A pastor’s pro-life argument for stronger gun regulations

Gun Rights

As someone who is a pastor and “pro-life,” I think we should explore solutions to gun violence that protect human life even if that means imposing reasonable restrictions on the exercise of gun rights.  

“Being pro-life means standing up to Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association,” because being pro-life is “bigger than abortion, it includes defending the voiceless and vulnerable, including innocent children at school. … [and] ending or reducing the instruments of violence that can end a child’s life,” Australian priest Michael F. Bird wrote recently.

We are experiencing a national and local crisis of gun violence, particularly as it is affecting our children and the places they are educated. But, nothing meaningful is being done to put a stop to the violence inflicted upon our children. In my view, we have reached a tipping point that demands change, but many advocates for gun rights seem stuck on the talking points of the past to justify the murder and mayhem inflicted on our children. 

The American love affair with guns, including in Nevada, is unhealthy and destructive.  

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Since the beginning of 2023, there have been 16 school shootings this year that have resulted in injuries or deaths. There have been 160 such shootings since 2018.  There were more school shootings in 2022 — 46 — than in any year since at least 1999.  

If a mass shooting is defined as resulting in the death of four or more people, not including the perpetrator, 175 people have died in 15 such events connected to U.S. schools and colleges — from 1999′s Columbine High School massacre to March’s shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, according to a database compiled by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University

There have been 377 school shootings since Columbine. 

“Since the Columbine shooting, more than 311,000 children have been exposed to gun violence at 331 schools,” according to The Washington Post. The Post reviewed more than 180 shootings committed by juveniles since Columbine, and in cases where the source of the gun could be determined, 86 percent of the weapons were found in the homes of friends, relatives, or parents.

The leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States is firearm-related injuries. See the following graphic from the New England Journal of Medicine:

Not drug overdoses. 

Not car accidents. 

Firearm related injuries are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents.  

Let that fact sink into your consciousness for a moment.

Recently, researcher John Burn-Murdoch reported that one in 25 American 5-year-old children today will not make it to their 40th birthday.  He went on to explain, “No parent should ever have to bury their child, but on average one set of parents from every kindergarten class in the US most likely will.”  

Gun violence is killing our children.

We can do better.

We must do better.    

These deaths are avoidable.

With every death of a child because of gun violence, the central question presented is why does our government make it relatively easy for deranged, mentally ill, and violent people to arm themselves with weapons of mass murder? In most cases, the weapons being used in these shootings are similar to the weapons we send soldiers out to fight wars with.      

Apparently, while decrying the “mental health crisis” as the proximate cause of the rise in gun violence in our country, the best solution my political party, the Republican Party, seems to offer is “better doors” and “hardened” schools. By their logic, we can make schools safer for our children by making them more like prisons and arming our teachers. 

My “fiscally conservative” friends are willing to spend billions on school security, but are unwilling to adopt reasonable policies to keep the weapons of mass child murder out of the hands of criminals.  

Why? Because of an esoteric threat to Second Amendment gun rights? I have heard intelligent people say that this right is important just in case, one day, we may want to overthrow our government. They then cite some quote by Thomas Jefferson that goes something like, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  

In response, let me first say this quote is always cited out of context. Second, no citizen militia is going to overthrow a government defended by the most advanced military in human history.  And, finally, the blood of our children cry out from the graves to restrain unbridled liberty for the sake of their safety and security. 

Our children should not be the ones who water the tree of liberty with their blood anymore. They have sacrificed enough for this misguided notion of “liberty.” 

Every constitutional right comes with a constitutional responsibility. The right to religious liberty comes with the responsibility to treat those with different religious beliefs with equal dignity. 

The U.S. Constitution protects free speech while not protecting speech that harms others, including obscenity, fraud, child pornography, speech integral to illegal conduct, speech that incites imminent lawless action, speech that violates intellectual property law, true threats, and commercial speech such as advertising, and defamatory speech. 

The right to travel by car, train, plane, etc., a privacy right protected by our Constitution, is subject to numerous regulations to protect the safety of the public.  

