While there are those who say that trying to control guns, and thus gun violence, is a futile job in America, so wedded to our firearms are we, most of us want some controls over laws that allow assault weapons, concealed carry, open carry, no need for background checks, and so on. I’m one of these. In fact, I’d be happy if America went to the British or Scottish system of gun control—or one even stricter.
But this seems nearly impossible in a country where so many people love their guns, and especially where the courts repeatedly interpret the Second Amendment as allowing people to carry rifles into grocery stores. (The best article I know of describing the misinterpretation of the Second Amendment was one by Garry Wills in the NYRB in 1995 (free online). Here’s Wills’s last paragraph:
The recent effort to find a new meaning for the Second Amendment comes from the failure of appeals to other sources as a warrant for the omnipresence of guns of all types in private hands. Easy access to all these guns is hard to justify in pragmatic terms, as a matter of social policy. Mere common law or statute may yield to common sense and specific cultural needs. That is why the gun advocates appeal, above pragmatism and common sense, to a supposed sacred right enshrined in a document Americans revere. Those advocates love to quote Sanford Levinson, who compares the admitted “social costs” of adhering to gun rights with the social costs of observing the First Amendment.
We have to put up with all kinds of bad talk in the name of free talk. So we must put up with our world-record rates of homicide, suicide, and accidental shootings because, whether we like it or not, the Constitution tells us to. Well, it doesn’t.
Well, it’s been 28 years since that article came out, and gun laws are even laxer and mass shootings are now a weekly occurrence. While I do what I can by way of signing petitions and writing and the like, in today’s America there seems to be no practical way to control guns.
But here comes Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren of the NYT, doing her weekly shtick, which is to say what’s bloody obvious and makes people feel good, while at the same time extolling her Christian faith—and accomplishing nothing. To her credit, she is a staunch advocate of gun control. But her question in the article below (click screenshot to read) is weird: why should Christians do things differently about gun control than anybody else? The answer, I suppose, comes at the end: Christians, following Jesus, are supposed to be peaceful and loving people, and therefore should control guns and the carnage they produce. She fails to give a reason, though, why Christians differ from secular humanists or any empathic people in this respect. She simply quotes the Bible.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Click the screenshot to read:
I will be brief. Here are the three things Warren things we need to control guns. What’s bizarre is that she pretends these solutions are somehow new.
1.) We need to change American society and the laws.
To reduce gun violence in the United States, we need legal change and we need social change. Both take time. And both demand a level of unity and sustained attention that is unusual in our day. Reducing gun deaths in America will require focus, persistence and cooperation over years and decades from people across a broad swath of political and ideological communities.
It is unlikely that guns will ever be banned in this country, but there are legal steps we can take to ensure responsible gun ownership. We need any and all laws that can make a difference: restrictions on the types of guns that can be sold (such as banning AR-15-style weapons), requirements of licensing, insurance and safety courses for gun ownership (as we do with driver’s licenses and vehicles), universal background checks, red flag laws, storage requirements and stricter age limits for gun ownership. We need to make it harder to get guns, which makes it easier to ensure guns stay in trustworthy hands.
DUH! It’s like nobody ever thought of those things, eh?
2.) The social change requires bipartisan consensus that gun proliferation is bad.
We desperately need unity across the aisle to change the culture around guns. At the very least, given the needless destruction guns are causing each day, reasonable conservatives and progressives can surely agree that we need to approach firearms with sobriety, concern, maturity and restraint. We can all unite against foolishness, recklessness and political posturing when it comes to firearms, stand against the glamorization of guns and denounce any cavalier treatment of them.
Has she ever heard of the Republican Party? Does she have any idea of the schism between those who love guns and those who despise them? What is a “reasonable” conservative when it comes to guns? And if this consensus is so obvious, why hasn’t it happened?
The paragraph above is anodyne, saying what’s completely obvious. Of course you need bipartisan consensus to change the laws! And of course it’s not feasible to create all this change now. (It may be impossible to create hardly any changes in gun laws.)
Finally, it’s Time for Faith:
3.) We need religion to help us get rid of guns. Yes, you heard it right. Of course Warren has to drag Jesus in here as a solution.
Furthermore, to achieve the social and cultural changes necessary to reduce gun violence, we need individuals and communities of faith — not just progressive people of faith, but all people of faith — to stand against the idolatry of guns in America.
Why not “all people” instead of “all people of faith”? Does she realize that Christians are among the most avid gun nuts in America? Is she somehow evoking the Bible and seeing that people worship guns as they used to worship golden calves, and that we need to see that those who worship God should be the most eager to abandon gun “idolatry”? She manages to note that black churches have “led the way in a fight against gun violence,” though I’m not sure it’s true—her evidence is anecdotal. But I’m prepared to believe her given that blacks are by far disproportional victims of gun violence in America.
