BBC Radio Four Sunday Programme: Churches tackle gun culture

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Government and religious institutions are ruminating on how to rescue black youngsters from a life of guns and gangs. The government-funded Reach report said they need a new generation of role models, not the rappers who glamorise crime. The Bishop of Manchester, Nigel McCulloch, entered the debate by calling a meeting of Anglican clergy and saying churches need to work together more in this area.

Heather Green works in Manchester, in the area south of the city that saw the killing two weeks ago of Tyrone Gilbert while he attended the wake of an earlier gun victim. She runs the Rainbow Christian Centre in Hulme, which aims to reach the young people the churches tend not to, and recruits current and former gang members to encourage children not to throw their lives away. Green told Sunday about her godson, a former gang member.

Jo Aldred is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy. Several months ago he undertook a project to discover what the wider churches are doing to tackle the gun problem.

Listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence

20 Comments
Posted August 16, 2007 at 5:37 pm

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1. Brian of Maryland wrote:

In the US context there is a much more urgent need to confront the “lack of fathers at home” problem.  In rural American it’s a right of passage for a father to teach his son how to shoot.  In urban America it’s a right of passage for a fellow gang member to teach the newby how to shoot members of other gangs.

Gad, when will religious leaders ever start getting at the real problem: the collapse of the family???

MD Brian

August 16, 7:04 pm | [comment link]
2. Ruth Ann wrote:

Time, once again, to remind folks that guns are merely a tool used to kill people.  I believe there is a saying: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”  There are plenty of other “tools” to be used as well.

MD Brian is absolutely correct, it is the collapse of the family, and society, that is the problem.

August 17, 12:46 am | [comment link]
3. Cousin Vinnie wrote:

There was a time when England had no rappers or gangstas, and firearms could be obtained with few legal restrictions.  Violent crime was extremely low.  Now they have the gangsta culture and draconian firearms laws, and violent crime is high.  Which part of the equation causes the crime problem?

August 17, 1:04 am | [comment link]
4. William S wrote:

‘Guns don’t kill people; people kill people’

Maybe. But people without guns can’t kill so many people.
What would the armed forces think if you told them that there are other ‘tools’ they could use instead of guns?  When the army decides that the gun is no longer the most effective way of killing people, then I will believe that guns are not in a league of their own when it comes to equipping potential killers.

OK, social problems are the cause of violence. But let’s not kid ourselves that readily-available firearms do anything other than multiply the lethal effect of that violence.

August 17, 6:55 am | [comment link]
5. Ed the Roman wrote:

Even as recently as eighty years ago in Britain, Christopher Milne himself (yes, “Christopher Robin”) bought himself a pistol from the hardware store at a single digit age with no legal consequences arising.

For the incredulous, my source is his autobiography.

August 17, 7:06 am | [comment link]
6. Brian of Maryland wrote:

William,

OH please ... civilian gun ownership in the UK is almost completely illegal.  Maybe the real problem is the inability of liberal western democracies to face a hard truth; their social engineering of the family has been a dismal failure.  Not only have several European countries reached the tipping point of unsustainable population because of lack of births, but this rise of violence is happening despite a decline in the number of children (most violent crimes are committed by young men in their early 20’s). So let’s all dance about and talk of gun violence when the church SHOULD be proclaiming God’s understanding of the family and doing what it can to strengthen Christ centered households.

Yes, I know, that’s probably too much to ask.  It’s probably too late for the church to have that conversation anyway as it would entail a desire to deal with sexual immorality ...

MD Brian

August 17, 8:44 am | [comment link]
7. William S wrote:

MD Brian

So - am I wrong that you can kill more people with a gun than any other readily-avilable means?

And if I’m right, does it make sense to make it easy for young men in their early 20’s to get hold of guns, given their propensity to violence (which you refer to)?

I can’t recall now whether I was ‘dancing about’ when I wrote my earlier post, but I think it is unlikely. And I did say, if you noticed, that social problems are the cause of violent behaviour.  I certainly want to proclaim God’s understanding of the family. But I can’t see why addressing the root cause (family breakdown) and the symptoms (gun-toting individuals) at the same time is inconsistent.

August 17, 10:16 am | [comment link]
8. Brian of Maryland wrote:

William ...

