Gun control seems to be the issue on many pundits’ minds following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. While Americans remain divided on the legalities, intriguing results are observed when people of faith are asked to weigh in on the handling of firearms. In August, TheBlaze reported on a study that attempted to get at the heart of the matter — one that is important to revisit as the nation prepares to debate this issue on a grand scale.
With faith leaders poised to play a role in the discussion, understanding where different religious cohorts and denominations stand will showcase what can be expected as the contention heats up. On Sunday, just two days after the tragic shooting, Washington National Cathedral dean, the Very Rev. Gary Hall, pledged to take on the pro-gun lobby.
During a morning sermon, he told more than 1,000 faithful in attendance that fighting for stricter firearm control is necessary.
“Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby,” Hall said. “But I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”
Not every person of faith is on board with this notion, though. A study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Religion News Service (RNS) earlier this year found that people of divergent faiths — mainly the Catholic, Protestant and evangelical traditions — have diverse views on gun control.
Conducted in early August, the polling found that 52 percent of the nation wants stricter gun laws, with 44 percent does not. But when it comes to Catholics and evangelicals, the differences over firearm control are even more notable.
While 62 percent of Catholic adherents want stricter laws on the matter, only 35 percent of white evangelical Protestants agree (and 42 percent of white mainline Protestants). White evangelicals are also much more likely to believe that people should be able to carry concealed firearms in churches and places of worship.
As for black protestants, a past 2011 ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 71 percent would tighten laws if possible. In an interview with RNS News earlier this year, the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, noted some of the reasons why Catholics may favor greater restrictions.
“Catholics may congregate more in urban centers and may be more exposed to violent crimes than people in other parts of he country,” he explained, going on to note that traditional acceptance of law as the will of the people might also contribute to support for stricter gun regulations.
Differences over views on the most effective ways to prevent mass shootings are also worth noting. It seems, like on many other fronts, that the American public as a whole is divided. Here are some of the methods for reducing gun crime, as cited by the general population (as per RNS News):
— 27 percent of respondents said stricter gun control would help.
— 22 percent cited better mental health screenings and support for those who want guns.
— 20 percent argued for a greater emphasis on God and morality in school and society.
— 14 percent want stricter security at public gatherings.
— 11 percent said allowing more private citizens to carry guns for protection is the answer.
Digging beneath these numbers, though, religious differences can, once again, be observed. Christianity Today has more about this dynamic, providing deeper understanding of the ideological differences than exist among faith cohorts:
Only 8 percent of white evangelical Protestants said “stricter gun control laws and enforcement” are the most important solution, whereas 19 percent said “better mental health screening and support.” A plurality (36%) chose a third option: “Put more emphasis on God and morality in school and society.”
Meanwhile, a plurality (41%) of minority Christians favor focusing on gun control, whereas 20 percent favor focusing on mental health. Only 14 percent favor focusing on God and morality.
Certainly, some of the sample sizes presented here are small — and data for Catholics broken down by ethnicity is not available. But, at the least, what can be surmised is that people of different faith groups, for a variety of reasons, disagree on this timely issue.