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Presbyterians: Gunning for Control

July 04, 1998

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a resolution at its annual meeting asking its members to remove handguns and assault weapons from their homes and communities. The nonbinding resolution is a major shift in how organized religion has dealt with this issue after years of calling for gun control legislation. The position has raised questions about how far the church should involve itself with the personal lives of its members. MAURA E. MONTELLANO and KATHYRN MACLAREN spoke with churchgoers about the call.

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JULIE BOURDON

Attended Presbyterian churches for the past 13 years; Sunday school teacher at Christian Faith Center, Van Nuys

I am a Christian gun owner, and I don't think the church has the right to ask me to remove firearms from my home. What I do at home, I don't bring to church. Barring firearms from your home may be the pastor's conviction, but it's not mine. And just because something is preached to me, I will not automatically do it without praying first and asking God. I will not give up my guns; times are only going to get worse and I might need them for protection when it comes time for us all to fend for ourselves.

Every person is responsible for whatever they say or do and what they have in their homes. Accountability for your actions needs to be taught at an early age.

The church is getting away from what's important; it needs to get back to the basics, like salvation and prayer. The real issue here is what churches should be preaching. The church has a moral obligation to have opinions and preach on such subjects as abortion, which is murder, premarital sex, which is wrong. These issues are backed by biblical principles. But nowhere in the Bible does it preach against guns. Weapons and guns were a part of history. There has been much violence associated with weapons yet nowhere in the Bible are you told not to own them. Gun control is not biblical and nowhere does it say owning a gun will send you to hell.

I don't feel anything other than the devil himself is responsible for the school shootings. The devil himself is causing havoc. Children are our future and the youth are what the devil is going after. What is needed is for all of us to get on our knees and pray and to weep for America. The end times are coming and things are going to get worse, and I will use my gun if necessary to protect myself and my family.

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RICHARD WEIER

48, First Presbyterian Church, Palmdale

I am a gun owner. My guns are locked up and used for hunting, but could be used for protection. Hunting is a big part of my family life. We take it seriously but safely. It brings food to our table. Hunting dates back to our forefathers and is a tradition in my family. My boys have taken courses in gun safety and archery and were Boy Scouts who became Eagle Scouts. Safety is taught in our family. I believe there should be separation of church and state, and asking you to remove firearms from your home is a government issue.

Abortion, birth control and premarital sex are issues the church can have an opinion on, because those issues deal with morals. The church should be concerned with how you live your life. Instead of preaching removal of firearms, they should be devoting more time to the youth and youth programs in our community. A child with problems could pick up a gun and do harm but the gun is not the problem. If they didn't have guns, they would use something else. Telling people to turn in their guns is not a realistic request.

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GARY ROBERTS

35, lawyer, Hollywood Presbyterian Church

In the context of a nonbinding resolution that encourages safety, I think this request is an appropriate thing for the church to do. I don't believe the doctrine of church and state relates to the role of a church in someone's personal life. The church/state separation doctrine isn't impacted here because one thing churches do is support the personal lives of their members in a variety of ways. This is not a request of the government.

The hope is that it will cause people who have guns in their homes to think about whether this is consistent with their faith. It's hard to say if it will have an impact. In my beliefs, what you do in your life is a reflection of your faith. In one respect, this is comparable to other issues because it's a social issue. What is important and relevant is what does the Bible say about this issue.

There are times where I can see it being justified for people to have handguns in their house for self-defense. I would hope the way this resolution is applied would take this into account.

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CHRISTINE WHITELOCK

28, Hollywood Presbyterian Church

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