In the end, amongst the homilies and bromides, Warren seems to be saying that Christians should be leading the fight for gun control because the Bible tells Christians to be peaceful and loving, and if you’re like that, you don’t want guns:
As a priest and as a Christian, I have long believed that Christians are called to love our neighbors and seek, in the words of the biblical book of Isaiah, the “welfare of the city.” To do so, we must understand our context, our culture and the needs of our particular time and place. What does it mean to be peacemakers, to love our neighbors and to affirm the value of human life in this moment? The unavoidable conclusion is that we in America’s churches can no longer claim to worship the “prince of peace” while tolerating the preventable obliteration of America’s children.
I guess it meant something different to be a peacemaker back in the days of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the extirpation of Central Americans. And the Bible is hardly a textbook of neighborly love and peace. The Old Testament repeatedly describes the God-approved decimation of entire tribes, not to mention the killing of individuals for making fun of bald men, and so on. Re the New Testament, in Matthew 10:34-36, the Prince of Peace says this:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
Now liberal Christians interpret this, maybe correctly, as saying that Jesus realized his message would divide people. But it certainly doesn’t paint the Prince of Peace as someone keen to reach across the aisle. In truth, Warren is doing what liberal Christians always do: insert their secular values into the Bible and then pretend that they came from the Bible. You don’t have to be religious to favor gun control.
Why do they pay this woman good money to churn out this pap every Sunday. Do they think her words are profound? Worse, does she think her words are profound? This stuff would never get by in a regular op-ed column, which would be spiked on the grounds of EXTREME TRITENESS.
24 thoughts on “Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren tells us how to control guns in America:”
Well, given her first two points, I would have thought her third point would be “We need a miracle.”
Maybe the way to deal with gun worship in the US is to direct it in some other direction. One interpretation of the Crusades is that the Church invented them in order to give the younger sons of the gentry, whose rampages were creating havoc in Europe, something to do away from Europe. In the 4th Crusade, the Venetians were able to direct the crusading Frankish dimwits to attack Venice’s Christian competitors in the eastern Med, rather than the Saracens. I don’t know exactly how we might misdirect our hordes of gun worshippers, Perhaps armed expeditions to the moon or Mars, with the participants transported there with their own personal weapons in SpaceX vehicles?
If that was the plan, which it wasn’t, it didn’t work. Young men still waged wars on each other.
Christianity is dying a rapid death in the U.S. This is just another attempt to make it relevant.
Holy Godsbody! Today April 23 is Shakespeare’s birthday ((1564). Not listed on your important dates? Along with Darwin (Feb. 12), this is the most important date to remember!
Tish Harrison Warren would fit perfectly into the bastion of religious cliche and Statements of the Bleedin’ Obvious that is BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’, which fills three minutes on the ‘Today’ programme at about 7.45 am on every day except Sunday, and is just about the only BBC programme that doesn’t allow a right of reply.
The main counter to TftD is ‘Platitude of the Day’, run by the heroic Peter Hearty for nearly 20 years, and although it sadly doesn’t get quite as many contributors as it used to, it is still an entertaining haven of sanity: https://platitudes.home.blog/
Radio 4, for the sake of balance, should have religious quote of the day. And it’ll just be me saying the most horrendous nonsense spouted in religious texts and by religious authorities.
My show might outlast the bbc.
“In truth, Warren is doing what liberal Christians always do: insert their secular values into the Bible and then pretend that they came from the Bible.”
I don’t think it’s actually possible to follow a religion or believe in God. To follow a religion one first has to interpret the religious texts. Since none of those texts are evidence based that essentially means manipulating and accepting the parts that comport with what one already feels and believes and filtering out the rest. Ones image of God is built entirely from these personal interpretations. Subconsciously believers are essentially following their own “gut” feelings and worshiping themselves.
“Does she realize that Christians are among the most avid gun nuts in America?”
My reading is that she does indeed realize this, which is why she’s specifically encouraging such Christians to change their ways. She’s not saying that you have to be Christian to be in favor of gun control but rather that if you are a Christian you should be in favor of gun control. Given that the avid gun nuts are more likely to listen to her then to godless liberals, I can’t fault her all that much on this one.
When it comes to the gun-toting, conservative Xtians she’s trying to reach, they won’t listen to anything coming from a liberal, godless or religious; if they think a liberal of any stripe or religion is talking to them about guns or any other subject, they won’t listen; or they’ll listen and do the opposite, which is pretty much what they’re doing when it comes to the teachings of Jesus. Healing the sick, feeding the hungry, helping the poor, loving the neighbor and/or stranger, turning the other cheek; these are not concepts most right-wing Xtians (and pretty much all the GOP politicians) believe in at this time…or if they believe it, they don’t act on it, so same thing.
