Gun control

Why don’t Church leaders speak out about gun violence?

I’m asking the question. I don’t know. But I’m not aware of pronouncements from Salt Lake on the topic. Anyone know why?


  1. It’s a uniquely American problem with no obvious solution (that doesn’t leave the Constitution hanging by a thread)?

  2. My guess is they, and church members generally, see this as an urban problem and not something relevant for most church members.

  3. Aaron Brown says:

    Because of the political demographics of the membership. A firestorm on the right is a much bigger deal than a firestorm on the left.

    Aaron B

  4. Doesn’t love your neighbor, be Christ-like, and forgive others cover it?

  5. Kevin Barney says:
  6. Clark Goble says:

    Kimball in False Gods We Worship touches upon aspects of it.

  7. Maybe I should clarify: I’m not interested in disparaging our leaders. But Salt Lake seems to have been silent on the epidemic of gun violence, and I’m wondering why. The Oaks quote doesn’t really address the topic.

  8. “Why don’t Church leaders speak out about gun violence?”

    The Ten Commandments were made for barbarians.

  9. I’m not persuaded very much by references to Jesus or the Ten Commandments as somehow sufficient enough to not require further pronouncements. If that argument held water we wouldn’t really need modern prophets. We look to them to speak to the issues of our day, even when the answers refer back to Christ. There are many, many examples of this. The approach of letting current leaders off the hook for not talking about the world around them seems like a cop-out.

  10. For the same reason they don’t talk about global warming – the church leaders don’t want to alienate their Fox News watching, tithe paying base.

  11. The Church made sure they got exemptions from allowing concealed guns for religious institutions in Utah. So, while UT public universities can’t prohibit guns on their campuses, BYU can.
    The Church is silent on a lot of important issues that negatively impact people’s lives. For example, it is well-established that poverty can have life-long negative developmental effects on children. Climate change poses a big threat, especially for the poorest of poor in developing nations. Inequality and greed are increasing. Yet, the Church focuses on pornography and the purported threat of legalized same-sex marriage.

  12. Lois, the Church does talk about poverty a fair bit, but yes, we do talk a lot about families. I don’t view an emphasis on families as somehow exclusive. Indeed if we really want to defend families we should work to bring them out of poverty and help keep them safe daily.

  13. I don’t know either. The issue of same-sex marriage is requiring all of their focus?

  14. I take your point Steve but what further clarification is needed? Yes the prophets speak about porn today which is largely a modern phenomenon. A big reason for that (I assume) is that so many members have problems with it or try to rationalize it. But does anyone rationalize gun violence? Is there a widespread problem with gun violence in our membership? Does anyone think the prophets condone it?

    Or are you asking why doesn’t the church take a gun control position?

    I think the idea that the church doesn’t want to offend it’s conservative members is silly given their recent statements on immigration and support of anti discrimination laws.

  15. Marc, you make some good points, but I think you’re overstating the novelty of pornography and understating the novelty of gun violence. Yes, people rationalize it. Why do you think gun legislation is the third rail in politics?

  16. It would be nice if leaders from all different denominations, began a dialogue about gun violence and what can be don about it. Something has to change. I just can’t accept the idea that we can’t do anything about it. Wouldn’t it be nice to see LDS church leaders taking an initiative in this effort.

  17. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    The international perspective here is interesting. Yes, gun violence is a uniquely American problem (not exclusive to the US, but unique, nonetheless). But the church is also uniquely American – despite global membership distribution. Gun violence is recognized as a problem in the US, and I imagine members worldwide may be puzzled by the silence of church leaders on the issue. Given the church’s willingness to speak out on other issues that are primarily US issues, why not this one?

  18. John Mansfield says:

    One possibility is that church leaders speak on things that they are inspired to speak about. With that buck passing, it is not at all surprising when the topics of their inspiration don’t quite align with current events. My thoughts are not your thoughts, inordinate fondness of beetles, etc.

  19. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    But there’s something about expecting leaders to. … lead. When they choose not to lead on important and obvious issues, hiding behind the need to be inspired before doing so, I find them uninspiring.

  20. John, that seems very plausible.

  21. Really Steve? You asked the question. And you’re satisfied by John Mansfield’s reply?

  22. I didn’t say that I found it satisfying, only that his reply sounded plausible.

  23. I think the church stays away from issues that don’t directly concern its own membership. Social issues like gun violence have almost nothing to do with the church and its members. But social issues like SSM and immigration hit closer to home (with the battle against SSM being a preemptive strike in a larger battle over religious freedom, even though SSM doesn’t really effect LDS families directly.)

  24. Nate, you’re going to have to convince me a little more that gun violence has almost nothing to do with the Church and its members.

  25. Nate’s answer I suppose is also “plausible” but also very unsatisfying. C’mon. Prophets, seers, and revelators that only concern themselves with the church membership? The membership is a tiny, tiny percentage of the population in the US and in the world. Really? Sad.

  26. I guess by that standard the Mormons are saying that God only cares about you if you’re a Mormon.

  27. ColoradoMormon says:
  28. Gees, I thought one of the main liberal arguments against the church’s crusade against SSM was that they were trying to impose LDS morality on the general populace. We wanted our prophets to leave the Gentiles alone as they were not under our Law. Now that it’s gun control, we want the prophets to shake their fingers at the Gentiles?

  29. Not exactly answering what I put to you, Nate, are you?

  30. I’m disturbed that Nate is equating gun violence with SSM.

  31. Kristen, be fair, he’s not equating them at all (though that doesn’t mean he’s right)

  32. eponymous says:

    From ColoradoMormon’s link:

    LDS leaders usually refrain from commenting on any matters of legislation unless they consider the issue one of morality.

    If you live in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, you generally grow up very familiar with guns. Especially if you come from a family with a long history in the area. You’ve probably gone hunting or have friends who do. You’ve gone out in the desert or the mountains and plinked cans off a rail. You’ve used a rifle, pistol or shotgun to deal with pests on the ranch or farm (maybe not yours but a friend’s or a relative’s). As a Boy Scout you earned your Rifle & Shotgun merit badge. You quite possibly hold an NRA membership card.

    There’s a deep relationship with using guns for recreation and work. So you recognize the value of guns and also likely feel that what is important is education about the proper handling of guns and safety around them.

    With that in mind Steve, how are they supposed to approach this other than to say “Love your fellow man?” What would Jesus say? “Stop killing each other.”

    But just because it leads in the TV news (if it bleeds it leads) does that mean you need to address it directly? How big of an issue is it when compared to everything else? Who is to say they aren’t using their influence in less public and obvious ways?

    I don’t know the answer here but I agree with the thought that they mourn with those who mourn and look for ways to encourage peace. You might just as well ask the question why don’t they speak out on our economic dependence on maintaining a large military and manufacturing weapons of war. Is that not an equally problematic issue? Why don’t they speak out on America’s warlike mentality? Why don’t they directly address the question of child slavery and the exploitation of young girls internationally?

    Are you really asking why isn’t God making a statement through his Prophets? What should He say?

