Why I Do Not Carry A Concealed Weapon

[Updated from the archives, this post originally ran in December 2012.]


[This post is not about defense of others, but merely my explanation of why I personally do not carry a firearm to protect myself despite the fact that I have access to top training and have a job where there are reasons at times to fear for my safety. When I first became a judge, the Sheriff’s Sergeant in charge of courthouse security offered to qualify me on the shooting range for a concealed weapon permit and to help me pick out the right weapon to buy as well. He said the same went for my wife. We’ve never taken him up on the offer in the 20+ years I’ve been on the bench.]


Only Kill the Bad Man?

I watched Witness the other day, the old Harrison Ford movie about the Amish boy Samuel who witnesses a brutal murder and is then himself in danger from those who carried it out. Ford is the cop who moves in with the Amish family to protect Samuel, and by living with them brings new ideas – the ways of outsiders like him – to the family. At one point Samuel finds Ford’s handgun in a drawer, and his grandfather Eli Lapp talks to him about the discovery:

Eli Lapp: This gun of the hand is for the taking of human life. We believe it is wrong to take a life. That is only for God. Many times wars have come and people have said to us: you must fight, you must kill, it is the only way to preserve the good. But Samuel, there’s never only one way. Remember that. Would you kill another man?

Samuel Lapp: I would only kill the bad man.

Eli Lapp: Only the bad man. I see. And you know these bad men by sight? You are able to look into their hearts and see this badness?

Samuel Lapp: I can see what they do. I have seen it.

Eli Lapp: And having seen, you become one of them? Don’t you understand? What you take into your hands, you take into your heart.

Grandfather Lapp’s words make me wonder: If I faced a threat to my life, would killing the other person be a proper response? How can I be assured that it is better for me to live and for the other person to die?

You are able to look into their hearts?

When I was a kid there was a local radio station that would air shows from the 1930s and ‘40s during the summer nights, including The Shadow. The title character was a crime fighter with the ability to cloud people’s minds so they could not see him. The opening announcement always included the line “Who know what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

That would be the answer to Grandfather Lapp’s question, right? Just become as good at reading people as that Shadow guy and – presto – you can see into someone’s heart. But the Bible says seeing into the heart is God’s job:

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. (Proverbs 21:2.)

I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind. (Jeremiah 17:10.)

So the right answer to Grandfather Lapp is that we do not know what is in someone’s heart, what their intentions and thoughts are. Samuel Lapp knew that too. That’s why he said he would rely on what he saw people do in order to choose whether to kill. Grandfather Lapp questioned that too.

Into your hands, into your heart

“Having seen, you become one of them,” the grandfather says. There is some truth to this since the Bible tells us, “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33.) But it has to be more than just seeing it, right? Just seeing someone sin does not necessarily mean that you’ll become just like them does it? Frankly, I think this question puts it backwards. The real issue is whether you are an unredeemed and unregenerate sinner, not whether they are. Paul warns people who live like this:

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. (Ephesians 4:18-19.)

God, Paul says, allows such people to continue pursuing what is in their hearts and taking into their hands whatever they like. Not so with those who belong to him, though. He heals – sanctifies – those who belong to him.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23.)

God chose you as first-fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13.)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Ephesians 3:16-17.)

God has given us himself, and that is what is in our hearts.

We are in God’s hands

Jesus gave his followers (including us) a powerful promise:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30.)

God “is greater than all”. That means he is certainly more powerful than “the bad man” Samuel Lapp spoke of. But Jesus’ promise is not that we’ll live forever as we do presently, avoiding death and decay. He spoke of our eternal destiny. And in this eternal sense, I don’t know what God has planned for anyone else. I don’t even know God’s temporal plan for “the bad man”.

So what would I do if my life were threatened? What I’d do if ever put to that test is just speculation. Maybe I would try to defend myself and end up killing the other person after all. I can’t say, though, that the Bible teaches me to do so. And I don’t know that I am the one to take matters into my own hands even if confronted with a threat to my life.

It’s like I said above, God gave me himself and took me for his own. I think it’s best to let him take matters into his own hands.


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19 Responses to Why I Do Not Carry A Concealed Weapon

  1. Richard says:

    Good thoughts, Judge, thank you. I have the same sentiments, and get strange looks from my brothers-in-Christ. The usual question I get is: What would you do if your wife were attacked? I have actually had others compare themselves to Nehemiah.

  2. Jeff P says:

    You raise a some very good points.
    I remember that movie well, especially the scene you describe.
    I also remember two other scenes involving Harrison Ford’s gun, one where the lad found it and Ford happened along before a tragic accident. And, at the climax, Ford’s cop shoots a crooked cop to keep him from killing the boy. The film very well portrays the moral complexity of using guns.

    Statistics I have seen show that for every use of a gun in self defense, there are 6-10 uses in homicides, accidental shootings or suicide. To me, that’s a convincing reason not to carry a gun: the fear that its much more likely my gun will be used in anger, or despair, in error or by accident, than in morally legitimate self-defence.