The fundamental problem we have in our country right now is that we simply do not value human life more than our individual rights. This is reflected in almost every public debate where we advocate for protection of our “rights” over the protection of human life. 

Unfortunately, accepting a reasonable balance between protecting life and protecting gun ownership is lost on gun rights advocates, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA has become the Planned Parenthood/NARAL of the conservative movement in our country as they dogmatically refuse to support commonsense policy solutions that will protect and preserve human life. 

When will doing what is right to protect life take priority over protecting a “right” that costs lives?

Extreme risk protection order laws and stronger background checks, particularly to screen for mental illness and other red flags for violence before allowing a gun purchase, are reasonable policy proposals that do not unreasonably regulate a constitutional right. 

Why not regulate guns like we do cars, trucks, motorcycles, airplanes, etc.? It would not inhibit Second Amendment rights to adopt a policy requiring every gun owner to register their gun and hold a user’s license for each gun they own. 

Additionally, requiring gun owners to obtain insurance for each gun they own in case someone is injured by the gun would not violate the Second Amendment because it would treat gun ownership and usage like vehicle ownership and usage with an eye toward public safety.   

Many who object to such proposals argue, “evil does not exist within a gun. It exists in the minds and hearts of those who pull the trigger for evil purposes.” I have seen this quoted in memes on social media and others like this after every school shooting. It supports the mindless political mantra, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” 

But if you follow this reasoning to its logical conclusion, basically, the writer is saying we should not have any laws regulating evil and the tools used to carry out evil purposes. The logic goes on to conclude people are going to do evil no matter what the law is, so the rule of law does not matter.   

However, we know from experience that the rule of law does matter and that it is effective at reducing evil actions. The strength of the American experience is a shared fidelity to the rule of law.  

Tragedies, like the one that occurred nearly a year ago in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022, where 19 children and two teachers were murdered by an active shooter at Robb Elementary School, are far too common. 

Ironically, Uvalde spent money on security. In fact, Uvalde could have been seen as the model for policies pushed by some gun rights activists to prevent school shootings. In this regard, Uvalde’s school district doubled its security budget after the Santa Fe school shooting where 10 people were killed just four years earlier.  

Moreover, the Uvalde School District had its own police force, threat assessment teams, social media monitoring software, and security measures including fencing and a locked doors policy.  Around 40 percent of Uvalde’s budget was spent on a police force, and the officers even held an active shooter training course just weeks before the school shooting occurred

It is time that lawmakers take real steps to regulate gun ownership. Active shooter drills, police response, armed security officers, etc., do not prevent a school shooting. They are developed with the assumption that school shootings are inevitable and can only be mitigated, not prevented. This is a lie.  School shootings are preventable.  As one commentator righty points out:

“We know that permissive state gun laws are associated with more mass shootings and school shootings, and that licensing laws for firearms and bans of large capacity magazines are associated with fewer mass shootings. We know that Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) work to prevent gun violence when properly implemented.  We know that the average age of a school shooter is only 16, and that the youngest active school shooter was only 12. We therefore know that the implementation of laws for strict safe storage and child access prevention (CAP) would keep firearms out of the hands of the majority of school shooters. And we know that the Uvalde shooter — who was only 18 — would not have been able to obtain an AR-15 if the minimum age of purchase was raised to 21.”

Each day, 12 children die from gun violence in America, while another 32 are shot and injured.  If we don’t demand that lawmakers change the way gun ownership is regulated, perhaps one day your child and their school will be added to this unconscionable list of schools where children have been traumatized and killed: 