  33. Steve, I am merely saying that no one is in favor of gun violence (unless you are completely crazy). It’s what to do about it that is the problem. SSM is legal and accepted by many.

  34. Eponymous, if they mourn, maybe they should say so?

    And yes, I agree that all the other issues you ask about should be addressed.

  35. eponymous says:

    Steve, there are times when they have addressed it. Consider the 1999 shooting at the Family History Library and how President Hinckley spoke in his eulogy.

    Click to access 114-73-79.pdf

    Then again in the interview with Larry King just a year earlier, President Hinckley commented:

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Politics aside. The church does not become involved in politics. We don’t favor any candidate. We don’t permit our buildings to be used for political purposes. We don’t favor any party.

    Larry King: But you do speak out, or will speak out more on moral issues?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: We speak very strongly on moral issues. Gambling, liquor, what have you, yes.

    Larry King: Against them all, right?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: That’s right.

    Larry King: How about guns?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Guns, we haven’t done much with. I don’t have one.

    Larry King: Neither do I, but are you thinking about maybe speaking out more on guns?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: I don’t think we’ve given it any consideration that I remember.

  36. Indeed. Twenty-six years ago. Has it really been that long?

  37. Patrick Seegmiller says:

    I would love to know the answer to this question. I love that we were counselled about caring for refugees, and I hope we hear more regarding events not just in the US but across the world. Currently, I find myself struggling to come up with answers to your question which are charitable to Church leaders.

  38. The headline for the post is gun control, but the question is about gun violence. Not everyone connects those the same way. Judging by my facebook feed, some people think more gun control would increase gun violence (because only criminals would have guns) while others think gun control would reduce gun violence. Few, if any, people actually have a discussion to try to determine the right way to do gun control.

    I suspect there are several reasons that GAs do not address either gun control or gun violence.

    1. Gun violence is multiple orders of magnitude less prevalent than other examples from the topics du jour. Consider that when speaking of a congregation with 100-300 adults, you can be fairly certain that some don’t pay tithing, some look at porn, some are struggling in their marriage, some just don’t believe anymore, and some are gay. Unless they are soldiers in war time, it’s also a pretty safe bet that none of them are going to shoot some body any time soon.

    2. There is not a consensus that gun control reduces gun violence. Gun violence in the other hand, is covered under a wide variety of other topics already, and does not require special mention.

    3. Corallary to item (2), church leadership probably sees gun control as political issue, not a moral issue, and thus not something to be discussed officially.

  39. I’m not sure about this easy division between political issues and moral issues.

  40. Not really an answer, but I see and I’ve heard it observed that there is a long-time (post WWI especially) tendency for conservative and fundamentalist Christianity, including Mormonism, to focus on sex. Attention to the poor and needy, to the environment, to violence, even to prosperity, are noticeable by contrast to the baseline focus on sex. (Lest I let another obvious point pass by, I view the Mormon focus on “family” as sex with polite company attire.)

  41. Christian, I think you’re right, and boy…is that depressing. Kind of the exact opposite of what Jesus focused on…

  42. I agree that political and moral issues are not easily (or correctly) divided, but I think that church leadership actually does consider them this way. The quote given by eponymous lends credence here. Larry King brought up the subject of guns to see if it is political or moral issue, and the question was pretty much dodged. Not really clear proof, but considering that Hinckley spoke outright against the legal vices of gambling and liquor, and not against guns, it seems to me that wgen speaking extemporaneously he didn’t consider gun control or ownership a moral issue.

  43. Perhaps the gun issue should be considered along with the 12th Article of Faith. I would say there are probably a fair number of politically conservative Mormons (particularly in UT) who view the “end times” as one in which individuals will take up arms against the U.S. govt.-in the mold of Cliven Bundy.

  44. It is true that General Conference doesn’t really address “Thou shalt not kill.” Sacrament meeting doesn’t really teach about it either. However, it is just assumed that we know that it is wrong to kill. If the bishop was teaching thou shalt not kill to the ward, or if the prophet was pleading with us not to kill, everyone would be surprised because out of the millions of members, how many of us are murderers? It makes more sense to teach us to recognize when we are being selfish, recognize when we are treating others poorly, recognize when we are sinning and seek help from friends, family & ward members and seeking help from the Lord. It makes more sense to teach us to love our neighbor, do our VT and fulfill our calling so that we help those who are struggling around us to prevent tragedies.
    In our ward, there are people who babysit so a struggling family can go to marriage counseling. People who help when someone is dealing with depression. People who reach out to an 11 year old at activity days who seems lonely, people who reach out to help in times of tragedy, leaders who care passionately about the youth. This is how a community prevents gun violence. If everyone on earth is living the gospel, the gun violence will be gone. The church knows that the best thing they can do is convert everyone and have everyone participating in their ward and living the commandments.

  45. Eve of Destruction says:

    I suspect it has something to do with the church’s tendency to view morality in terms of choices made by individuals. The anti-gun-control line “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” fits right into this. I suspect church leaders see the problem as murder, mass murder, terrorism, etc. The chosen weapon (assault rifle, revolver, lead pipe, rope, candlestick, wrench…) is not related the individual’s sinful choice to kill other humans. So speaking out against a society that allows certain highly efficient weapons to proliferate unabated does not fit into the LDS agency-based, individual-intent-focused definition of morality.

    The idea that moral choices only happen at the level of individual conscious choice (that a sin is not committed societally, except if everyone in the society is personally choosing to commit or tolerate that sin) prevents the LDS from having clear doctrinal support to speak out on a lot of social justice issues, not just gun control.

  46. Gun control = the details and particular “hows” of current legislative/political control of the sale and possession of firearms.

    Gun violence = what you do with the guns you legally or illegally obtained

    One is a legislative question. The other is a moral question.

    Though the church has, in the past, made statements about new, proposed legislation involving broad sweeping legalization of something that has heretofore been deemed immoral and illegal (or never heretofore been considered as a possible choice) the church, in my experience, does not express opinions about changing the details of currently existing, detailed, debated, legislation. Getting involved in the specific particular details of government controls of a controlled substance or item (who gets to, who doesn’t get to, under what circumstances, what exactly the limits are) is a detailed legislative question, not a moral one.

    I don’t need for the church to make a statement on gun control. I am hugely anti-violence and no one in my family possesses or uses firearms, and besides the deep sorrow over gun violence in general in my country that I feel, I have also had the experience of personally losing a friend who died of a gunshot wound. So technically I might be one of the people who would be considered to be pleased with an official pronouncement. But I think the church is wise to stay out of legislative details of current laws. I can maintain my position on guns in the company of my gun-toting LDS friends just fine without needing a pronouncement on a legislative issue. And I can continue to advocate politically for what I think is wise legislative reform without needing official church reassurance that what I’m doing is fine.

    On the other hand, gun violence, what people DO with guns, is definitely a moral question. It is a subset of the questions about hearts waxing cold (hate, physical and emotional abuse, fighting, war, murder, and even hunting for sport etc., etc.). And the church has been very clear on the question of cold hearts and its subsets.

