While the various media outlets speculate about the possibility of a run on the banks in our precarious economic situation, I’m surprised we haven’t yet seen any news reports about the run that’s already underway. I’m talking about the run on gun shops that’s going on as we speak. And no, I am not joking.
Let’s face it: gun owners are not exactly “the glass is half-full”-type of folks to begin with. So when you combine a pre-existing “end is nigh” mindset with the recent economic meltdown, mix in a literal fulfillment of the Mark of the Beast prophesy the day after Obama’s election, add a dash of Obama’s dismissive comments about those who “cling to guns or religion,” and you’ve got yourself a mess of freaked out folks who are convinced they’d better get locked and loaded right quick because Armageddon’s-a-comin’, and Obama’s gonna try to ban their only real means of self-defense!
I’ve got a few friends who are gun nuts, so I usually get wind of what’s going on in the gun world. And let me tell you, I ain’t never seen anything like this before.
I was in a Big 5 sporting goods store just the other day and a guy walks in and asks the clerk if they sell handguns. When the clerk says “no,” the guy looks at us and says: “Better get your handguns quick before Obama bans ‘em.” I drove past a gun shop just the other day that was packed on a weekday during normal work hours. A buddy up in LA county who’s in the market for a pistol and shotgun tells me it’s “standing room only” in the gun shops up where he is. A brother-in-law is looking to buy a 7.62 x 39 caliber rifle (often labeled as an “assault rifle”), but they sold out just about everywhere before he could get his hands on one. The major online retailers of assault rifles are now sold out of just about everything they normally carry (see here for example), and I know of at least one major online retailer’s website that was down for two days because the unexpected surge in website traffic exceeded their bandwidth. One major online retailer of assault rifles marked up its remaining stock by 100%; an assault rifle that would have cost you $360 one day was offered at $720 the next.
This run on the gun shops, and on assault rifles in particular, has gotten me thinking again about where Mormonism stands on the whole concept of personal gun ownership in an effort to be prepared for whatever “the last days” throw our way. I know some Mormons who seem to regard gun ownership almost like a religious obligation, while others seem to have a strong religious objection to the idea.
Unsurprisingly, there are scriptures each side of the debate can cite in support of their view. The Old Testament and Book of Mormon present numerous examples of “men of God” who owned and used arms to defend themselves and others. For example, Nephi was a major manufacturer and distributor of swords in his day. (2 Ne. 5:14.) On the other hand, the people of Ammon, who chose to allow themselves to be killed rather than kill others even in self-defense are cited as an example of those who chose to live according to the “higher law.”
The New Testament does not present any examples of “righteous” uses of weaponry. To the contrary, in the one instance where someone did use a weapon in a seemingly righteous cause (Peter), Jesus rebuked him, saying: “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matt. 26:52.) Some Christian denominations, Quakers, for example, have cited this scripture for the proposition that Christ disapproves of using violence, even for self-defense. Others cite the fact that Peter carried a sword as proof that even an Apostle of the Lord can own and carry a weapon. They explain that Christ rebuked Peter for trying to stop them from taking Jesus into captivity, not because there is anything inherently wrong with owning or using a weapon, but because Christ’s death was something that had to happen.
Early Mormon history provides some interesting examples. Although Joseph Smith originally restrained the Saints from using violence in self-defense, he rescinded that counsel when the persecutions became more severe. (The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 225.) The Nauvoo Legion, with General Joseph Smith at its head, along with legendary gun toters like Porter Rockwell and the Danites, demonstrate that early Mormons became theologically comfortable with wielding guns in their defense.
Joseph Smith even taught that it was sometimes necessary for men to take up arms because of their religious obligation to defend their families:
It may be that the Saints will have to beat their ploughs into swords, for it will not do for men to sit down patiently and see their children destroyed. (HC 6:365.)
There is one principle which is eternal; it is the duty of all men to protect their lives and the lives of the household, whenever necessity requires, and no power has a right to forbid it, should the last extreme arrive, but I anticipate no such extreme, but caution is the parent of safety. (HC 6:605.)
Or my personal favorite quote by Joseph Smith on the subject:
Peace be still, bury the hatchet and the sword, the sound of war is dreadful in my ear. [But] any man who will not fight for his wife and children is a coward and a bastard. (An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, p. 298.)
However, I know some Latter-day Saints who feel that gun ownership is just for the kooky fringe, and others see owning guns for self-defense as a lack of true faith. A friend of mine once said during an Elder’s Quorum lesson: “If you have true faith in God, that He will protect you, then you don’t even need to lock your doors at night. I trust that the Holy Spirit will protect my home.” On one occasion when a ward member brought up gun ownership in connection with emergency preparedness, another ward member bristled at the idea and said: “I’d rather let someone kill me and my family and steal our food storage.”
So what about you? Where do you stand on the whole gun issue? Are you one of them “praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”-types, or are you part of the “you’ll shoot your eye out” chorus? Do you prefer to rely on Messrs. Smith & Wesson or the Sword of your Faith to protect your family in an emergency situation? And have you seen any evidence of a run on gun shops going on in your neck of the woods, or is all this just crazy talk?