OLYMPIA — What would Jesus do about gun control?
A debate between a Spokane Valley legislator and a Seattle minister essentially posed that question Wednesday in a packed hearing on proposed new gun laws.
State Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, and the Rev. Sanford Brown of the 1st United Methodist Church of Seattle seemed to be quoting from the same Bible, but came up with different answers.
As part of a panel of religious leaders urging the House Judiciary Committee to pass a law requiring a background check for any gun purchase, even between two private individuals, Brown said “all major Christian denominations” are alarmed by the proliferation of guns and quoted Jesus’s warning that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.
“We have been living and dying by the sword — the modern version of that, guns — in the United States for many years,” Brown said. People feel they get security from guns but “there’s a truer sense of security that could happen for us if we could stop the proliferation of guns in our society.”
The first step to that would be universal background checks, he added.
Shea, an outspoken gun advocate, was unconvinced. “Luke 22:36 very clearly — and this is Jesus speaking — said, quote: ‘If you have a purse take it and buy a bag, and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one,’ How would you respond to that, sir?”
Brown said he would “never contradict anything my lord and savior said,” but noted Jesus also said to love your neighbor, so he interprets the verse Shea mentioned in that context. “It’s hard to imagine that loving your neighbor is embodied by purchasing a gun in order to do harm to your neighbor.”
State Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, countered that people buy guns to protect themselves, not harm their neighbor. “Do you support that idea?” he asked.
No, said Brown. The Christian church is against all violence, he said, and he advocates that people stand up to those who are armed without taking up arms themselves. He has a protection order against a stalker, and it would be comforting to know she wouldn’t be able to buy a gun if the law passed, he said.
The hearing on the background-check bill and three others packed a House hearing room and sent dozens more into an overflow room in the nearby Senate office building. Brian Judy of the National Rifle Association said requiring private sellers to perform background checks would be unworkable because police won’t conduct such record searches for the public, and registered gun owners who do charge between $30 and $60. The bill only allows them to charge a $20 fee. “It’s unfair. It’s unenforceable,” he said. “It could shut down private sales.”
Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday he supports universal background checks, calling it “unusually common sense” to keep felons from buying guns.
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said members of his party consider gun control a social issue, and they’re trying to focus on jobs, education and the budget. But if the existing laws on background checks are stopping so many felons from buying guns, why aren’t those would-be purchasers being prosecuted, he asked.