More guns are not the answer
America is still reeling from the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina that killed nine African American church members. As has been the case with other mass shootings in recent years, as a nation we're left asking ourselves some very serious questions. How could something like this happen? And how we can stop it from ever happening again?
Although the debate about gun control gained momentum following the horrific Newtown, Connecticut shootings in 2012, efforts to pass stronger gun laws have stalled. With each tragedy, the nation seems to be more divided on how to address the problem. And with seemingly every senseless act of gun violence in recent years, someone is quick to suggest a version of the infamous statement made by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre after the Newtown shooting: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun." (Despite the fact that evidence shows armed civilians haven't actually been successful in stopping mass shootings.)
Now USA Today reports that a California shooting range is offering a gun training program for people of faith, with the goal of preparing parishioners to stop a shooting in church (see video below). The idea isn't all bad. Training pastors and church leaders in gun safety so that they know how to stop a gun from firing is a great idea. And preparing people to know how to react if someone pulls a gun is something that could help to save lives. But having more people in church carrying firearms so that they can stop a shooter? That seems like a step too far.
Aside from the potential of a gun going off accidentally (as happened this past Easter in a Pennsylvania church), we have to ask ourselves what kind of precedent we'd be setting by calling for more guns in church. Yes, perhaps an armed pastor could stop a shooter from harming innocent people. Or perhaps several armed parishioners could pull their guns and start firing, resulting in even more casualties.
But the question that church leaders should ask themselves before bringing guns into their churches is this: Is responding to violence with more violence really the message that we, as people of faith, want to send?