I am a gun owner. I am always armed when out of my home and of course I have guns at home both locked in a safe and available for quick defense. I own several AR and AK style weapons as well as pistols and shotguns. I would gladly surrender every gun I have, no matter how precious in monetary or sentimental value, to save one human’s life. We need common sense laws to reduce the number of guns in the hands of people who have no business owning a gun. It is absolutely ridiculous that a person can walk into a store in almost any city or town and purchase a weapon that was designed to deliver bullets as quickly and efficiently as possible to kill a target. I can attest that the deadly force that can be exerted by these weapons is DEVASTATING. I will continue to try to educate my family members the same way my dad taught me about the destructive force that is in the hands of so many people and how to best protect themselves from those that would do them harm. But most importantly to know that guns are made for killing above all else and they are not toys or status symbols. Sam Harris has some good thoughts on guns. I think Sam and I are on the same page when I comes to responsible gun ownership. There are many things like universal background checks and proof of proficiency that would curb deaths, but one death is too much. One family dealing with a suicide is too much, one kid killed over something that doesn’t matter is too much. I don’t have an answer, there is no magic answer. I feel as if I have to carry and own weapons to protect myself and family from the armed mob. I welcome ideas of how to stop this wave of violence. I however don’t know if I am part of the problem or the solution.
I feel as if I have to carry and own weapons to protect myself and family from the armed mob.
I know guns make you feel safer, and you keep them for protection, and it seems you have good common sense regarding guns, but studies show, pretty explicitly, that gun ownership actually increases the chance that you or someone in your home will be shot…counter-intuitive, but true.
I agree with the statistics. It’s common sense that you are more likely to be involved in a shooting if you have a gun in your home. I am hoping that my safety measures, education and training will keep me and my family from becoming a statistic. As I read your reply I can’t help but remember the murders committed by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook. As I understand it he took a weapon bought by his mother to murder all of those children. I also thought of my paternal grandfather who took is own life with a revolver laying in his bed after breakfast. If neither of those people had access to weapons, I think both situations would have turned out much differently. I also think of when I protected my mother and sister with one of my father’s weapons during an attempted home invasion when I was about 10. There is a riddle when it comes to guns. The statistics that you referenced could be skewed by irresponsible gun owners, mental illness, lack of education and protocol, etc. Perhaps many of those people who became statistics had absolutely no business owning a firearm. We need less guns, not more. That much is clear. One death is too many. But if someone is coming to hurt me or my family, I want to go downstairs to confront them with more than statistics. I welcome the conversation and ideas on this topic. I think discussion will help. I’m not dogmatic on the subject and clearly something must be done.
Interesting article on gun violence on 538.https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2023/04/23/surprising-geography-of-gun-violence-00092413
Thanks for that link. An interesting feature of that study is that it’s not explicitly antiracist in a 1619 sense. It puts the racism among members of the dominant cultures into context in each of the major regions, and that racism is not the foundational cause of gun violence or variation in its rate.
The US when it comes to wholesale ownership of guns must be imo one of the biggest social experiments to date. A personal arms race beyond law or ideology albeit that is how it is justified. Evolutionary psychology should be up for the task. Either that or it’s a population control mechanism in disguise with a productivity add on. That being, gun and ammunition manufactures, hospitals and peripherals, undertakers, grief councilors, news media, comedians, Christian writers, politicians. All taking a cut and no one is in control.
As one of my favourite Australian bands Skyhooks used to sing on their “Living in the 70’s” album.
“it’s a horror movie, right there on my TV”
I am guessing Tish Warren is just ignoring the bit where Jesus said that he came not to bring peace but a sword
Did you read what I wrote? I explicitly quote that.
Warren is not the brightest bulb in the gun shop.
As I saw reported on CNN TV this morning, mass shootings are leading more and more people to buy guns for protection. If everyone else has a gun, the argument goes, I need to get one myself. The U.S. is obviously heading the wrong direction, and we are witnessing an example of positive feedback at its worst, with no practical way to unwind it.
I sort of think the plan is to disarm regular law abiding people who own guns first. Of course, they become victims initially. As time goes on, the criminal class will find that home invasions or robberies become less dangerous for the perpetrators, and they will eventually start robbing people with a knife or a pointed stick.
I think the major flaw in the plan is that much of the arms race is driven by members of criminal gangs who are arming themselves against other criminals. Their ability to victimize the general population is just a bonus for them.
Our personal position in the arms race is a fairly stable one. We have very little violent crime, but we are on our own, mostly. The nearest police station is a 45 minute drive away, and even then, there is often nobody there. Lots of large and isolated ranches, in areas with no cell service.
Disarm us, and not only will our children be eaten by bears, but we all potentially become the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas.