  47. trevorprice924 says:

    To paraphrase something Greg Prince once said, sometimes you can get insight into what the leaders are thinking based on what *doesn’t* happen. I suspect that if there are some who’d like to address the topic, there are others who oppose such a move.

  48. Gun violence is not a uniquely American problem. There are several countries which have much higher gun deaths per 100,000 persons.
    Gun control is anti-Constitutional, therefore if we believe that the Savior gave His okay to the US Constitution in the D&C, then we may speak out against all violence, but not try to pass legislation which would result in restriction to civilians owning firearms.

  49. I don’t believe gun violence is any more worthy of discussion, or any more dangerous than “fork” violence. Forks are the cause of millions of deaths each year due to heart failure, high blood pressure, obesity, etc., etc. Maybe “spoon” violence might be included (ice cream you know). Or maybe “automobile” violence would be another important discussion.

  50. I wish that the leaders would do more to encourage people to be active in seeking a solution. The leadership doesn’t need to propose a solution, but I think it would be incredibly helpful if they pushed involvement in finding a solution the way they pushed involvement in blocking gay marriage.

  51. Wow.

  52. It had to go there at some point. It always does.

  53. I think that MB and TrevorPrice924 probably come the closest with their answers. As for Linda, I’m with you Steve. Wow.

    And to be honest, right now the research is pretty mixed on what specific legislative/policy actions make a difference. Mass murderers tend to be be highly motivated. It would take draconian gun control measures to shift the supply curves enough to prevent potential mass murders from getting guns. On the other hand, permit-to-purchase laws do reduce more common gun deaths, including suicides. And finally, certain lawmakers have blocked federal funding for studying gun deaths for 20 years or so – so the dearth of quality, non-partisan research will continue.

    Basically, the Church can either make very,very specific policy pronouncements – which I am loathe for them to do for a number of reasons; or make broader morality pushes, which they do often.

  54. Gun control is both a political and a moral issue, but the reason LDS leaders don’t speak about it is that it is also a marker of deep cultural divisions. Take a position on gun control and you’re taking sides in a white-hot culture war that divides people along lines of education, race, wealth, and urban or rural background, not to mention political party. As a church we need to speak the message of Christ to all sides in that war. If you think that the Church’s commitment to opposing same-sex marriage has been a problematic political distraction from our central purposes (and I do think so), then getting into the gun control debate would probably send the good ship Zion right onto the rocky lee shore. In a gale-force wind.

  55. They do talk about it but not in the terms of the world or politics so if you arent looking for it you wont find it.

  56. Ron, that sounds pretty subtle.

  57. I live in Canada and we really don’t have this problem. We are more prone to lone wolf attacks. Those though are rare. What scares me more is I know members who think they are above the law and own guns. I know a, now released branch presidency member, who got drunk and had the elders over for dinner and wanted to show them his gun collection. Well, a drunk guy with guns? scary stuff. I know another guy in our stake who is paranoid delusional and lives on a small farm here in Manitoba and he has unregistered long guns. With his mental state and all those guns around? that is bad news. When I say paranoid delusional he thinks the government is bugging his toothpaste, he knows all the secrets that the government doesn’t want anyone to know…. Those people I am more worried about than terrorists, at least in Canada

  58. Did Linda say something that’s not in the 98th section of the D&C? I’m missing the “wow” on her statement. It seems to me that a majority of the American LDS population believes that God helped inspire the Constitution and that, therefore, it shouldn’t be monkeyed with by trying to water down the 2nd amendment.

    This is not to say that this is what I, personally, believe; I just wonder how much American entertainment culture contributes to the problem of gun violence. Americans have always believed that guns are sometimes a perfectly valid way of solving disagreements, hence our numerous violent movies in which guns play an essential part, whether it be spy thrillers or westerns or sci-fi; everybody’s got guns, and I think we all know about the Chekhov’s gun principle: what’s the point of having one if you’re not going to eventually use it? And how much comes down to just good old American paranoia? Solve that one, and you can probably solve the problem of gun violence.

  59. Last I checked, the 2nd Amendment isn’t actually the part that God wrote.

  60. Clark Goble says:

    I actually think dealing with how the Constitution is inspired is a significant issue. I just don’t think that means every part of the constitution is an eternal good. However just as there are reasons why people read Gen 2-3 or 2 Ne 2 to imply no death before the fall, there are reasons why hearing the constitution is inspired means that even bit of it is good. Most people just don’t have a good familiarity with the constitution let alone its history. So they don’t understand the idea of compromises inherent to it. Once you raise the specter of slavery, then I think most people quickly realize the issues involved. i.e. convincing southern states to join the union required compromises from what an ideal constitution dictated by God might have been. It’s just that I doubt most people think about the issue that long or in that level of complexity.

    That said, there does appear to be a religious/ethical presumption to a right of self-defense. Figuring out the issue with guns gets complicated due to all sorts of related issues. For instance how much violence, especially domestic violence, is related to drugs and alcohol? How much to past discrimination on housing and bad economic policy? I’d say probably the majority – there’s no intrinsic reason why gun violence in Chicago shouldn’t be the same as in Provo for instance.

    Given those complexities I can understand why the Church might not want to jump into the issue.

    I’ve got my own views on the issue, but I’d be the first to admit I just don’t think it as obvious or straightforward as many do. That said I do dislike the way guns have been fetishized by both proponents and opponents into a kind of signaling about other sorts of things.

  61. Clark Goble says:

    BTW – I’d actually argue that many see the main amendments to the constitution primarily (but not universally) about natural rights. I think a compelling case could be made that the part of the constitution most inspired by God is related to natural rights. Or at least that such a view reflects many leaders views both in the 19th century and contemporary. Now I’m a natural right skeptic and actually am not enamored of rights talk in general. But for many members it’s rights talk that is most fundamental. Which is why I think the discussion is more murky and trickier than many suppose.

  62. I like Eve of Destruction’s explanation. Church leaders don’t speak about social justice issues in general, and guns are just one example. They really only focus on individual-level problems, and don’t seem too concerned with large-scale social problems like poverty or war. President Benson’s famous statement that “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums.” explains this distinction well, I think.

  63. Alma 31:5
    “And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.”

    Joseph Smith
    “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

    I think our Church leaders focus their attention teaching first principles that, if applied in our society, would largely eliminate symptoms like gun violence.

  64. Well, we must respect the jehadi’s (or secessionist’s) constitutional right to try to change the government to their liking. Isn’t that what the 2nd amendment is all about? Everybody else is just a casualty of war. Why should the Church have a comment.

  65. christiankimball says:

    I’m inclined to all of the “political not moral” (however difficult the distinction) and “no common view” and “not inspired (yet)” replies. However, they are most persuasive at the institutional “we say” level. By contrast, I would have expected a number of individual general authorities to take up gun control and violence more generally, in conference talks or otherwise. The paucity of individual talks on the subject is puzzling.

  66. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    If the Church was content to teach principles, letting people govern themselves, it would not oppose legalizing gambling, and it would be much easier to buy alcohol in Utah. It should be much more difficult to buy an assault rifle in the state.

    Also, church leaders do speak out on political issues. Their silence on this particular issue should tell us where they really stand. There’s no evidence for me to believe otherwise.

