In the light of recent shooting tragedies in CT and elsewhere around the country this year, the whole situation has given me some cause for reflection. I'm not looking to make a political post or use these terrible massacres as an opportunity to stand on a personal soap box. But I, like everyone else in this country, cannot help but pause and ponder what exactly all this means and what I have learned.
I'm a gun owner. I went through the process of paying for and attending a gun safety course. I brought my certificate to the local police department and filled out an application for a Class A Large Capacity gun permit. I paid the fee, submitted the personal recommendations, and waited. Eventually I received my permit which allowed me to purchase a gun and carry it. I did so.
There. My cards are on the table. If the above means that I cannot speak rationally or reliably on the subject...so be it.
The point of this post is not to persuade the reader in one direction or another. I respect your right to hold whatever opinion you have on the subject of gun ownership and the 2nd Amendment of our U.S. Constitution. But I wanted to share what thoughts have been impressed upon my heart in the light of these terrible murders this year.
FIRST, these incidents have impressed upon me the importance of keeping my firearm OUT OF THE REACH of anyone who should not have it. Owning a gun is a huge responsibility. And personally I consider the first and foremost responsibility I have as a gun owner is to secure my firearm. I have a safe, and that is where my gun remains when it is not on my person. No one has the combination to that safe but me. No one. I am the only permit holder in my home, and thus the only person who needs to access the gun. In my opinion, if you cannot afford to properly secure your gun you have NO business buying a gun. At the very least, the clip and ammo should be inaccessible to others.
SECOND, I carry my gun. I take it virtually everywhere I can legally bring it. When I leave my home with my gun I do not do so primarily for personal protection. I do so because - RARE AND UNLIKELY though it may be - I realize there is the remote possibility I might actually find myself in the same location as a lunatic shooter. I know this is unlikely. Believe me I do. Chances are - statistically speaking - I will never be in a movie theater, shopping mall or playground when some nut job decides to go berserk. But every time I leave my house with my firearm, I tell myself that IF IT HAPPENS I want to be prepared to be in a situation to help. I know that means I may be shot at. I know that means I may be killed. But if I could slow down or stop a madman from killing otherwise innocent children or others - I hope I would make the choice to take that risk. I consider owning a gun both a privilege and responsibility. I'm not some crazy vigilante looking to do something stupid. I'm an otherwise normal (assuming a bit of generosity with that term) guy who simply was willing to purchase a gun and learn to handle it and is willing to use it if absolutely necessary. Call me crazy, but I think if more honest, responsible, God-fearing, law-abiding and people-loving citizens of our country also held this view we would be all the safer for it.
THIRD, all that has happened (and all that is undoubtedly going to happen in the future), makes me long all the more for a society and culture in which guns are no longer needed at all. I don't like that we need an armed military, but our nation is safer because of it. I don't like that we need armed police officers in every town, but our towns are safer because of it. I don't like that we need armed security guards around schools, sporting events, celebrities or presidents. But we do. And they are safer because of it. And I don't like that I feel compelled to carry a gun virtually everywhere I go. But I do. And honestly believe we are safer because of it.
Some day I believe guns won't be needed. Until then, the need for guns even now diminishes when hearts are truly turned to the Lord. Three separate Old Testament prophets speak of the effects of grace in this way:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
In other words, where God's grace truly changes men's hearts, their wars toward one another begin to disappear. Ultimately, mankind fights mankind because mankind fights against God. To kill another person is man's attempt to kill God, and thus to BE God. Men feel a sort of divinity in the power to take a life. Mankind has been up to this since the beginning. Cain was angry with God, and he killed his brother. Yes, many atrocities have been carried out under the name of "religion." But "religion" is one thing. Grace is another. And where true grace is, there is peace.
And lest we be too quick to judge others and excuse ourselves, remember what Jesus said. You don't need a gun to be guilty of murder in the eyes of God. You don't even need to kill someone. Hatred is murder carried out in the heart, if not with the hands (Matthew 5:21-22). And God, who sees the heart, considers both sins equally offensive and equally needing forgiveness.
I'm a murderer in that sense - a murderer that needs forgiveness just like you. Guns, you see, ultimately lead to the Gospel. The Bad News of man's heart is answered by the Good News of God's Son. Christ came to earth because people have guns and swords and hatred. Christ didn't come to bring new laws but to make new people. And that's man's hope.