Thurston High School

Columbine High School 

Heritage High School 

Deming Middle School 

Fort Gibson Middle School 

Buell Elementary School 

Lake Worth Middle School 

University of Arkansas 

Junipero Serra High School 

Santana High School 

Bishop Neumann High School 

Pacific Lutheran University 

Granite Hills High School 

Lew Wallace High School 

Martin Luther King, Jr High School 

Appalachian School of Law 

Washington High School 

Conception Abbey 

Benjamin Tasker Middle School 

University of Arizona 

Lincoln High School 

John McDonogh High School 

Red Lion Area Junior High School 

Case Western Reserve University 

Rocori High School 

Ballou High School 

Randallstown High School 

Bowen High School 

Red Lake Senior High School 

Harlan Community Academy High School 

Campbell County High School 

Milwee Middle School 

Roseburg High School 

Pine Middle School 

Essex Elementary School 

Duquesne University 

Platte Canyon High School 

Weston High School 

West Nickel Mines School 

Joplin Memorial Middle School 

Henry Foss High School 

Compton Centennial High School 

Virginia Tech 

Success Tech Academy 

Miami Carol City Senior High School 

Hamilton High School 

Louisiana Technical College 

Mitchell High School 

EO Green Junior High School 

Northern Illinois University 

Lakota Middle School 

Knoxville Central High School 

Willoughby South High School 

Henry Ford High School 

University of Central Arkansas 

Dillard High School 

Dunbar High School 

Hampton University 

Harvard College 

Larose-Cut Off Middle School 

International Studies Academy 

Skyline College 

Discovery Middle School 

University of Alabama 

DeKalb School 

Deer Creek Middle School 

Ohio State University 

Mumford High School 

University of Texas 

Kelly Elementary School 

Marinette High School 

Aurora Central High School 

Millard South High School 

Martinsville West Middle School 

Worthing High School 

Millard South High School

Highlands Intermediate School 

Cape Fear High School 

Chardon High School 

Episcopal School of Jacksonville 

Oikos University 

Hamilton High School 

Perry Hall School 

Normal Community High School 

University of South Alabama 

Banner Academy South 

University of Southern California 

Sandy Hook Elementary School 

Apostolic Revival Center Christian School 

Taft Union High School 

Osborn High School 

Stevens Institute of Business and Arts 

Hazard Community and Technical College 

Chicago State University 

Lone Star College-North 

Cesar Chavez High School 

Price Middle School 

University of Central Florida 

New River Community College 

Grambling State University 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School 

Ronald E McNair Discovery Academy 

North Panola High School 

Carver High School 

Agape Christian Academy 

Sparks Middle School 

North Carolina A&T State University 

Stephenson High School 

Brashear High School 

West Orange High School 

Arapahoe High School 

Edison High School 

Liberty Technology Magnet High School 

Hillhouse High School 

Berrendo Middle School 

Purdue University 

South Carolina State University 

Los Angeles Valley College 

Charles F Brush High School 

University of Southern California 

Georgia Regents University 

Academy of Knowledge Preschool 

Benjamin Banneker High School 

D H Conley High School 

East English Village Preparatory Academy 

Paine College 

Georgia Gwinnett College 

John F Kennedy High School 

Seattle Pacific University 

Reynolds High School 

Indiana State University 

Albemarle High School 

Fern Creek Traditional High School 

Langston Hughes High School 

Marysville Pilchuck High School 

Florida State University 

Miami Carol City High School 

Rogers State University 

Rosemary Anderson High School 

Wisconsin Lutheran High School 

Frederick High School 

Tenaya Middle School 

Bethune-Cookman University 

Pershing Elementary School 

Wayne Community College 

JB Martin Middle School 

Southwestern Classical Academy 

Savannah State University 

Harrisburg High School 

Umpqua Community College 

Northern Arizona University 

Texas Southern University 

Tennessee State University 

Winston-Salem State University 

Mojave High School 

Lawrence Central High School 

Franklin High School 

Muskegon Heights High School 

Independence High School 

Madison High School 

Antigo High School 

University of California-Los Angeles 

Jeremiah Burke High School 

Alpine High School 

Townville Elementary School 

Vigor High School 

Linden McKinley STEM Academy 

June Jordan High School for Equity 

Union Middle School 

Mueller Park Junior High School 

West Liberty-Salem High School 

University of Washington 

King City High School 

North Park Elementary School 

North Lake College 

Freeman High School 

Mattoon High School 

Rancho Tehama Elementary School 

Aztec High School 

Wake Forest University 

Italy High School 

NET Charter High School 

Marshall County High School 

Sal Castro Middle School 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Great Mills High School