  67. The focus on the individual-level is predominant in GA discourse but don’t forget the First Presidency statement about the placement of the MX missile system. Now, that can be seen as taking a stand against the nuclear arms race, flexing political muscle on issues particular to Utah, or some combination of the two but the Church did stake out a clear moral position.

  68. A Happy Hubby says:

    Maybe is is influenced by the fact that even though guns are prevalent in the west (as mentioned by some above), but it has not come up in the minds of the brethren to ask since there are not mass shootings in Utah – so they don’t see it as a threat to the main church body.

  69. Mass shootings have happened in Utah. Here is one…

    Though I’m not saying it is common.

    I’m now leaning away from the political vs moral distinction that I suggested earlier and more towards the no-consensus theory.

    And truth be told, I’m not sure what they would say if they did say something. Would they favor gun control or an armed population to stop mass shootings? I think that people on both sides of the issue believe the church would side with them.

  70. If what you are seeking is for the Church to come out in support of gun control, then I think that you will be extremely disappointed. There is a big difference between speaking out against gun violence, and speaking out in support of gun control. The former has a strong doctrinal basis. The latter is far more doctrinally problematic.

    There are numerous scriptures throughout the Standard Works that strongly support armed self-defense. For example, “And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. …” (Alma 43:47). Similarly, in Luke 22:36, “…and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” Firearms have a long history of defensive use in the Church. From Zion’s Camp, to Carthage Jail, to Johnson’s Army and beyond, firearms have been used or held ready to protect the Church and its members.

    Yes, there are scriptures that can support pacifism, but those are usually somewhat limited in their application, and are not generally expressed as a commandment. The same People of Ammon who made a laudable covenant to never shed blood again were willing to break that covenant to protect those they loved, and agreed to send their sons to fight while led by a prophet of the Lord. While the People of Ammon were praised for their commitment to their covenant, that doesn’t lessen the valor of other examples in the scriptures who did raise weapons in defense of self, family, and liberty, such as Captain Moroni, Alma, Mormon, or Helaman.

    Ultimately, it falls to each individual to decide for himself or herself whether or not it is appropriate, after studying the subject out and seeking personal revelation on the matter. For the Church to come out in favor of gun control would be to undercut that personalized instruction that each person is supposed to seek from the Lord. There is no need for the Church to inject itself into a political question like gun control that is almost explicitly left up to individuals to receive guidance by personal revelation. (Keep in mind that just because you receive personal revelation that says that you should avoid guns doesn’t mean that others will receive the same personalized direction.)

  71. Observer, I’m looking for the church to say SOMETHING.

  72. Criminologist here – just going completely secular I’m not sure I would expect them to. While the media clearly trumps these up, and we do have a relatively uniquely high homicide rate in the U.S. compared to other developed nations, mass shootings are still extremely rare. In fact, I’m not sure we know that/if they are increasing. Homicide itself is at a low point, especially compared to America in the 80’s/90’s. Our only national measure of homicide is the Uniform Crime Reports – Supplementary Homicide Reports. We can look at multiple victims, but the report itself is actually by incident (i.e., a mass shooting would be one incident typically). Pair that with the lack of focus on gun violence and we just don’t know much. I once heard a quote that trying to win the lottery is like trying to commit suicide by commercial flying. I think that is illustrative of what’s going on here. Cognitive biases no doubt affecting this as well. In reality one mass shooting is too many but we just can’t get rid of them,and they are still rare. Given this I think the Brethren are taking a responsible hands off approach — hopefully focusing on the thing that Heavenly Father wants us to hear instead of what we think is important in this instance. By no means do I want to minimize mass shootings, just put them in context.

    Aside from that there really isn’t an easy answer. We have evidence to support both sides depending on what countries we choose to look at. Cross-national statistics are horrific nightmares of confounding variables that just add fodder for whatever side wants to use them for their rhetoric. Despite what facebook posts will tell you we really don’t know what to do with guns and the answer is really not obvious.

    *Technical note – to give an idea for those interested, there really aren’t too many useful time series models to help us address changes over time, especially for crimes in our field. We have borrowed things like survivor analysis and others but we are still stuck with things like ARIMA, but these are simplistic. I just did a study and needed time series using count data, as it turns out it is discipline norm to just use a probit/negative binomial and put in trend variables to account for time. Given these models we just are not at the point where we figure out what to do with guns.

  73. J Johnsen says:

    Seems pretty simple. The Church knows many people worship guns just like they worship God, and the COB is worried that if they had to chose between the two God would lose…

  74. Eve of Destruction says:

    Warren, I don’t think the MX missile statement is an example of societal morality as opposed to individual morality. When the statement outlines worst-case scenarios, the blame is on unwise government leaders and on an unnamed aggressor. I read this as one or a few people bearing individual moral fault for the potential destruction of a society. This is the same approach as believing the only people responsible for the shootings are the shooters, and maybe a few other individuals who personally influenced them or personally failed to stop them or otherwise made individual conscious choices directly traceable to the outcome.

    What I am referring to by societal morality is an idea that we are all, without exception, complicit in the moral wrongs of all. The idea that violence (nuclear or gun or any other type) does not stem only from the wrong choice of a lone wolf or unwise official or rogue aggressor, but from the brokenness of a society that we all play a role in supporting as-is.

  75. Steve,

    You don’t come across as though you simply want the Church to say “something”. The wording of your post and its title strongly suggest that you want them to say something specific.

    The Church has previously condemned violence, and has taken a rather consistent stand on the subject (whether talking about domestic violence, or the need to be more Christlike in general). What more do you expect them to say? Do you want them to make a press release every time some sorrowful incident happens, if only to express sympathy to the families of those involved?

    The Church doesn’t generally issue wide, public pronouncements on issues that are left to personal revelation. For example, the Church has specifically stated that the use of birth control and family planning is a matter for each couple to work out for themselves, after seeking personal revelation. As a result, you don’t generally see the Church issue statements condemning (or advocating) birth control, except for the use of abortion as a birth control method. (And even then, the Church doesn’t generally inject itself into political questions related to abortion.)

    In the same way, the Church has generally spoken out on the need to show more love, compassion, and tolerance for those around us. It has strongly condemned those who would intentionally harm others, especially those who are otherwise helpless. But, in areas that are left to personal revelation, such as whether or not to own or carry a weapon for self-defense, and the laws associated with those areas, the Church has no need to speak out because the responsibility lies with each member to work it out for himself or herself.

  76. Observer,
    Excellent point. Why should we expect our leadership to mourn with those that mourn or comfort those in need of comforting? Who has the time?

  77. Observer, yes. At a minimum, some sort of expression of grief at the event I would view as a Christian duty.

  78. In general, the Church only makes statements on issues that either:

    1) directly affect the Church, or
    2) require an explicit doctrinal statement for clarification.

    It doesn’t tend to speak out on issues that it isn’t involved in unless there is a clear doctrinal issue at stake. In the case of various tragedies around the world, the Church will make a statement, but that is almost always associated with the Church taking action on the matter as well, such as sending relief supplies to a disaster-stricken area.

