“Beating Swords into Plowshares” or “Yes, I Want To Take Your Guns”

Posted: January 16, 2013 in Current Events
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I should be honest.  I don’t want all of your guns taken away.  You can keep your hunting rifles and shot guns; guns you use for sport.

And I know that puts me at odds with some people, even people within my own congregation.

But I want to take away your handguns.  And I want to take away your assault rifles.  And I want to take away your high capacity clips*.  And I want to take away your ability to sell your guns to anyone you want.

I do; I have to be honest, I do.  And there are reasons.

The number one reason is because I’m about to have a baby. And in 2012 we had over 500 homicides in Chicago.  In the past month alone we’ve had half a dozen shootings in my neighborhood, most before 10pm.

I walk to Starbucks before 10pm.  I walk to the gym before 10pm.  I walk to the 7-11 before 10pm.  And when we have a baby, we’ll walk with the baby.

And I want your guns gone because I want my baby to live, along with everyone else who wants an ice cream fix at 9pm.

And I know there are gun safety classes.  And I know there are locks for gun cases, and safe handling procedures.

I get that.  But I also get that we could offer tank-driving courses…it doesn’t mean I’d like for just anyone to be able to buy a tank.

And I understand that we’re having a discussion about rights, and about ownership, and about the freedom to do what one pleases.

But my baby has a right to live.  So does yours. They have a right to walk down the street.  And I’m not worried about you shooting my baby; that doesn’t worry me.  I’m worried about that other person shooting my baby.  With your gun.

That worries me.

And I have to be honest, I’m not sure how a Christian can interpret Isaiah 2:4 without questioning ownership of weapons that can cause death on a massive scale, which I think we can recognize as war:

God shall judge between the nations,
    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
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 any more.

The prophet is talking about nation rising up against nation; I see that.  But when you live in Uptown…

…or Kenwood…

…or Albany Park…

…or Inglewood…

…or any place you find dividing lines…

…people choose their nation.  War happens.

And they defend their nation.  Sometimes with your gun.

Or when we have people who have an imbalance in their brain, or who have unending despair to the point of delusion, or who become paranoid to the point of insanity, or who are just plain assholes with nothing to lose, they become a nation of one against the world.

And they defend their nation.  Sometimes with your gun.

And despite what the arguments might claim, I cannot conceive of how more guns make us safer.  I want teachers to teach, not to shoot.  I want playground attendants to watch the monkey bars, not scope out targets.

I want tools to fit the situation.  Teachers teach.  Playground attendants monitor the playground.  They fit the situation. A handgun is a tool for only one situation: killing a person.

They’re designed to do that.

And I’m well aware that a hunting rifle can kill, as can a shotgun.  I’m also well aware (because I’ve hunted) of the amount of time it takes to reload, to use, their bulk…

Not the weapon of choice for someone with ill intent.

As a father, as a pastor, as a Christian who takes Isaiah 2:4 seriously, I don’t want to let you keep your gun.  I’m sorry.  I really do sympathize.  Freedom is important, we must be a free people.

But my baby must be free to live.

And I know this problem is bigger than you having a gun.  It’s about mental health support, and about poverty, and about wellness.

It’s about the fact that we teach violence.  As Isaiah says, “we shall study war no more…” except funding for cancer research by the government versus military spending was roughly 5 billion to 144 billion in 2008.

So please, stop saying we’re a Christian nation.  When this statistic changes we can talk about that claim…

We teach violence with our pocketbooks.  We call it defense, but it is violence.  And I’m not saying we don’t need to defend ourselves; what I am saying is that we should call a thing what it is.

Defense spending is paying money to learn war.

And in learning war, we teach war.

And then we wonder why people shoot other people.

And I’m a reluctant Christian at times because I often hear people make the case that somehow the freedom to buy and sell firearms is connected to the freedom that God desires for the nations.

Read Isaiah 2:4.

Yes, yes, I know there are other scriptural examples of God supposedly encouraging nation to rise up against nation.  But the prophets are the conscience of the people, and despite what historic redactors might want you to read, Isaiah speaks a word of honesty.

We must beat our handguns into something else; we must beat much of our defense spending into something else.

And I know you’re reluctant to do it.  But I’m asking you to do it for my child, and your child.  I don’t care if he/she has the right to own a handgun, but I want them to have the right to live, to go to school, to walk down the street without being shot.

We can start unlearning war.  And perhaps a good way to do that is by making the tools for war unavailable to just anyone.

After all, tools should fit the situation…

*Apparently “clips” are different from “magazines” according to responders (see below).  Needless to say, I’ve only hunted with shotguns, and haven’t had to use these items.

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Comments
  1. Pastor Thad W. Fisher says:

    So beautifully written!

  2. Amen! Thank you for being so brave and speaking from your heart about issues that are so hard to talk about even on the internet…Yes! And congrats I didn’t know you were about to have a baby!

  3. Katie Hayes says:

    “Clips?” Really?!

    They’re called “magazines.” Not “clips.”

  4. Katie Hayes says:

    You wrote: Apparently “clips” are better known as “magazines”

    No. They are not the same thing at all. And in our lawsuit-happy country, getting the terminology right can determine someone’s guilt or innocence in a court of law.

    A magazine is what is used to feed the weapon itself, whereas a clip is used to feed the magazine.

    More info here:

    http://www.minutemanreview.com/2008/09/clip-vs-magazine-lesson-in-firearm.html

    Or here:

    http://www.thegunzone.com/clips-mags.html

  5. Daniel says:

    Thank you for the reflection. I’ve been thinking about what my Christian response to gun control is and ought to be. I keep hearing about proposals like universal background checks that sound like great ideas, but they don’t help with the situations like Newtown, where the gun was taken from its owner.

