“Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Ephesians [6:11]


Early in my business career, I helped manage a store for a large national retailer that sold guns. This was in the seventies when gun control was much tougher. You couldn’t sell guns with extended magazines, assault rifles or have bumpers put on your gun stock. Occasionally I would have to man the gun desk to help out. During these times I got to see why people in this northern part of Maine bought guns. Essentially, there were two reasons the customer wanted to buy guns. The first was to hunt. For many in northern Maine it was both sport and to provide food for their family. While I never hunted, I understood their need, especially the need to get food. The second reason was for protection, in this part of the country, the police or state police could be far away from those living on the edge of communities and many felt they needed a little extra protection.

However, to buy a gun in the seventies, an application had to be filled out before the individual could take the gun home. First we would take the application and send it to the ATF. We would then tell the customer that they had to wait two weeks for the approval process. The ATF would review the application and either approve or reject. They would reject any application if there was a criminal record or history of mental illness. When we got the application back we would notify the customer of its status. Each night we were required by law to check the gun count and serial numbers, to ensure we knew where every gun stood.

The NRA was different in those days, not the huge politically based organization it is today. In those days the NRA would provide education classes and training on the proper use of guns.  They helped with gun safety for hunters and showed people how to protect themselves In fact they were proponents of gun control. For instance, after President Kennedy was assassinated, the NRA led the charge on gun control.

Our world is far different today. Today we can buy guns with many rounds in the chamber. You don’t always have to fill out a form to get a gun. Background checks are not always required.

This year alone we have had 367 deaths in mass shootings. Almost unheard of in the seventies. Prompting the rise of the “Enough” campaign sweeping our nation. But our gun manufacturer’s and the NRA aren’t hearing the cry for being sensible.

In fact the NRA declared in August of this year that they are almost bankrupt. Gun companies, likewise are teetering on bankruptcy. Remington, the oldest gun company filed bankruptcy in the spring of 2018.

The reason, Americans have grown tired of the lack of listening by the gun companies and the NRA. It is not that people don’t want guns, they want them under control. It is not an issue with the second amendment, it is the stretching of the boundaries that caused this uproar. Americans in mass are saddened by the senseless deaths of children, innocent people attending concerts and those visiting seemingly safe places like movie theaters.

There is room for both safety and guns. It is the polarizing debates that have stopped significant reform, an all or nothing approach to solving the problem. This loud and noisy rancor has caused our children to go to schools that have armed guards and gun companies to file bankruptcy. Ironically, not caused just by guns, but the lack of listening and common sense.

Jesus would not be opposed to letting a hunter provide for his family or to protect themselves with defensive weapons. Jesus would be opposed to guns that are intended to create mass harm. Certainly Jesus would tell a hunter that felt they needed a high capacity magazine, which can contain 60-100 bullets, to practice their marksmanship instead of needing this many bullets. Jesus would tell those wanting to buy a gun to wait until their application is approved. Jesus would be on the side of constructive debate, where all sides listened and searched for a sensible answer.

But on a broader front gun violence is also affected by seemingly unrelated subjects. Consider computer games our children play. Many show the use of extremely offensive weapons. Our children and even ourselves can sit down and kill hundreds of imaginary monsters or even other humans on their computer screens and even their television. Creating an illusion that it is okay to commit mass murder.

We send young men and women to battle grounds in far-away places. As a country we train them to kill and maim. Yet when they come home only one third of them are properly reintroduced to society. Nearly two thirds of our returning service people don’t seek or get help in transitioning back into society.

Mental illness isn’t always identified properly and these same people can buy a gun. Not just one, but many! We have mandatory reporting in our schools and hospitals for child abuse, why not extend this to mental illness for gun control?

Gun control is a complicated issue and Jesus would tell us to not just look at the gun companies or the NRA, but to look at our society as a whole. We have the largest gun death per capita in the world. This issue isn’t just about gun control, it is also about us as a society. We use pre-recorded narratives to defend our positions and defiantly argue without listening when we hear an opposing view.

The Bible tells us to put on the full armor of God to protect against evil. The Bible tells us to do God’s will. Jesus would support both of these views emphatically. As a society that is part of a great democratic experiment, we need to listen to our neighbors regardless of their political position and hear their voice. This is putting on the full armor of God. We need to dig deeper on difficult issues like gun control, with the full armor of God. Our first and most important step should be of love for our neighbor.

Our solution doesn’t lie in rhetoric that is a canned platitude, but with a Christian sense of reason and love. We have children and innocent victims at concerts to protect. But we also have to respect the hunter who provides for their family. Jesus wants us to hear with both ears and with the full armor of God.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Derek Mack

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