    What is the direct involvement of the Church in this issue? What specific doctrine requires clarification or expounding? Neither usual criteria really applies here.

    There are a lot of groups (on both sides) that will immediately seize upon any tragedy to draw themselves into the limelight. The Church isn’t one of those groups. In such cases, it will generally remain silent so as not to be seen as giving doctrinal support to one side or the other when it is a matter that doesn’t fall under a clear, universal doctrine.

  79. Keep in mind also the Savior’s counsel in Matthew 6:

    1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
    2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
    3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
    4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
    5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
    6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
    7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

    It is not necessary to “mourn with those who mourn” in public. If anything, we are encouraged to do so in private.

  80. Observer, mourning is not alms.

  81. I wrote a blog post a couple months back (click my name!) about the church’s silence on issues related to war…I theorized that it had to do with the church’s Americannness and its very atomized conception of human agency. Interestingly, gun violence is arguably the opposite on both of those, and yet…still silence.

    The cynic in me wants to argue that violence and war just aren’t issues that keep the tithing coming in and temple attendance high. But what do I know?

  82. sigh.

    I find myself drifting away from this blog nowadays, coming rarely. It’s the constant criticism and sniping that I find tiresome and annoying. I feel like its headed on a different path than it used to be.

    I have no love for guns (in fact I hate them) but if you are worried about this than you mourn with those that mourn. Stop worrying about what the church is doing and just do it yourself.

    Maybe they should and maybe they shouldn’t. The point is I’m going to worry about what I should be doing not what the prophets and apostles should be doing. They have enough to worry about.

    The other thing that I find tiresome and annoying is the constant disregard for what I considered one of the best posts by Steve Evans on considering yourself farther along than the church made back in June of 2014. The advice given in the original post and in some of the comments after that are priceless.

    I don’t expect anyone to care that one person is not coming much anymore. I just thought I would mention that I feel like things have drifted off course. Carry on, if you feel like I’m wrong.

  83. JTB, that is an excellent comment and I agree with it. I’m sorry if things are drifting away from what you need — why don’t you drop me a line privately (at the admin account) and talk to me about it. It does matter to me, a great deal.

  84. Handbook 2:
    “Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world. The carrying of lethal weapons, concealed or otherwise, within their walls is inappropriate except as required by officers of the law.”

    This kind of gun control? Or something else? As noted above, the Church did get involved legislatively in its home state of Utah by carving out a loophole specifically for houses of worship and any other Church-owned entity, such as BYU, in the “guns are allowed everywhere” laws passed several years ago. They’re one of two religious institutions in Utah that make sure they specifically meet the legal requirements to say that guns aren’t allowed in their churches (a yearly renewing of a web-based statement claiming that privilege). And there’s that Handbook 2 declaration above that hardly anyone seems to know about (except for the gun hoarder in my ward who knows about it and flouts it rather loudly and publicly).

  85. Thanks for listening Steve, I’ll try and drop you a line after church. You are a good man and I appreciate what you try to do here.

  86. On gun violence not really affecting church members: I’m a member. One of my colleagues was shot in San Bernardino. So was one of our students. Fortunately, they survived. A woman I went to university with died in the violence.

    I am profoundly affected.

    If God doesn’t want our leaders to say anything about this issue, okay. Really.

    But people are affected. Many more than I had realized.

  87. I don’t “know” why but I believe it has to do with the way we justify violence in our scriptures in very American ways.

    Read The Book of Mormon and swap the word “sword” with assault rifle or open carry hand gun. Is this thought experiment so radical it would be lost on our young people? Or would they quickly see Teancum as a righteous counter terrorism operative, Giddeon as a great example of right to bear arms for personal defense, Captain Moroni as a war on terror crusader enforcing liberty, Etc.

    America is a violent society because we are addicted to violence. We prefer war machines rather than peace mechanisms. The gun debate is just one small symptom of our larger infection… Becoming a warlike people. Even if we don’t personally commit the violence. We celebrate it in every form and narrative style across our culture.

    How else can we have endless Sunday school lessons about the full armor of God, songs of Christian Soldiers, and teach Captain Moroni as unidimensional righteous leader? We aren’t willing to question our own violence yet. We are too busy enjoying it.

  88. Steve,

    You are completely missing my point in your rush to nitpick. Yes, mourning is not alms, but your response misses the principle the Savior was teaching. He was teaching not to publicly proclaim your good deeds or outward manifestations of righteousness (which would include public mourning) just so you can be seen of men. That seems the opposite of what you want the Church to do on this issue.

    Moreover, what is the threshold for when you think the Church should speak out? Every incident of “gun violence”? Just “major” incidents? (What makes a major incident?) In the US, or worldwide? Does someone have to die, or is just being wounded or threatened enough?

    The Church doesn’t speak out on every issue, and it shouldn’t be expected to.

  89. I wasn’t nitpicking. The Church frequently makes public expressions of sympathy and concern for those who have suffered from natural disasters, wars and other tragedies. Perhaps they should follow your wisdom and shut up entirely? If you’re to be taken seriously, you are also calling the church to repent for those numerous times it has publicly mourned.

    I don’t think I’m missing your point.

  90. Leona,

    There is a difference between something that directly affects the Church and something that affects individual members. Individual members’ needs are supposed to be addressed on the local level. That is the main purpose of home and visiting teachers, priesthood quorums, the relief society, and so forth.

    The Church as a whole (i.e. GAs, CHQ, etc) is there to provide resources beyond what individual localities can, and focus on the wider issues of doctrine.

  91. Why doesnt the Church talk about gun violence? Simple, because it, i.e. gun violence isnt a problem. It is a symptom that is seen as a result of societal breakdown( for example the black on black violence in the inner cities which sees a lot of violence done by illegal guns). But, guns owned legally by US citizens, isnt a problem. Therefore the Church does not address it. Unless you want the Church to jump on the liberal-left bandwagon and start blathering on and on about the NRA and legal gun-owners. Isnt that what you want, Steve?

  92. Steve,

    I addressed those instances already. If you look at the specifics of those cases, it is almost always in the context of the Church taking action to provide relief, and actively calling for members (and others) to join in.

    What specific action(s) do you expect the Church to take in association with such a statement? What “call to action” do you foresee the Church making alongside that statement?

  93. Observer, perhaps the next time a mass murder takes place in Utah, the church leadership could appropriately express concern and sympathy, and then call for Congress to lifts its ban on any sort of data collection by the CDC on gun violence. That might be something practical. And moral.

  94. Is the problem with violence or is it with guns?

  95. It is an American problem. In this respect, they recognize that we are a world wide church.

  96. Because it has nothing to do with gay marriage.

  97. Cause lots of members own guns and carry. Typical response around here to efforts on gun control is to buy more guns and ammo.

  98. David Brown says:

    “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior
    will improve behavior. … That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” Boyd K. Packer

    I think they recognize the problem. Guns don’t kill. People kill. The trick is to change men and women from the inside out. Not the other way around.

  99. I believe that they will speak out about gun violence. I can easily see them commenting on the trend of mass shootings that we have witnessed in the last few years and denounce them as evil acts of violence that oppose Christ’s teachings in every way.