I guess you could make civilian gun ownership “SUPER DOOPER EXTRA SPECIAL!” illegal in the UK.  I’m sure that will solve the problem.  Or you could build more prisons and send more young men to jail.  I’m sure that will solve the problem too.  OR ... I’ve got it, how about Torchwood develops a neato gun magnet that can be waved across England and all guns are magically pulled from their places of hiding?
Best yet, blame it on George Bush, that’s what usually happens in the US!

I don’t mean to sound overly dismissive, but really, guns are already illegal in the UK.  Why not spend time and energy on the real problem.

MD Brian

August 17, 10:54 am | [comment link]
9. Ozard wrote:

MD Brian is confusing the symptoms with the disease.  Violence is the disease, gun-crime is the symptom.  Of course we want to cure the disease, but we also need to treat the symptoms.  If a person is seriously obese, we need to get him to stop eating doughnuts. He may object that we are not “spending time and energy on the real problem”, but the obesity will not be cured until he stops eating doughnuts!  I’m afraid Americans need to face up to the truth.  They like owning guns.  Just as my obese man is unwilling to admit that he is fat because he likes doughnuts, Americans cannot bring themselves to admit that they have no intention of giving up their guns, because they like owning them.

August 17, 11:09 am | [comment link]
10. Ruth Ann wrote:

Obviously this is a discussion going nowhere as far as convincing others to take your stand, whether it for or against guns.

I still maintain, as MD Brian, that to blame is the breakdown of the family, our Western society/culture including LACK OF PUNISHMENT FOR HARD CRIMINALS such as the death penalty…....which, no doubt will cause great moaning and gnashing of teeth…...the guns are a tool.  If not available, criminals will find other means.

August 17, 11:21 am | [comment link]
11. Brian of Maryland wrote:

Ozard,

The BBC report is about the situation in the UK not the US. Civilian gun ownership is essentially already illegal in the UK.  I think it fascinating and humorous that a bishop of the church would spend time talking about “the gun problem” when there are already laws on the books that ban their ownership.  For years we on this side of the ocean have heard about the civility and safety of the English.  From reports that I’ve read, you now have a higher rate of violent crime than we do. 

So I ask again, how will you magically make all those already illegal guns disappear?  OR, why would you spend time on that since you’ve already have your proof that banning ownership hasn’t helped the problem in the least?

As far as the American experience, I will agree with you on this point: we have the same problem with the collapse of the urban family as do you.  And we are paying the same price as you.  And like your church, my denomination isn’t doing anything about it either.  Both our churches are myopic when it comes to the problem at hand.  Perhaps in your case, given that in less than a generation Islam will be the predominant religion in the UK, these new families who have a commitment to family will help stabilize the violence.  Or maybe not.

MD BRian

August 17, 11:51 am | [comment link]
12. evan miller wrote:

My reasserting Anglican household and my sister’s reappraising Episcopalian household are both protected by numerous privately owned firearms.  She and I both also have concealed carry permits.  I am MUCH safer from robbery in my rural American home than my in-laws were in their rural English home, primarily because theives know they can pillage English farmhouses with impunity.

August 17, 12:28 pm | [comment link]
13. libraryjim wrote:

For a humorous take on the U.K. gun laws, I highly recommend the DVD “Hot Fuzz” (warning: strong and/or suggestive language; violence)

“The world is a dangerous place to live — not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”—Albert Einstein

August 17, 2:02 pm | [comment link]
14. William S wrote:

I don’t suppose statistics will make any difference to anyone who thinks that British families without guns are quaking in their boots in fear, but here goes anyway.

In benighted Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) in 2005/06 there were 58 homicides by firearms (UK government statistics), in a population of 57,104,000. This works out at a rate of one gun-related death for 984,552 people.

In the USA, where people are kept soooo safe by their arsenal of guns, there were in 2005 10,100 murders by firearms in 2005, in a population of 301,000,000 (FBI figures). This works out at a rate of one gun-related death for 29,802 people.

1 in 984,552 - 1 in 29,802. You see the difference?

Not only that, but the USA figure is up from just 8,890 per year in 2001, while the British figure is down from 100 in the same year.

So either British gun control laws are doing some good or we are miraculously repairing the fabric of damaged familes.

