Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. Orlando. Each name, each place, brings back horrific images of terror and violence, of people killed in mass shootings. The statistics of mass shootings in the United States—defined as a single incident in which four or more people are shot or killed—are staggering. In 2015, there were 332 mass shootings and 13,441 gun deaths. From 2005 to 2015, 71 people died in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. In the same time period, 301,797 people were killed by guns.

To be fair, the United States does not have a monopoly on gun violence. There have been mass shootings in other countries, including Canada. But what the U.S. does have is a gun culture. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” At the time it was written, local militia protected people—their homes, farms and livelihoods.

Today, the well-meaning intention of a document from the 1700s is used to justify the right to own guns—a right fiercely defended by lobby groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA)—even though weapons and society have changed.

I know the pushback: “Guns don't kill people. People kill people.” Or, “It's a sin problem, not a gun problem.” Is it a sin problem when a toddler finds a gun and accidentally kills herself or someone else? It has already happened more than 20 times this year. And almost 350 children under 11 have been shot or killed.

Another argument is: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The chief of police in Dallas discredited this idea after the shooting in their city this past July, noting that in spite of the fact that several people near the area were exercising their right to “open carry,” five police officers were still shot and killed.

Others say that gun control won't work. Australia's example proves otherwise. In 1996, a gunman killed 35 people and wounded 23 others at a resort in Tasmania. Twelve days after the incident, then-Prime Minister John Howard introduced new gun laws, including a buy-back program, gun registration, prohibiting private sales and requiring buyers to present a “genuine reason” for needing a weapon. Since then, there have been no mass shootings.

As a Canadian, the political divisiveness and hostility surrounding this issue in the U.S. are mystifying; stronger gun regulations seem like common sense. Many Americans are just as frustrated.

A recent documentary by Abigail Disney examines gun culture in the U.S. and raises compelling questions. The Armor of Light focuses on Reverend Rob Schenck, a conservative evangelical who leads a ministry to politicians in Washington, D.C. A shooting in his neighbourhood causes him to advocate against gun violence, even though he loses donations and is worried about being branded a liberal.

The documentary captures the moment he meets Lucy McBath, whose unarmed 17-year-old son was shot and killed at a gas station in Florida in a dispute with a man over loud music. During their conversation, McBath says, “We're deceived into believing that we are so powerful because we have [guns] that will protect [us]. Instead of looking to God, righteously, as the protector, we have replaced God with guns.”

At another point in the film, Schenck says, “In respecting the Second Amendment, we must be careful we don't violate the second commandment.” Have guns become an idol? Can a Christian be pro-life and pro-gun?

After every mass shooting, people offer “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. While we should pray, it's not enough. As the Apostle James wrote, “Can't you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:20 NLT). We need stronger and better laws.

Tertullian, an early Christian author, wrote, “In disarming Peter, Christ disarmed all Christians.” Are we followers of “the Way” or “the gun”?

Captain Mark Braye is the corps officer at Sarnia Community Church, Ont.


On Wednesday, November 1, 2017, Thom Moffitt, Captain said:

As a United States citizen, and Life Member of the NRA, I read this article with a bit of annoyance; mainly because I've read these statements/arguments time and time again and the complete lack of understanding by the author of U.S. Constitutional liberty and his misrepresentation of the NRA and its members are not only cliché but ignorant. While attempting to debate a series of "pushback" arguments, the author fails to understand that - at least in The United States - the right to keep and bear arms is among those fundamental rights necessary to OUR Nation's system of ordered liberty...including our religious liberty. Defenders of the U.S. Constitution's 2nd Amendment understand that it is THE right that protects all of the rest of them. Our Constitutional system works BECAUSE it doesn't change "even though weapons and society have changed".... kind of like Scripture - but I'd be remiss if I didn't point out with yesterday's celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation that there are also Salvationists today trying to diminish the Gospel of Jesus Christ making the same argument that "society has changed".

As a U.S. Salvationist, I am saddened in reading this article knowing that other Salvationists around the world would suggest that our U.S. Constitutional Rights -- specifically a right that many of us believe to be the most significant thing standing between our freedom to preach the Gospel, and the Governments censorship of the Gospel -- are subject to your individual approval or the editorial responsibility of a foreign National publication. In what may be my own ignorance, I thought The Salvation Army maintained an official apolitical stance on non-Biblical issues. Furthermore, as a Salvationist the author may wish to rethink quoting Tertullian as his theology on the Trinity stands in direct opposition to our third and fourth Doctrines!


On Wednesday, October 4, 2017, Seth said:

I am so pleased that Mark Braye continues to write these timely and relevant pieces that are not lost in the nonsense of Salvation Army glory and is able to look into the world through a Christian lens. I also am very confident that Mark Braye would never abuse and write off human beings with judgemental terms like "thugs" or "false religion". Thank you Mark Braye for continuing to write these stories amidst the petty and attacking views of dinosaur Salvationists.


On Sunday, September 25, 2016, Mark said:

Unfortunately, the statistic used by people against gun ownership called "gun deaths" includes suicides which is the vast majority of gun deaths. They use this inflated number intentionally to make the issue seem worse than it really is. Ask yourself why they never quote the "gun homosides" number.

This person suggests that people carrying handguns could stop a sniper that is shooting police officers, which is ridiculous logic. Why didn't you use the examples of people trying to murder people in churches where the gun carrying congregants were able to take them out and save lives?

This is very one sided and doesn't address the real issue. The church is becoming more like the world and is not witnessing to those in darkness. Even in the S.A. there are regular attendees that not only do not live out the Great Commission, but they criticize the authentic followers who do. They even call them haters. They pretend that false religions are the same, and everyone goes to heaven. The opposite of what Jesus taught. There are S.A. officers posting on websites that don't even believe the Biblical creation narrative. What a disgrace to His Word and their uniform. They claim to be pastors and followers of Jesus, yet call Him a liar in a global arena. As the church becomes more like the world, the Gospel is lost, and we are left with people without hope who never hear the Gospel. Instead of sharing the Gospel, these people claiming to be Christians ignore sin, and pretend that unrepentant sinners can still see heaven. Universalism is like a lazy weed in the church. It appeals to people who are too lazy to witness to others. The new church has replaced love with apathy.

This is not about guns. Remember, a group of men from a false religion killed about 3,000 people with box cutters on 9/11.

On Wednesday, September 14, 2016, Tim said:

First, I'm disappointed at the Politically Correct tone of some recent opinion pieces in this magazine. I can find the exact same opinions in most Liberal blogs in the US. I would hope for more objective writing from a Salvationist writer.

Secondly, I don't understand why a Canadian Salvationist feels called to post opinions on US political issues. Is everything in Canada so harmonious that you needn't write about your own problems?

Third, I would disagree with many of your statistics. I think you need more objective sources for your information. For example, the statistic you cite about children being killed ignores the fact that many of those children were killed in gang-related crimes, by thugs with stolen guns.

Also, you have cherry-picked your quotes. you refer to the Dallas Police chief but neglect to quote law enforcement officers like Sheriff Clark of Milwaulkee County, Wisc. and the police chief of Detroit, both Black men who think citizens should be armed.

I don't object to writing about current societal issues. I do object to using misinformation and one-sided arguments to push a political opinion.

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