The number of civilian-owned firearms has surpassed the U.S. population.
With a population of 326 million people, there are now 393 million civilian-owned firearms. The U.S. must face a stark reality: A segment of our society is obsessed with guns to the detriment of the common good.
Much of this obsession is fueled by a false narrative that the only way to deal with a “bad guy” with a gun is to counter with a “good guy” with a gun.
This argument is based on an utterly false dichotomy.
While America makes up 4 percent of the world’s population, we own 46 percent of the global stock of 857 million firearms.
Even more pointed, among the 393 million civilian-owned firearms, only 50 million households claim gun ownership. That means there are roughly eight firearms on average per household.
With all of these firearms in the U.S., if the idea that “good guys” with guns stop “bad guys” with guns were correct, then gun-related violence should be trending downward.
According to nonpartisan research, gun violence and gun-related deaths are trending upward after a 15-year decrease.
The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2017 that U.S gun deaths hit the highest level in 40 years.
Each year, we see an average of 36,383 gun-related deaths and an average of 100,000 gun-related injuries.
Almost two-thirds of gun-related deaths are suicides, making the rate within the U.S. eight times greater than other high-income countries.
In 2017, four times as many people were shot in mass shootings than the combined average of the last eight years.
In conjunction with the increase in gun-related violence and death, gun manufactures have been producing record amounts of firearms.
According to a 2018 report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, manufactured guns in the U.S. have increased their annual production from 3.04 million in 1986 to 11.45 million in 2016.
This evidence suggests that while the “good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun” argument makes a great sound bite, the truth sounds more biblical, “More guns beget more violence; more violence begets more death.”
The permitless carry bill now making its way through the halls of the Oklahoma Capitol has the potential to increase violence and assaults in Oklahoma.
According to research provided by Moms Demand Action and Everytown, since Arizona enacted permitless carry legislation in 2010, the annual total of aggravated assaults committed with a firearm in the state increased by 44 percent, or 1,519 more gun-related aggravated assaults.
After Missouri passed a permitless carry bill in January 2017, St. Louis experienced a 23 percent increase in aggravated assaults involving a firearm over the total in 2016. That represents 484 more gun-related aggravated assaults in 2017 than in 2016.
These facts are important, as they point to an inconvenient truth for some. Politicians and lobbyists who tell you otherwise are misinformed at best or lying for financial gain at worst. Both reasons are irresponsible.
However, if you still think that this truth and these facts are not accurate, I appeal to the Christian conscience that many citizens claim to hold dear.
As a Christian minister from the Baptist tradition, I draw from biblical wisdom. As I read the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments provide people of faith a way to think through this issue clearly.
Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Micah appealed to those obsessed with violence and war, encouraging them to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (see Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3).
The author of Proverbs offers an alternative to answering violence with violence, “the ways of peace are pleasing to the Lord” (Proverbs 16:7).
However, the most convincing condemnation concerning answering violence with violence comes from Jesus himself.
At the apex of the Passion story in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples discovered the real purpose and mission of Jesus.
They silently wondered, “Would Jesus be like other Messiah figures seeking to revolt against an oppressive regime?” They quietly murmured, “Would Jesus take up the sword to bring peace and defense to his people?”
As the temple soldiers approached with their torches and swords, it was Peter, the leader of the disciples, who drew his sword first.
Peter, who seems to have been a lifelong member of the National Sword Association, believed a good guy with a sword could stop a bad guy with a sword.
However, when he struck a soldier and cut off his ear, Jesus interjected, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
For Jesus, violence would always beget violence. Violence would never beget peace.
In fact, in his most famous sermon, Jesus refuted vengeful ideology, “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you in the right cheek, turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38).
This teaching does not encourage victims of violence to stay in abusive relationships but actually provides a nonviolent response in the face of evil.
Jesus’ teaching is not one of passivity. On the contrary, by offering the other cheek, the power is taken away from the abuser by a nonviolent action. Nonviolent resistance, either in response or pre-emptive, is the most productive path forward.
Therefore, Jesus’ instruction wisely demonstrates that we should be searching for ways to address violence with nonviolent actions so as not to escalate the violence.
Bills that promote the permitless carry of firearms in Oklahoma – and any other state – do not keep us safer.
In fact, they contradict biblical wisdom, including the philosophy and teachings of Jesus.
Instead of asking, “What kind of gun would Jesus pack?” maybe we should be asking what laws we can pass that will offer pathways for peace.
Maybe then, Jesus can declare again, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”