    I don’t picture them speaking out for tighter gun control and legislation because I don’t think that they are convinced that will solve or address the root of the problem. They see change as something that needs to happen in the heart of each individual as they are converted by the teachings of Christ. Would bans and restrictions on guns change hearts of individuals?

    While personally I would be okay with tighter regulations on guns, I don’t think that would curb gun violence like we would hope. That is a cultural shift that needs to happen towards better mental health and more respect and value for human life. Our culture is quite violent in my opinion as evidenced by the media we consume on a daily basis.

    Lately I’ve been thinking about the Prohibition of Alcohol in the United States. How did that turn out? I think there are valuable lessons to learn from our history that may help inform the decisions our country might make regarding gun regulation.

  100. There’s always that pesky command in the D&C to renounce war. Shouldn’t that ought to cover, definition-wise, the use of firearms against one’s neighbor? A “If you have done it to the least of these my brethren” kind of thing? And of course, the command to renounce doesn’t say “renounce until” or “renounce unless”. Seems kind of unconditional to me.

  101. President Hinckley did. I am surprised the author did not know this.

  102. Me too!

  103. Dear Steve Evans,

    Here are a couple of history facts that perhaps were overlooked in your comment about my comment.

    The U.S. Constitution ratified – Jun 21, 1788 –
    with the original first 10 amendments.

    Doctrine & Covenants section 98 is dated August 6, 1833, some 40+ years after the 2nd Amendment was ratified.

    God not only didn’t write the 2nd Amendment, He also didn’t write the US Constitution. But he does say that it is a model for all peoples in all lands.

    D&C 98: 4-8
    4 And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.
    5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
    6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
    7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.
    8 I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.

    The framers of the Constitution must have felt that gun ownership in the hands of the average citizen was essential to liberty from a tyrannical government, and also as a method of self defense. Self defense is actually at the heart of liberty and the right to life.

    I hope this helps you understand why I made my original comment to your post.

    Very sincerely yours,

  104. Thank you for those history facts

  105. I’m getting to this conversation late it seems, but as a quick note, I’ve heard lots of discussion of gun control and safety at local levels. There have been several statements at the stake and regional level about food storage not including bullets. Also Elder Oaks specifically stated at a regional conference in Utah valley that the church does not confine paramilitary organizations or training. It seems the church might not feel they have the reach to influence mass shooters, like so few do, but they are concerned about their own members arming themselves for supposed government uprising or apocalyptic militias. They just tend to take care of it at a local level because to do otherwise would give a false impression of militant instability in our church membership.

    Generally, I’m not terribly concerned that the church doesn’t often express sympathy in the media for victims of gun violence in America. Those expressions are usually barely worth the time it takes to replay them, and instead the church sends millions of dollars of aid and supplies to refugees and war torn countries where the need is much greater.

    So the church helps victims of gun violence, albeit not as much in the US, and they caution their members against stockpiling armaments or forming armies. If they were to be more direct and say, require members to get a bishop interview before obtaining a firearm permit, that would be a bit too far, wouldn’t you say?

  106. Condone! Not confine! Shouldn’t have written that on my phone…

  107. Roger Nolter says:

    Actions speak much louder than words. The Church is the epitome of Love and not violence of any kind.

    The Church does speak out against it, but not the way people want to see it. Why are people absorbed by “Gun Violence” and not violence against the unborn, or any other type of violence, which statistically is much higher than any “Gun Violence” statistics? Politics. This the church and understandably so, does not speak on.

    I need my church to help me with a much bigger issue and that is “Eternal Salvation”. I need them focused on this and not “Man’s Politics”.

  108. The Church has made some expressions of sympathy from mass shootings, just not as far as an “official” statement. For the France attacks, church flags were at half mast for a time. I don’t know if there’s a cutoff for severity, and it seems like we’re at half mast more often than flying high lately.

    It seems like, with the increase of mass shootings that seems to be happening, it won’t be too long before the Church -has- to make a statement.

    I don’t envy those who have to decide which problems in the world rank above which others.

  109. Gun violence vs. gun control: The church is concerned with individual moral issues, not public policy.

    Now I understand why we have so many conference talks about the evils of masturbation, but almost no mention of pornography.

  110. “Actions speak much louder than words. The Church is the epitome of Love and not violence of any kind.”

    You’ve been in a coma the last month, haven’t you?

  111. Clark Goble says:

    Just chiming it to note again there’s no really “assault weapon” category unless you mean machine guns which are already illegal for regular sale. (You can buy them, but they’re heavily regulated and so far as I know no one who’s purchased one legally has used them in a crime) Typically when liberals rail about assault weapons they are talking purely about the appearance which seems quasi-militaristic rather than function. (You saw this in Clinton’s crime bill silliness)

    Be for gun control if you think that’ll solve things. But let’s get rid of the term “assault weapon” which is meaningless and merely makes ones arguments sound silly to anyone with even a modicum of familiarity with rifles. (The deer rifles most gun control advocates typically want to keep legal are almost always far more powerful and dangerous than what they call assault weapons)

  112. it's a series of tubes says:

    Nato 5.56mm round used by San Bernadino shooters on bottom; standard hunting load 30-06 on top…

  113. Clark Goble says:

    Yup. And guess which one sails through most body armor?

  114. “What specific action(s) do you expect the Church to take in association with such a statement?”

    Ask members to support legislation that makes it harder for people to get guns. I understand that it will only help with some of the problem, but some is probably as good as we’ll get. And I seem to recall them making similar pleas in the recent past.

  115. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    As someone with considerable familiarity with rifles, I see no need to abandon use of the term “assault weapon”. Regardless of whether the category actually exists, technically, I’m confident folks know what that refers to (as you even demonstrate). True, these “assault weapons” are far less powerful than what is typically used for big game (and if you’re using one for deer, you don’t know what you’re doing). But that’s the point – they’re not being used for hunting.

    Can’t believe this post has come to this.

  116. I can!

  117. Here’s a statement by the Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry and Bishop J. Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles specifically about the San Bernardino shooting:

  118. it's a series of tubes says:

    What regulation, specifically, does not exist now that you believe would have prevented Mr. Farook from obtaining the handguns legally several years ago? Or would have prevented his neighbor, Enrique Marquez, from buying the AR-15’s legally several years ago?

  119. tubes,
    That is a false and stupid question. We aren’t talking about how to stop particular people from getting guns. We are talking about regulation to lower gun ownership overall. You will never stop determined people from breaking the law. You might be able to lower gun deaths overall through regulation, though.

  120. John C & tubes, I’m not meaning to debate particular regulation. The entire purpose of my post (seriously!) was to explore the question of why the Church has been silent on recent massacres. That’s it! And I am seriously uninterested, for purposes of this thread, of getting into the weeds of what could have prevented San Bernadino (or Colorado Springs, or…, or…., or…)

  121. eponymous says:

    Tubes does raise a good point though. Most States have regulations in place for licensed gun dealers but if you want to get your hands on a gun it’s far easier to go the route of purchasing one from a private owner where no background checks are required. Only a very few States (California is one of them) requires the buyer and seller of a gun when (neither of them is a licensed dealer) to involve a licensed dealer who will do a background check. But in California if I buy it from a family member in a infrequent manner then I’m not required to do such a transaction.

