As families in Uvalde, Texas, bury loved ones, Americans continue debating whether stricter gun-control legislation would reduce the country’s number of mass shootings. Last week an 18-year-old gunman with a semiautomatic weapon killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. Ten days earlier, another 18-year-old gunman murdered 10 people—most of them Black—in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store.
On Instagram, Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx recently posted a photo of some Uvalde victims, writing: “Little angels my heart goes out to ur families…Never thought I would live in A society a ‘Christian Society’ where they would let little children die over and over again and still not change any laws…if the people in this country are leaders and so-called Christians…if they are going to heaven…I’LL PASS!!!!! #thedevilisbusy”
Gun-Control Legislation? Church Leaders Differ on Cause of Gun Violence
Politicians and Christian leaders offer a range of reasons for America’s high rate of mass shootings. Some blame guns and lax laws while others point to mental health, violent entertainment and video games, and God’s absence from homes and classrooms.
After the Uvalde massacre, evangelical leader Franklin Graham tweeted: “One day this country is going to have to come to grips with an entertainment industry that feeds a constant stream of violence to our youth. Contrary to what some want America to believe, it isn’t the guns.”
Graham, whose organization sent chaplains to Uvalde, added: “You can put all the guns in a pile in Central Park & not a single gun will kill anyone. It takes a human being to plan & execute such brutality. Only the power of God can cleanse the human heart & transform it. He is the missing element in so many homes, schools, & communities.”
In the comments, someone posted this quote from Cardinal Blase Cupich, Catholic archbishop of Chicago: “The Second Amendment did not come down from Sinai. The right to bear arms will never be more important than human life. Our children have rights too. And our elected officials have a moral duty to protect them.”
Christians Should Support Gun Reform, Say Some Pastors
The Rev. Peter Cook, head of the New York State Council of Churches, wants to sever the ties between God, guns, and white nationalism. That conservative approach dates back to the Nixon administration, he says, which “gave tacit cultural permission to people of faith to own guns, so they conveniently worked their way into this religious freedom argument and conflated it with Christianity itself.” But, Cook adds, “It doesn’t have any theological integrity to it at all.”
Stricter gun-control legislation has worked in other countries, writes Cook, who argues that Americans need to “choose Christ” over guns. “Christians should call for the sensible regulation of weapons so that we don’t destroy our community and, in the process, destroy Christ himself,” he concludes, noting that humans are made in God’s image.
The Rev. Rob Schenck, who grew up near the Buffalo shooting site, laments that if Republicans keep winning elections, “the U.S. will inevitably be the first country where elementary school kids must wear military-like dog tags so their bodies can be identified after suffering battle-grade wounds.”