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A consistently pro-life ethic should include gun control

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There have been two very different sets of responses to last week’s mass shooting in Roseburg, Ore. The shooter killed nine people before taking his own life during a shootout with police, in what was the 142nd school shooting since Sandy Hook, in December 2012, when six teachers and 20 children were killed.

Gun rights advocates and gun control supporters alike have used the opportunity to politicize the tragedy. That isn’t, in itself, a bad thing. If politics is the business of governing a diverse body of people, and guns are both used and governed, then our response to repeated mass shootings ought to be, at least in part, a political one.

To “politicize" something that is inherently political isn’t a dirty thing. In fact, to keep ignoring mass shootings, to refuse to change gun control policy because of the power of the National Rifle Association lobby, to let 20 children die and take no national action to restrict gun access in this country — indeed, to vote against an assault-weapons ban — that is the dirty thing.

Why, then, do so many people insist that the right to gun ownership ought to take precedence over the lives of innocent people? They may never say as much, but that is what’s at play when folks like conservative pundit Erick Erickson — who claims to be pro-life — posts a tweet saying “I’m going to go buy more guns this weekend" one day after the shooting in Oregon.


Erickson wasn’t alone. Tennessee’s lieutenant governor, Republican Ron Ramsey, wrote in a Facebook post that he “would encourage my fellow Christians who are serious about their faith to think about getting a handgun carry permit."

Journalist Rory Carroll posted a picture to Twitter of Candie Kinney, co-owner of the Roseburg Gun Shop in Oregon, with a big grin on her face.


Should I give a co-worker a character reference so he can buy a gun?
Donald Trump suggested that if the college where the shooting took place hadn’t been a gun-free zone, an armed student or teacher might have taken the shooter down much earlier.

Never mind that the statistics don’t bear this out; that in 2012 there were 259 justifiable homicides with guns but 8,342 criminal homicides using guns. That same year, 20,666 killed themselves with guns, and there were 548 fatal unintentional shootings. Guns in the hands of civilians do us as a society much more harm than good, and if it were up to the NRA’s leaders, I imagine they would want the “well-regulated" clause taken out of the Second Amendment altogether.

The second set of reactions have had a different tenor. The Rev. Will Irwin, pastor of Family Church outside of Roseburg, told The Washington Post that he preached a sermon on forgiveness after the shooting: “Some are angry at the shooter, some are angry at politicians, some are angry at officials," Irwin said. “This gave people a chance to process. They were looking for that."

The Rev. Rob Schenck has long been a pro-life activist, but after the 2013 shooting at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard, he expanded the scope of his activism to include gun control. “When we say, ‘Nobody will ever take my life, I’ll take theirs,’ it contradicts the Christian life and message," he said.

If Christians are called to follow the example of the one who laid down his life for the sake of others, we need to start doing so immediately. There were 20 children at Sandy Hook who we could have laid down our lives for, and we did not. There are nine more people dead now. If we don’t, nothing will change. This will play out again and again, and we will mourn for a day or two — if that — before we revert to bitterly divided arguments about rights.

My rights don’t matter as much as another person’s life.

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. In addition to being a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s “Her.meneutics" blog, she has also written for publications such as Books & Culture and The Bold Italic.

By Laura Turner


1 comment

  1. Daniel Grummett Reply

    Yet another far left post by Catholic Say which is looking more and more like an arm of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
    To suggest that a person owning a gun to protect their families are somehow not “pro-life” is insulting, offensive, ignorant and immensely arrogant! It is also wrongheaded. Ms Turner seems to like to write about lack of facts in regards to those who support gun ownership rights. Well here are a few! Boston has some of the most strict gun control laws in the country! How are things going there? It has the highest gun related murder rates in the country. Californian has gun control laws. Do you feel safe walking down South Central L.A. or in Compton? New York has strong gun control laws, yet gun related violence continues. But the people using guns to kill do not care about gun laws and most of them do not register their guns or get them legally. The article mentions Sandy Hook, but the killer did not own those guns. He stole them from his mother. Ms. Turner poo-poohs the idea that if some of the people in Rosenberg were armed, they would have stopped the gunman and saved lives. She states that the stats don’t support it, but she doesn’t cite any such stat! There is a reason why these gunman attack schools–There are no guns there to stop them.True, they may kill themselves afterwards, but their desire is to take down as many innocent people as they can first. When was the last time a gunman attacked a gun convention or a hunting lodge?

    Ms Turner says that her rights are less important than innocent lives, yet she want’s the right to take the guns away from law abiding citizens and keep them from protecting the lives of their children! Her rights to her liberal activism does not trump my right to protect my family and her efforts to do so does not make her more pro-life than me. Remember, Jesus ordered his apostles to arm themselves with swords before his Crucifixion because he loved them and wanted them to be able to defend themselves and each other.

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