Guns in Church

By Trudy Wischemann

Two rescued, five lost at sea in a fishing boat accident off Alaska; the Coast Guard had given up after searching 1,400 square miles of ocean, heroic efforts. This news item was reported the morning of Jan. 2, but will be forgotten by evening except by the families of those involved. What news of loss of life will be remembered from last week are the two people killed by guns in church: one, a worshipper, the other, the shooter.

We’ll remember this incident because it’s being used by gun lovers to make a point: that it’s good for good guys to carry guns, because they can stop the bad guys in their tracks. The appeal to this kind of domestic heroism is equal to the appeal the military uses to recruit young men and women to fight threats to national security abroad. The difference is there’s no leadership, no system to determine who the bad guys are. All we have is hair-trigger moments of bad behavior to indicate who to kill.

There’s also no training required to assure the good guys’ competence. Being licensed to carry requires different things in different states, but being required to be accurate on the spot isn’t one of them. What if the man who shot the shooter in that church wasn’t so well trained? What if he’d shot a fellow parishioner or two by accident before hitting his target? Would the gun lovers be singing the same song? And if they did, should we be listening?

Don’t get me wrong: had I been there, I’m sure I would feel eternally grateful to the trained rifleman that I wasn’t lying bleeding on the floor, shot dead by the insane person who brought his gun into church intending to kill people. I cannot comprehend wanting to kill anyone, at least not enough to actually plan how to carry that out. But I think those of us who occupy pews need to be thinking about why we are becoming targets for those who do, and what a faithful response might be.

“Thou shalt not kill.” It’s the sixth commandment, and one we know well, but hide from regularly. It’s right there next to “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” No. 7, to which we have a similar response. It’s above not coveting your neighbor’s property (No. 10), but well below not swearing (No. 3) and keeping the Sabbath holy (No. 4). Bringing a gun to church, however, either as a shooter or as a protector, seems to me to be a violation of No. 1: You shall have no other gods before me.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that anyone bringing a gun into church with the intention to hurt and/or kill is a Gentile, a heathen, one of the great unwashed, or at least someone who got mangled in his childhood Sunday School days. Maybe it isn’t safe to assume that, but it certainly is worth asking the question: who are these people who dream that some life-threatening glory will be theirs with this act? Who are these people?

And then we need to ask: What is the right response to them? The churches and synagogues already blighted by this experience are working out their answers one day at a time. For most, it does not include bringing more guns into church.

Trudy Wischemann is a Ninth Amendment supporter who writes. You can send her your pew-side thoughts c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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