a reasonable compromise might be. If we, as Christians, believe at the core that so much violence is really a spiritual warfare issue, shouldn’t other issues be the major part of the discussion?

One approach would be to suggest a Constitutional Amendment process.  The 2nd Amendment and the historical record around it are clear.  The right to arms was to ensure that the people could protect themselves from tyranny.  If we believe that the time has come to revisit that, then the only legal way to do so is to amend the clear language of the amendment.  That is the honest way of dealing with the issue.  Anything else is a refusal to submit to the rule of law as instituted by the citizens.

This is such a thoughtful column, which is so rare when anyone is talking about this issue. Thanks for giving me something to think about today.

Professor Stronks, I have a rather irreverent question about the Second Amendment. If it is predicated on the importance of a militia - to allow us to go into battle -how come the weapons regular folks get to possess are things like handguns? I wouldn’t last long against a tank with a handgun.  I’d rather own the tank. Or a fighter jet. Or perhaps a fully equipped aircraft carrier, assuming I can swing the financing.

Compromise is admirable, no doubt. But, what of consistency? As a Christian I hold firmly to the sanctity and value of all human life. This means I’m against abortions and the death penalty.
The 2nd Amendment is often an open door for protected, socially acceptable forms of violence: injuring or killing an intruder, for example.
How can we stand firmly for the right-to-life of the unborn sinner and so quickly walk away from the right-to-life of one caught in sin?
Surely 2nd Amendment freedoms don’t supersede the consequence of exercising them without restraint.

The best argument for sane restrictions on gun is the Constitution itself. As the preamble makes clear, the purpose of the constitution is “to insure domestic tranquility.” A professor at Biola University lays out the case pretty well. Pretty convincing—and controversial from the comments. He has a couple posts on the subject. Here’s the link to the first post if anyone is interested: http://thegoodbookblog.com/2013/nov/18/seek-the-welfare-of-the-city-the-biblical-argument/

“Many people who see gun control as an answer to school shootings have little experience with guns.”

I fail to understand how “experience with guns” would offer one an informed opinion about what is essentially a public health matter. How many guns you personally own, how long you’ve owned them, what you use them for, how accurate you are with your shot—these are all meaningless data points in and of themselves. Fortunately, the CDC doesn’t plan its flu vaccine program based on my good health last year either. 

Congress decided to cut the funding on research into gun violence. (Gosh, I wonder why?) Fully fund the studies, then let’s talk. 


I am one of those who have little experience with guns. I live in Australia. I don’t need to fear going to the cinema or to a university campus. I don’t need to fear walking in the street. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t have paradise here, but we don’t understand what is going on in America. Your entire population appears to be under a constant state of fear, or more accurately, paranoia. But we did once have more liberal views on guns and found far too many people dead as a result. Children, elderly, pregnant women. Lives lost and never to be regained. Because someone was allowed to have a gun. Now most of those guns have been removed, and thank God for that. If you are a Christian, you are supposed to be emulating Jesus. I know my bible. He never carried any weapon, he never used violence. And yes, he was murdered by a governing power, but because he was the Prince of Peace, not the Prince of guns. No Christian has any business carrying a gun in a civil society.

The Progressive propagandists are out tonight, and they’re swarming. I’ve spotted at least three of them right here.

Every Prog got the word to start talking up the “fact” that the NRA prevented the CDC from “scientific” investigation of gun violence as a disease. One may easily wonder if they really believe that guns are contagions, like germs, but that is beside the point. The point is that all the Progs are swarming over any blog where conservatives may visit, talking about it as though it were relevant to the issues at hand.

Let’s not be children in our understanding: Progressivism is a false religion, completely incompatible with Christianity. The Progressives are well-organized. They know how to do propaganda, they PAY activists to visit sites like this one and suggest things that seem reasonable but advance their political agenda. The three comments preceding mine are all instances. Don’t be fooled.

For that matter, it’s relevant to the article here as well. Compromise? That presupposes that people on all sides of the issue are willing to alter their positions to accommodate a moderate position. But what if one side of an issue uses the willingness of the other side to invite them to change, while quietly refusing to change, themselves? And what if that’s a tactic that they have been employing steadfastly for decades? And what if their opponents keep talking as though compromise was required by God?

Do we begin to understand why the culture has moved systematically to the left for the last 80 years?

No, we cannot even begin to compromise, not so long as our opponents are Progressives, organized to take total control of the culture by systematic tactical maneuvers. You cannot negotiate with an adversary to whom your position is negotiable, but theirs is off limits.

In Reply to Phil Weingart (comment #27518)
Phil, as a matter of fact, I’m not swarming all over other websites, I happen to subscribe to this one. I’m searching your comment in vain for an argument—how is it I’m wrong? You make assertions, say something is “beside the point,” or accuse us of “tactics”, and seem to think that “progs” is enough of a dirty word that simply to be named as one is enough to shut us down. But what is actually your problem with gun control?

Did you know that in fact the NRA didn’t used to be opposed to gun control? I recommend you read “Gunfight: the Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, by Adam Winkler, a 2nd amendment scholar at UCLA.

When federal gun controls were passed in 1934 (National Firearms Act—and 1938’s Gun Control Act.)the NRA President at the time, Karl T. Frederick, a 1920 Olympic gold-medal winner for marksmanship who became a lawyer, praised the new state gun controls in Congress. “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons,” he testified before the 1938 law was passed. “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

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