Central Michigan University

Huffman High School

Frederick Douglass High School

Forest High School

Highland High School

Dixon High School

Santa Fe High School

Noblesville West Middle School

University of North Carolina Charlotte

STEM School Highlands Ranch

Edgewood High School

Palm Beach Central High School

Providence Career & Technical Academy

Fairley High School (school bus)

Canyon Springs High School

Dennis Intermediate School

Florida International University 

Central Elementary School

Cascade Middle School

Davidson High School

Prairie View A & M University 

Altascocita High School

Central Academy of Excellence

Cleveland High School

Robert E Lee High School

Cheyenne South High School

Grambling State University

Blountsville Elementary School

Holmes County, Mississippi (school bus)

Prescott High School

College of the Mainland

Wynbrooke Elementary School

UNC Charlotte

Riverview Florida (school bus)

Second Chance High School

Carman-Ainsworth High School

Williwaw Elementary School

Monroe Clark Middle School

Central Catholic High School

Jeanette High School

Eastern Hills High School

DeAnza High School

Ridgway High School

Reginald F Lewis High School

Saugus High School

Pleasantville High School

Waukesha South High School

Oshkosh High School

Catholic Academy of New Haven

Bellaire High School

North Crowley High School

McAuliffe Elementary School 

South Oak Cliff High School

Texas A&M University-Commerce

Sonora High School

Western Illinois University

Oxford High School

Robb Elementary SchoolThurston High School

Columbine High School 

Heritage High School 

Deming Middle School 

Fort Gibson Middle School 

Buell Elementary School 

Lake Worth Middle School 

University of Arkansas 

Junipero Serra High School 

Santana High School 

Bishop Neumann High School 

Pacific Lutheran University 

Granite Hills High School 

Lew Wallace High School 

Martin Luther King, Jr High School 

Appalachian School of Law 

Washington High School 

Conception Abbey 

Benjamin Tasker Middle School 

University of Arizona 

Lincoln High School 

John McDonogh High School 

Red Lion Area Junior High School 

Case Western Reserve University 

Rocori High School 

Ballou High School 

Randallstown High School 

Bowen High School 

Red Lake Senior High School 

Harlan Community Academy High School 

Campbell County High School 

Milwee Middle School 

Roseburg High School 

Pine Middle School 

Essex Elementary School 

Duquesne University 

Platte Canyon High School 

Weston High School 

West Nickel Mines School 

Joplin Memorial Middle School 

Henry Foss High School 

Compton Centennial High School 

Virginia Tech 

Success Tech Academy 

Miami Carol City Senior High School 

Hamilton High School 

Louisiana Technical College 

Mitchell High School 

EO Green Junior High School 

Northern Illinois University 

Lakota Middle School 

Knoxville Central High School 

Willoughby South High School 

Henry Ford High School 

University of Central Arkansas 

Dillard High School 

Dunbar High School 

Hampton University 

Harvard College 

Larose-Cut Off Middle School 

International Studies Academy 

Skyline College 

Discovery Middle School 

University of Alabama 

DeKalb School 

Deer Creek Middle School 

Ohio State University 

Mumford High School 

University of Texas 

Kelly Elementary School 

Marinette High School 

Aurora Central High School 

Millard South High School 

Martinsville West Middle School 

Worthing High School 

Millard South High School

Highlands Intermediate School 

Cape Fear High School 

Chardon High School 

Episcopal School of Jacksonville 

Oikos University 

Hamilton High School 

Perry Hall School 

Normal Community High School 

University of South Alabama 

Banner Academy South 

University of Southern California 

Sandy Hook Elementary School 

Apostolic Revival Center Christian School 

Taft Union High School 

Osborn High School 

Stevens Institute of Business and Arts 

Hazard Community and Technical College 

Chicago State University 

Lone Star College-North 

Cesar Chavez High School 

Price Middle School 

University of Central Florida 

New River Community College 

Grambling State University 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School 