    Regulations ONLY work when you require everything to go through a licensed dealer and private sales are a huge gap in everything that most people discuss.

  122. eponymous says:

    Sorry Steve, allow me to put us back on track. Where’s the bright line for the types of atrocities that the Church should be speaking up about? I mean, if we’re a global Church then this could begin to seem a little, no a great deal like Bruce Amighty, where every day, multiple times per day, the Church would be making a statement.

    And in that case, does it just begin to seem like rote reminder of how terribly corrupted the world we live in is?

  123. Peter LLC says:

    (The deer rifles most gun control advocates typically want to keep legal are almost always far more powerful and dangerous than what they call assault weapons)

    More powerful in terms of muzzle velocity? No doubt. More dangerous in terms of lethality in the kinds of engagements for which assault rifles were designed? Not at all.

  124. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    One possibility is to address gun violence from a public health approach. This makes a lot of sense, for many reasons, but also raises interesting questions for how the Church might respond. For instance, I’m not aware of the Church coming out in public support of vaccinations – a public health issue, which is becoming increasing politicized. But I imagine the Welfare Department may have facilitated vaccinations in developing countries. Teen pregnancy can also be approached from a public health perspective, and the Church has publicly addressed sex education and birth control, although the messages have changed over time. The Church doesn’t conduct gun safety courses, but actively, and publicly, supports/endorses a program that teaches this to Young Men (even Young Women at some Girls Camps).

  125. Eponymous, I guess it’s up to the experts in Public Affairs to some degree, but I don’t see much downside to talking frequently and showing vocal compassion with lots of people suffering around the world.

  126. Putting aside the church’s demands that missionaries be vaccinated, the church has in the past come out with specific public statements supporting vaccinations. But as far as I’m aware, it’s been a while.

    In 1978: “We urge members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to protect their own children through immunization. Then they may wish to join other public-spirited citizens in efforts to eradicate ignorance and apathy that have caused the disturbingly low levels of childhood immunization.”

  127. Clark Goble says:

    Turtle, I constantly see people who assume assault guns are machine guns and that they are legal. Likewise I constantly see people who can’t fathom why they are legal while allowing hunting rifles. i.e. don’t realize it’s about superficial aspects of the guns. Again, I’d point to the Clinton crime bill in the 90’s where this was even codified.

    The problem is that even if they are largely just useful for target practice they are being portrayed as something they are not.

    Anyways, I don’t want to drag the thread down a tangent. It’s just something that bugs me because it really does mislead the public.

    Peter, again I don’t want to drag things down a tangent. But it is not at all clear to me why an AR-15 is more dangerous in a public shooting – especially against police officers – than a 308. The main military benefit of the AR-15 is weight of ammo when walking long distances.

    eponymous, I believe the law requires that if you are selling even a relatively small number repeatedly that you do background checks like a dealer. I can’t recall the number off the top of my head. But this is less of an issue than it appears at first glance. Even if one made a law to transfer guns in any form one had to do a background check it’d be pointless if you don’t have a central database. (Which has its own issues) It’s just too easy to transfer guns and not follow the law.

    Steve, stick to the OP, I think if the Church started commenting on every tragedy there’d be an expectation that it would have to for all. Then if it missed one they’d be criticized. It’s probably not worth the costs. Sad to say in our current media environment. I think they often do comment more on events in Utah though.

    They have commented on shootings related to the Church such as the shooting in an LDS library or the KSL Triad Center. I vaguely recall them saying something this year when that Mission President from Orem was shot in Mexico.

  128. Clark Goble says:

    Sorry, that should read, “Steve sticking to the OP” LOL. I wasn’t telling Steve to do anything. Sorry – at work without a lot of free time.

  129. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    “…join other public-spirited citizens in efforts to eradicate ignorance and apathy that have caused the disturbingly [high] levels of [gun violence].”

    That’s the kind of statement that would be inspiring from Church leaders.

  130. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Or course, paying attention to the first part of that 1978 statement, they could come out and say “We urge members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to protect their own children through [gun ownership].”

    I guess that would also be inspiring to some people.

  131. Except the intent of the 1978 piece was for MORE people to get shot.

  132. Apologies if any of this has been said already (I didn’t read all comments), but it’s worth pointing out what policies that church does have that relate to firearm safety. First, all LDS chapels in the US are declared gun-free zones – well, at least all the buildings I’ve been in. There are signs as you enter saying “no guns.” Granted, the restriction doesn’t apply to some law enforcement, but I have known a few conceal/carry members of the church who are irked that the church requires them to keep their handguns locked in their vehicles. For them, the fact the church declares its chapels as gun-free zone is a sign that the church is “leftist” on this issue.

    Second, the church has policies related to safety for church events, including instructions that youth leaders consider the safety of all activities. Because of this I’ve personally had several conversations in ward councils, etc. regarding proposed activities that involve fire arms – mostly things like whether young men should go to a shooting ranges, but also whether a YM should be assigned as a home teacher for a home where loaded weapons are kept in every drawer. So depending on local member sentiment, sometimes local policies are enacted that are not favorable to the gun folks.

    Third, the church omits any discussion of firearms from its emergency prep teachings. Ted Koppel made a big point out of this in his recent book – he praises church members for having food/water/etc, but thinks we’re crazy to not be prepared to kill to keep those supplies. I’ve personally been involved in Stake EmergPrep functions where some members want guns/ammo to be included as a topic (or listed on the sheets of “what you should have”) only to be frustrated when the Stake President says no.

    Lastly, it seems that the church relies on firearms as little as possible for personal safety of church members. There’s no firearm at temple entrances. I haven’t noticed significant firearms on those the few security guards for the FP/Q12 (would love to hear if anyone knows). So, while this may be just a matter of example, church leaders do seem to teach that we can peacefully interact with “the world” without relying on firearms for safety.

  133. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Nice, Steve!

  134. Clark Goble says:

    DaveK, I completely agree about 24 hour kits etc. and ammo. Although in our ward someone usually makes an ammo joke. But I think the emphasis is that these are to prepare for practical, likely disasters and not the zombie apocalypse or returning to Missouri.

    The other point I’m not sure really deals with guns at all. For one, the Church lets scouts go to scout camp where they have a shooting badge. Second the issue is really more about liability. Lots of activities are not allowed because of liability fears. And frankly it’s a good thing the church doesn’t want dangerous activities given the range of people in callings. (The scout shooting badge is done by a formal scout camp up Hobble Creek and uses just pellet guns so far as I know)

  135. it's a series of tubes says:

    That is a false and stupid question. We aren’t talking about how to stop particular people from getting guns. We are talking about regulation to lower gun ownership overall. You will never stop determined people from breaking the law. You might be able to lower gun deaths overall through regulation, though.