And by the way - those other tools which are just as lethal as firearms . . . if you add together every other homicide method from strangling to axe-murders in the USA in 2005, you still only get 2846 - compared with those 10,100 firearms murders.

You may feel much safer than your unfortunate friends in the English countryside - but buddy, you ain’t.

August 17, 3:06 pm | [comment link]
15. evan miller wrote:

#14
Your statistics are irrelivant to my point.  At least in most of the US, We have the opportunity to defend ourselves against armed thugs, whereas in the UK, only the thugs have the guns.

And my comment about the safety of my home, vs rural England is fact.  Nearly all ofmy in-laws friends and neighbors in rural Herefordshire have had their homes broken into at one time or another and most of their silver, etc., stolen.  Police presence in the British countryside is practically nonexistant and homeowners are unarmed - a perfect scenerio for criminals.
Criminals in the US have testified that they will target chain convenience stores rather than mom & pop stores because they know corporate policies of the chains prohibit employees being armes, but they have to assume the mom & pop employees might be. 
What weapons murderers use are immaterial.  Law abiding citizens should have the means to defend themselves with the most effective weapon for the purpose - a firearm.

August 17, 3:17 pm | [comment link]
16. Ozard wrote:

Sorry Evan - we do need statistics, as I shall show you.  I too have relatives in Herefordshire and have lived there myself.  This is my version of life in rural Herefordshire:
“I have many friends and neighbors in rural Herefordshire who have never had their homes broken into or any of their silver, etc., stolen.  Communities are close and supportive and though a few homeowners do own guns perfectly legally they have never needed to use them. Any unknown person around the place would be cheerfully challenged and probably end up making friends for life.  Hardly a perfect scenerio for criminals.”
So you see, Evan, your experience and mine are so different, what is the real situation?  I think we need to have a look at the statistics…

August 17, 3:38 pm | [comment link]
17. DavidBennett wrote:

Instead of “gun culture” the phrase should be “thug culture.” In my area, we have a very strong gun culture, with little to no violence. However, we do not have much of a “thug culture.” Here, firearms are regularly used for a variety of legal purposes, and it is rare for a child to reach the age of 13 without having fired at least a few long guns and maybe even some handguns.

I remember reading that if you take out a few urban crime hotspots, the U.S. has the same gun violence rate as most of Europe. So, fix certain crumbling neighborhoods, and you at least partially fix the gun violence problem. Urban activists are right about one thing, gun violence is bad, and it is especially prevalent in major U.S. cities. However, as long as these activists focus on a neutral tool (neutral, because most guns in the U.S. are used for legal activities), they are missing the point. Focusing on the family, economic disparity, thug culture, ignorance, etc, would be far better.


David Bennett

Per Christum Blog

August 17, 3:41 pm | [comment link]
18. MJD_NV wrote:

So - am I wrong that you can kill more people with a gun than any other readily-avilable means?

Um, yes.  You can kill more people with poison than gunfire.  The greatest number of Americans killed by Americans were killed with a truck and fertilizer - I don’t see any moves to ban those instruments. 

Statistically in the US, the largest numbers of legal guns owned per capita are in rural areas - which have the least gun violence. DavidBennet’s got the right of it.  It’s a culture thing, not a gun thing.

If God is not Father, Jesus is not Lord, the Son is not unique, baptism is not necessary, the creeds are optional, repentance and sin are dated concepts and the atonement is marginalized or even rejected, where do we go from here? The faith remaining will be a very different faith from the Christian faith once delivered to the saints - and I, for one, am not going there!  ~ Bp. Miller, Church of Ireland

August 17, 6:15 pm | [comment link]
19. libraryjim wrote:

killers don’t need guns to kill, in fact, most serial killers such as Jack the Ripper and The Boston Strangler didn’t use guns.

“The world is a dangerous place to live — not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”—Albert Einstein

August 17, 10:48 pm | [comment link]
20. Wilfred wrote:

What we clearly need is a govenment-financed program to give guns to poor people, so they will not be forced to buy cheap, Saturday-night specials in back alleys in order to exercise their Constitutional rights. 

Perhaps the Episcopal Church can begin doing this, and offer classes in marksmanship.

August 18, 9:51 am | [comment link]


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