    Also, I’m not sure about lumping all handguns in with this together. My dad recreationally target shoots with his pistol, keeping it safely locked up when he’s not using it.

    • Timothy Brown says:

      Thanks for weighing in, Daniel. I know there are responsible pistol users out there. Where different people draw the line will depend on their experience, I’m sure.

      Thanks for reading and responding!

  6. Ashley Usher-Coleman says:

    Nicely put together. :)

  7. Excellent work. Well thought out, well said!

  8. George Marsh says:

    so you want me to give up my right for your kid..bull shit..what about MY rights….you are selfish, just because you live in a violent city, you think that ALL of us law abiding citizens should give up are rights…you don’t like chicago move out….500 homicides in the last year…look like you picked the wrong neighborhood….

    • Timothy Brown says:

      Thanks for weighing in, George. I understand the sentiment. But I want you to give up your guns for your kids, and all the kids in cities across the nation who can’t move out. It’s not just about me. And I’m not trying to be selfish anymore than you are by wanting to keep the right to have guns.

      Keep your rifles, shotguns. I’m asking you to give up your handguns and assault weapons.

  9. Chris says:

    “The number one reason is because I’m about to have a baby. And in 2012 we had over 500 homicides in Chicago. In the past month alone we’ve had half a dozen shootings in my neighborhood, most before 10pm.”

    How many of these were done by legal weapons? Point is, that if the guns aren’t legal, making more laws wont do a thing.

    Also, the laws against guns in Chicago are stronger than much of the country, yet you have the highest murder rate. Seems gun laws don’t equate to increased safety.

    I want my kids to live as well, this is why I have guns for my safety. Otherwise, I’ll be at the criminals disposal who doesn’t listen to those gun laws.

    “A handgun is a tool for only one situation: killing a person.”

    Exactly, hopefully the person that was trying to kill you.

    I understand the feeling you have, so I propose a deal, take all the guns away from the criminals, and when you can achieve that, I will gladly give my guns away.

    • Timothy Brown says:

      Thanks for reading and responding, Chris.

      This situation is not simple, and I’m not afraid of you or worried that you have guns. I’m worried that your guns will end up in their hands. And all legal weapons turn illegal in the wrong hands.

      There are consequences to tools intended to kill people being bought and sold freely. And the gun that you, no doubt, hope will kill someone trying to kill you may kill your kid, or you. We are not the Rambos we think we are.

      As a person of faith, I think we can do better with our calling to love our neighbor and learn war no more.

      • Chris says:

        I am a person who loves Jesus as well friend, I just think you are missing the point, that many pro gunner’s use (to extremes). We already have illegal weapons in our society. These weapons are not just going to disapear, and taking away legal guns is going to do nothing but create an environment where the criminals are the only ones with the gun.

        This is scary, so I think the first problem you have to work on is how to get guns off the streets, and I assure you this isn’t done by taking away the gons of law abiders. We don’t want the entire country to be like Chicago, and therefore cannot continue down the path the government there has created for you.

        We must find a way to get the guns out of criminals hands, before we take the guns out of legal hands.

        Another point, as a child I knew the deadly impact a gun could have, I also knew exactly where the guns and ammo were. The difference between me and many kids is that I was taught to have respect for the gun. It wasn’t something that was hidden from me, and I therefore never saw it as “the forbidden fruit.”

      • Timothy Brown says:

        I understand your point; we just don’t agree. I don’t think you having a gun makes me (or you) any safer.

        And, as I say, I realize there are locks and safe procedures. It doesn’t take away the fact that a gun in your house makes it more likely that you or someone in your family will be killed by gun violence. You having a gun makes it more likely, not less likely.

        The gun lobby and gun manufacturers are controlling our gun policy. That’d be like Boeing controlling our aviation standards. This cycle has to stop.

        And I do find it difficult to reconcile modeling the King of Peace while holding a weapon designed to kill a human being. I know others can reconcile it, but I can’t.

  10. Thad W. Fisher says:

    Tim,
    Thank you so much for your calm steady presence! I read you original thoughts and was moved to tell you. In the process I signed up to be notified about what others were saying. After a few, notifications, I thought, “Oh I should unsubscribe. I don’t have time for this.” But then I read some of your responses to others. You respond with such grace and peace to people who I have the urge to smack. You are modeling the Kind of Peace even in how you’re responding to those who disagree with you, unlike my urges. I know as a follower of Christ (and perhaps especially as a pastor) this should be obvious. Thank you for the example!

  11. Alice Faye Willis says:

    A few years back there had been a lot of breaking in houses in Ferriday, La. A man known by my sister-in-law said that he had bought a gun and was ready for the one breaking in. A few nights later, he awoke to hear a noise downstairs in the kitchen. He grabbed his gun and without turning on any lights proceeded to, very quietly go downstairs. He saw the form of a person that he assumed to be the robber and fired a shot. When he turned on the lights, he saw that he had killed his wife, who had gone downstairs for a snack. This is a true story.

  12. Claudia Bennett says:

    Thank you for saying what a lot of people who try to follow Jesus’s teaching are thinking. I know from some of the responses, that I am not alone. Living in a state that believes in “the right to bear arms” and in a country setting, gives me pause to know that any day, I may get shot just walking in my yard. Not by a criminal, but a hunter who is exercising his right to kill animals and does not think about the distance a rifle can shoot. Thank you for posting things that I can read and know that I am not alone in my religious beliefs. Some where along the way, Jesus teachings have been altered to fit each ChristIan’s perception rather than what he actually said.

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