    John, setting your insults aside, if the goal is “lowering ______ deaths overall through regulation” then there are lots of ways to accomplish it, and why target just guns? For example, in 2013 more than 32,000 people were killed in car crashes. It is indisputable that if every automobile had a governor installed that capped operation at 55 mph, the number of deaths would go down. Would you support such a regulation? It will save lives. If not, why not?

  136. Move along! Not interested in debating particular legislative hypotheticals!

  137. Clark, boy scouts can get the rifle (.22 caliper) and shotgun merit badges at pretty much any camp. Most camps also offer black powder rifle. So it’s more than just pellets. And, yes, the camps are run by NRA-certified instructors who (in my experience) do a great job. That’s the one conflict I have over the NRA. I’m pretty liberal on gun control issues, and detest the political involvement of the NRA, but I have to acknowledge that they run a pretty good education and safety group.

  138. Until there’s a “common sense” solution to the problem, the general authorities are probably wise to stay away from it (hint – talk of constitutional amendments and no-fly lists are not common sense solutions – it’s the political version of fantasy football).

  139. Expressions of mourning for victims of gun violence seem obviously the right thing to do. But then I remember the bashing that members of Congress deservedly took for their empty “thoughts and prayers” in response to the San Bernardino incident. Maybe LDS leaders don’t want to set themselves up for the same kind of criticism. I’m not sure whether to credit the Church with this much foresight; their recent poor judgment about PR stuff does not inspire confidence. Nonetheless, the Church has been good at backing up its talk with substantial action on things like humanitarian response to natural disasters, immigration policy, and Utah’s LGBT non-discrimination law. If they’re not prepared to take a position on gun policy, maybe they’re wise to remain silent.

  140. I just went back to Wikipedia’s page on gun violence by state. Utah has the 8th lowest rate of homicide by guns despite having the 14th highest percentage of gun ownership. Both Wyoming (highest gun ownership % in the nation!) and Idaho’s data tell similar stories.

    Searching the web for loosest gun control laws will reveal different lists (Deseret News named Utah in their list) but the state that seems to come up frequently is Vermont. Gun friendly articles just love Vermont’s lack of regulation. Vermont is also the state Wikipedia shows as having the lowest gun homicide rate in the nation.

    On the other hand there is the District of Columbia, which manages to combine the lowest ownership rate by far, with the highest murder rate by far. (This may be unfair to compare a city against the 50 states, and indeed, other city’s like St. Louis and Detroit have higher homicide rates than DC – albeit the data on Wikipedia doesn’t break-out gun violence from other forms of homicide). In other words, there are many variables to gun violence other than simply the % of people who own guns.

    What I get from the data is that the church must be doing something right if the three states that have highest LDS populations also have relatively low gun violence rates, despite having relatively easy access to guns. And for that matter, those three same three states appear to have relatively low “homicide” rates (all types) as a percentage population. Nevada, which has the next highest % of Mormons, not so good…but I’m willing to make an exception for Nevada as I suspect that the gaming industry and all that it entails, will impact those figures. Again, there are many variables to gun violence.

    I would suggest that most of what the church teaches about family, love, forgiveness, etc. will reduce gun violence much more than simply pontificating. Official pronouncements against gun violence certainly won’t hurt, but they will fall on deaf ears to those who through a long series of events/choices have put themselves in a position where they would consider taking another human’s life. We need a society that values life, their own life, their neighbor’s life. It will be found in teaching Christ-like love, and drawing people closer to him. It will be strengthened by encouraging lasting/loving family structures, yep I just fell back on the “it starts with the family” line on a BCC post! I think that generally the Church does a good job teaching values that I believe would greatly reduce gun violence if they were more widely shared and adopted, and in fact, where I think the church goes most wrong is when they deviate from that message and wade into the weeds where the philosophies of men can come too much into play.

    My response went long, to simplify – I would like to see more of a focus on Christ and less of a focus on individual political-societal issues like gun control…or, just to give another example, gay marriage. Christ…love…forgiveness…humility…just keep it simple. How wrong could we really go?

  141. Clark Goble says:

    Dave K, I was just talking about the camp up Hobble Creek. (Which I think targets cub scouts primarily) I’ve never been to any others. (I’m Canadian and scouts is way different there) Thanks for the info though – I didn’t know they did all that.

    tbennion, while I’m a big gun control skeptic (I tend to think most of the US problems are caused by things other than guns such as a history of violence in the south and neglected segregated areas of poverty elsewhere) I do think gun control advocates have a point when they say it’s not merely about murder. Suicide is, due to altitude, high in the mountain west. Easy access to guns potentially means more spur of the moment suicides. Although from what I understand the actual statistics on suicide when guns aren’t as plentiful make it hard to tease out. (And places like Japan with few guns have a suicide rate twice the US average)

    One thing that seems clear is that most of the passion on either side really isn’t as focused on guns or violence but use guns and gun control for proxies for other battles. It’s become as much about identity as anything. It’s precisely because of that shift such that the topic really isn’t the topic that means enacting gun control is a lost cause by and large.

  142. I believe that the perverse individuals who commit mass shootings are encouraged by the media attention that other mass shootings have attracted. Whether mentally ill or terrorists, they generally want to do something that will garner attention. By only rarely addressing the topic, the Church avoids contributing to the problem.

  143. Since much of the gun violence in this country is committed by police officers against minorities, is anyone really surprised that the Church isn’t touching this subject with a ten foot pole?

    Lone gunmen aren’t nearly as big a problem as radicalized police officers with military grade weaponry–for one thing, there are way more of the latter.

  144. “Expressions of mourning for victims of gun violence seem obviously the right thing to do. But then I remember the bashing that members of Congress deservedly took for their empty “thoughts and prayers” in response to the San Bernardino incident. Maybe LDS leaders don’t want to set themselves up for the same kind of criticism.”

    This seems unlikely. For one thing, the church is not a legislator and it is not the church’s job to vote on public policy. For me, the biggest reason that the members of Congress took such a beating, and the reason it stuck, is because they actually are in a position to do something about gun regulation, but steadfastly refuse to. I don’t think anybody could credibly level the same attack against the church if the church were to express sympathy and mourning for victims of mass shootings. People expect church’s to mourn with those that mourn. And while we have varying degrees of the extent to which we expect church’s to be involved in public policy, nobody could really say that churches are to blame for Congress’ failure to act on gun regulation.

  145. JKC, the Church is too big to hide behind “no one can really expect us to make a difference in public policy decisions.” Whether it comes from politicians or apostles, empty posturing is empty.

  146. Eve of Destruction says:

    JKC is right. Congress got bashed for offering thoughts and prayers instead of legislation, when legislation is Congress’ job. They’re certainly welcome to pray, too, but where’s the legislation?

    I’m not blaming religious leaders for failing to offer legislation; that’s not their job. But it is religious leaders’ job to offer thoughts and prayers. They might want to urge ordinary people and national leaders to work on legislation, too, or might want to stay away from politics altogether, but where are the thoughts and prayers?

    John F. linked above to the Episcopalians’ statement. Not a complete list, but these statements on the San Bernardino shooting were also very easy to find by googling: Jewish, Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Presbyterian, and Seventh Day Adventist.

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