    • Tim says:

      One of the things I liked was that the movie covered the nuances of the gun issue. No one was completely right or wrong on it, but they each made their choices from principle (at least everyone but the bad guys did)

  3. Pastor Bob says:

    It would be unwise to try and change anyone’s mind on this topic, one the hottest at this time.
    Guns were everywhere for so long, shooting ranges in schools, Boy Scouts and even Girls Scouts had programs for “marksmanship.”
    The federal government to this day has programs for civilian marksmanship.
    Many states with concealed carry laws have seen violent crime drop.
    Having said this, the absolute most important pint I stress is:
    I will NOT make you change your mind, especially on this. I would like the opportunity to share information, and let you make a decision, and I am comfortable with this. I am especially gratified (as a teacher) when someone looks at me and says something like, ‘I have thought it over and i have decided ………..’
    I am pained when the statement is more like ‘I believe this ……….. and I will never change my mind. You are wrong because you believe …… and you are bad ……’ I have seen people who agree with irritate me.

    Samuel l Jackson said recently that it not any one thing (physical item) but a lack of respect. A man from the Philippines stated that we are facing a major degradation of society.

    When in college, I researched man issues, and found my position – opinion changing based on FACTS. Thus, my paper direction would change too.

    I respect you position on this, and appreciate an opportunity to walk the line as I lean a little.

    • Tim says:

      I appreciate your thoughts on this, PB. I hope it’s clear from the title I gave this post that this is not an attempt to convince others what they should do but merely to lay out the basis for my own choice on the subject. I do not necessarily think others are outside God’s will if they disagree.

      • Pastor Bob says:

        The best summation is you lean a little in one direction, i lean a little in the other, with essential respect required (both of us) when someone has a stronger opinion. I think our thoughts are more similar than not.
        ps…. I have not decided if I will carry or not.

  4. dorothygreco says:

    Thank you Tim. I am grateful to read this and appreciate that reminder about Witness. Had long since forgotten how applicable it was.

    • Tim says:

      One thing I really like about the film is that it does not give easy answers. Ford’s detective character is right to use force to defend the victims, while Grandfather Lapp is right in his own conviction to refrain from using force.

  5. VelvetVoice says:

    I will never own a gun and here is why: it takes up a lot of emotional space and a lot of effort to use a gun properly, and I’d rather spend my time learning musical instruments, they have the benefit of bringing me closer to God. God can decide when He wants to bring me home.

  6. Pingback: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (6/17/16) – Sparking Conversation

  7. B says:

    It’s not for everyone especially if they have had no training, are not good under pressure. I think there is alot of fear in the Judges statement that a gun is an evil device which is ridiculous. Every item on earth can be used for evil. Those who have Christ have no reason to fear any object and should not be afraid to be a protector of the flock, it what brought David to prominence and he was a man after Gods heart. I always carry because I know I could not live with my self for having the skill and not using it to save another from evil. Our society has forgotten that people are evil not objects!

  8. Lea says:

    How interesting to read this, if a bit late. I am not comfortable with carrying concealed for myself. It seems like there are a lot of rules to be learned and a lot of potential judgments to make and much room for error.

    I feel differently about using a gun for home defense, although obviously I hope that never comes up. I guess it feels safer and that there is less room for error to me.

  9. Dan Mann says:

    My wife and I live in a rural part of Nashville, not too distant from the city’s high crime area. We walk most evenings down the middle of the street. When I travel, my wife walks alone. We’re challenged almost weekly by one of our neighbors to get a gun for our walks. Our answer for the last 10 years has remained the same. “No, because we might be tempted to use it.” Learning to be a pacifist in a defensive culture seems counter intuitive to most. To us, it helps make sense of our faith.

    I was sad to see the recent gun play in the Texas church and to hear the comments following. Is this who Christ called us to be? It’s an honest – rhetorical – question.

    Thank you for articulating your reason for non-carry.

    • Tim says:

      And thank you for sharing yours.

    • Anu Riley says:

      I’m pulling out a fictional character just to add food for thought: Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down right in front of him as a boy. As a vigilante crime fighter, he would never use firearms to protect and defend. Why, exactly? He had first hand experience as to how “effective” guns can be. His parents were taken out (I believe) with one bullet each. It is because guns had understandably traumatized him for life, and would using them cause him to trigger that trauma, as he attempted to fight for victims of the very crimes he too was a victim of?

      He had plenty of weaponry to choose from, and he wasn’t above killing others (someone correct me if I’m wrong), but not with guns. He fought outside of the law, and only at night, and frankly his character lived by and played by his own rules, lawful or otherwise. So why no guns?

      To add just a bit more from another fictional source. In the movie “Mystery Men,” at first the crime fighters were turned off by a weapons manufacturer who only made “non-lethal” weaponry. However, a demonstration of the “tornado in a can” blew them away. it neutralized your enemy without killing him or her.

      You can still die from that tornado experience (say it drops you onto a bunch of knives), but it minimized the risks.

      I tend to adopt that sort of mentality. I would rather defend myself in non-lethal ways in order to minimize the risks of fatalities, but I understand that in reality—there is no guarantee that fatalities will not occur.

      You could pull out a can of pepper spray to defend yourself, and your assailant might have a heart condition, your action sped up his or her heart, and death occurred.

      “What you take into your hands, you take into your heart.”

      Back to Bruce Wayne—I think that is why he did not use guns himself. Take that gun, and you take the heart of that criminal who gunned down your parents.

      At the same time: ” You are able to look into their hearts and see this badness?”

      He fought outside of the law to fight those breaking the law. But where is the line drawn? Where he is a crime fighter fighting crime, and where is he a criminal (living by his own rules) fighting criminals that are likely ALSO living by their own rules?

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