Ronald E McNair Discovery Academy 

North Panola High School 

Carver High School 

Agape Christian Academy 

Sparks Middle School 

North Carolina A&T State University 

Stephenson High School 

Brashear High School 

West Orange High School 

Arapahoe High School 

Edison High School 

Liberty Technology Magnet High School 

Hillhouse High School 

Berrendo Middle School 

Purdue University 

South Carolina State University 

Los Angeles Valley College 

Charles F Brush High School 

University of Southern California 

Georgia Regents University 

Academy of Knowledge Preschool 

Benjamin Banneker High School 

D H Conley High School 

East English Village Preparatory Academy 

Paine College 

Georgia Gwinnett College 

John F Kennedy High School 

Seattle Pacific University 

Reynolds High School 

Indiana State University 

Albemarle High School 

Fern Creek Traditional High School 

Langston Hughes High School 

Marysville Pilchuck High School 

Florida State University 

Miami Carol City High School 

Rogers State University 

Rosemary Anderson High School 

Wisconsin Lutheran High School 

Frederick High School 

Tenaya Middle School 

Bethune-Cookman University 

Pershing Elementary School 

Wayne Community College 

JB Martin Middle School 

Southwestern Classical Academy 

Savannah State University 

Harrisburg High School 

Umpqua Community College 

Northern Arizona University 

Texas Southern University 

Tennessee State University 

Winston-Salem State University 

Mojave High School 

Lawrence Central High School 

Franklin High School 

Muskegon Heights High School 

Independence High School 

Madison High School 

Antigo High School 

University of California-Los Angeles 

Jeremiah Burke High School 

Alpine High School 

Townville Elementary School 

Vigor High School 

Linden McKinley STEM Academy 

June Jordan High School for Equity 

Union Middle School 

Mueller Park Junior High School 

West Liberty-Salem High School 

University of Washington 

King City High School 

North Park Elementary School 

North Lake College 

Freeman High School 

Mattoon High School 

Rancho Tehama Elementary School 

Aztec High School 

Wake Forest University 

Italy High School 

NET Charter High School 

Marshall County High School 

Sal Castro Middle School 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Great Mills High School

Central Michigan University

Huffman High School

Frederick Douglass High School

Forest High School

Highland High School

Dixon High School

Santa Fe High School

Noblesville West Middle School

University of North Carolina Charlotte

STEM School Highlands Ranch

Edgewood High School

Palm Beach Central High School

Providence Career & Technical Academy

Fairley High School (school bus)

Canyon Springs High School

Dennis Intermediate School

Florida International University 

Central Elementary School

Cascade Middle School

Davidson High School

Prairie View A & M University 

Altascocita High School

Central Academy of Excellence

Cleveland High School

Robert E Lee High School

Cheyenne South High School

Grambling State University

Blountsville Elementary School

Holmes County, Mississippi (school bus)

Prescott High School

College of the Mainland

Wynbrooke Elementary School

UNC Charlotte

Riverview Florida (school bus)

Second Chance High School

Carman-Ainsworth High School

Williwaw Elementary School

Monroe Clark Middle School

Central Catholic High School

Jeanette High School

Eastern Hills High School

DeAnza High School

Ridgway High School

Reginald F Lewis High School

Saugus High School

Pleasantville High School

Waukesha South High School

Oshkosh High School

Catholic Academy of New Haven

Bellaire High School

North Crowley High School

McAuliffe Elementary School 

South Oak Cliff High School

Texas A&M University-Commerce

Sonora High School

Western Illinois University

Oxford High School

Bridgewater University

Robb Elementary School

Covenant Christian School

Jason D. Guinasso is the managing partner of law firm Hutchison & Steffen’s office in Reno. He is a litigator and trial attorney who also maintains an appellate practice, which includes petitions for judicial review of administrative decisions, extraordinary writs, and appeals to the Nevada Supreme Court. He also is legal counsel for the Reno/Fernley Crisis Pregnancy Center and an associate pastor at Ministerio Palabra de Vida where he serves a diverse multicultural church.

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