I do think the accurate assumption that nearly all of the ranchers have weapons at hand and know how to use them keeps the predators at bay, as it did in generations past.
Importantly, the deterrent value of such self defense does not require that anyone ever be shot. That is the main point, really.
A rare instance of that happened to my Mom. A couple of guys followed her from town to the ranch. They parked a distance from the house, and started walking towards her. They claimed to be lost, but after she told them to leave, one of them tried to come around to the back door. Shouting that she was armed did not deter them from trying the doors. When she came to the door with a pistol, they left.
An elderly widowed neighbor actually had a couple of them get into her house. She woke in her upstairs bedroom to the noise, and stood at the top of the stairs with a big gun. One of them came around the corner, looked up and saw her, and they got out quick.
It is easy to propose new laws that primarily affect people like us. It will not measurably decrease violent crime, but the folks in flyover country are increasingly stereotyped as racist monsters, so we really have it coming anyway.
It is much harder to figure solutions to the crazy people going on rampages, and the main source of gun violence, which is criminal gangs.
If anything, the tendency is moving towards leniency to the actual criminals as the same folks propose stringent new laws for those of us who are not part of the problem. It has to be deliberate in some respect. Perhaps it is an issue that the politicians know they can get us to fight over, to keep us from noticing that they are monetizing their public service to an absurd degree.
With respect to this:
The UK never did have the kind of gun culture that exists in America, and the Firearms Act of 1968 and others since have made ownership of any firearm quite rare. In 2022 there were 151,000 firearms certificates issued and 522,000 shotgun certificates. Nearly all holders of an FC also have an SC, so approximately 370,000 owners among 67 million people, so about 1 in every 180 people owns a firearm.
But we are told nature abhors a vacuum. The term ‘knife crime’ has become all too familiar to Brits, with 45,000 such crimes reported in the year ending March 2022, with 261 fatalities. I am not suggesting Brits be re-armed with firearms, just that criminals will use whatever they are able to get their hands on. And at least knives are far less efficient at killing than firearms.
The situation in Canada is a bit different: we have slightly more lenient laws than the UK, the principal difference is that we license the owner rather than the weapon, except for ‘restricted’ weapons (handguns), where both are licensed. But our issues with firearms crime are distorted by our neighbour (Hi, there!) Over 90% of Canadian gun crimes are committed with unlicensed guns smuggled in from America. We have had a case where a drone has carried a bag of handguns across the border (which we know about because it got stuck in a tree). It is impossible to prevent this, and our response of punishing legal owners isn’t helpful.
At the end of the day, one has to ask whether mass shootings are simply the effect of so many guns being in circulation, or whether there are other factors involved. The weakening of the social fabric must play a part, with division, resentment, anomie, poverty, changing demographics. If those things are at least part of the mechanism, removing all firearms (if that were even possible) would simply mean that mass shootings are replaced by mass stabbings, or the new fashion of ploughing into a crowd with a vehicle. Why do unhappy people decide to ‘take as many others with them as they can’ as a form of suicide note? They must hate their fellows and feel nothing for them, only pity for themselves. There are more things to address here than just ‘guns’.
She is actually listed as an “Anglican” rather than “Episcopal” priest. This means she is part of the splinter conservative breakaway group that objected to acceptance (and/or ordination) of homosexuals, and only fairly recently agreed to ordain women at all. This is confirmed by the Wikipedia article on her.
I suppose I should be relieved that members of that group are not wholly reactionary across the board.
The fact is that gun violence in the US is almost 100% committed with handguns and its primarily committed by black men (including mass shootings). Typically, they obtain and possess the guns illegally.
The “progressive” idea of gun reforms pushed by the new wave of “progressive” DAs and prosecutors elected in many places is increasingly to 1) disband police programs to get illegal guns off the streets, 2) stop prosecuting illegal handgun possession, 3) downgrade sentencing on crimes committed with firearms, both by eliminating firearm enhancements and by reducing felonies to misdemeanors, and 4) employ lenient sentencing such that an armed robber in some places might expect only a “diversionary program” or “restorative justice” if they get caught. In all cases, the changes are said to be justified because prosecuting illegal gun ownership and punishing gun crime ‘disproportionately impacts black men’. Yes, progressive legislators also want to ban and crack down on “assault weapons”, etc. whose owners are disproportionately law-abiding and are responsible for a tiny sliver of gun crime.
In other words, the progressive agenda on gun reform seems at best completely disconnected from the reality of gun violence and at worst actually malicious. I too would like to see some changes to gun laws, but it’s hard to take their concerns seriously when their sense of judgment is so skewed that they would sacrifice public safety on the altar of racial equity, or when they propose no program to deal with the overwhelming majority of gun crime and focus obsessively on a tiny percentage of it.
I would renew my subscription to the Times if they published a JAC rebuttal to every vapid Tish column.