A sacrament is that which brings into being what it signifies. A handshake signifies friendship and it brings into being more friendship. An embrace signifies warmth, and it brings into being more warmth. The Sacrament of Reconciliation signifies forgiveness and it brings into being more forgiveness. The Eucharist signifies sacrificial love and it brings into being more sacrifice, more love.

A gun is an anti-sacrament. It signifies hatred and fear and shooting one, or practicing shooting one, brings into being more hatred, more fear, and always, always, more guns.
Clearly, the time has long since passed, if it ever existed, when private citizens could amass enough weapons to rise up against the tyranny of the government. Clearly, gun ownership simply allows us to arm ourselves against each other.

To own a gun is to live your whole life on high alert for a moment that, unless you’re a gang member, run a meth lab, work in organized crime, or have enlisted in the military, the overwhelming odds are will never come. It’s to stand eternally in front of the mirror like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and sneer at an imaginary foe, “Are you talking to me?”

To walk through the world quietly, peacefully, unarmed, is to live your whole life in freedom. Sure, someone may come along and randomly shoot you but a building might fall on you, a drunk driver might plow into your car, or you might be struck by lightning, too.

Sure, the violence our culture worships will continue to erupt in ever more berserk violence, most of it committed with guns. Meanwhile, though, you get to enjoy each moment to its fullest, secure in the knowledge that you will never, ever, either randomly or intentionally, shoot someone else.

If we want to live in a world where guns are not needed, we get to act as if we live in that world already.

That’s how we bring into being the Kingdom of God.

That’s how we begin to answer the call of Pope Francis: “No more war. War no more.”


  1. John Keegan, the military historian, wrote that for fifteen thousand years we have killed young men in millions in order to settle questions. He said that for the coming fifteen thousand years, we need to find a far different way.

  2. I really appreciate that succinct and true statement: "A gun is an anti-sacrament." For months I have been tempted by gun ownership. There are so many "reasons" to have one but I know deep in my soul that owning a gun is bad for your soul. That you cannot keep your equilibrium in Christ if you have one, even 'just in case'. A gun exists for one purpose only: to take life. That is anti-Christ. To me, guns are like pornography: they kill your soul. So I resist and keep trying to walk with Jesus. Thank you for giving me more clarity for my gut reaction.
    Dana Laviano

  3. Thanks so much, Kirk. Yes, we need to find a different way and Christ gave us the blueprint. Of course, peace is hard work–nowhere more than in our personal lives, as I discover anew every day…

    And Dana, yes! In fact, I have another essay roiling around in my head about that very subject for guns have always struck me, too, as porn. Their purpose is to reduce a human being to an object. Marines consider their gun human: their gun, not the people they kill with it. That war incites and inflames a kind of berserk eroticism is common knowledge. Soldiers notoriously refer to killing as "getting some." Again, this has got to make the blood run cold of all those of us who cherish the sanctity of the family and who abhor abortion. How can we ask these young men and women to go off and kill, and also claim to be forming their souls so as to equip them to come home and be emotionally healthy, spiritually life-affirming husbands and fathers, wives and mothers?

  4. Heather,

    I love you and I love your blog. My experience in life is very different than yours. I grew up in a family where guns were simply a part of life. We hunted and did target shooting. I have never ever used a gun on another human being. In fact, if you want to have your guns taken away from you in our house, all you had to do was point it a someone, even empty or accidentally!! Growing up in a family around guns…… and now watching as my grandchildren learn to enjoy and respect guns and shooting as a sport….. I am struck at the fear of them expressed by you and so many others and your desire to take them away.

    That being said….. to call a gun…… "anti-sacrament" is very thought provoking. That's why I love your blog. You do make me think. Maybe you are right, maybe not. I'll be thinking about that. One thought that comes immediately to mind is what is the difference between calling a gun …"anti-sacrament"…. and calling a man….. "anti-Christ". How does that help the dialogue?

    I will show my faithful Catholic friends your words and we can think about it and discuss it at our Friday morning breakfast which we have shared for over twenty years. These are all good men who own guns and hunt and target shoot and enjoy them with their families. If you are ever in Northern Minnesota. Look us up…… we can show you that guns can be a lot of fun and useful too.

    Again….. I love you…… and I love your blog!!

    A friend (though we have never met in person),
    Phil Mayer

  5. Heather, all your posts are wonderful and one of the reasons I love your blog so much is because of comments like yours Phil Mayer-this is what genuine dialogue, listening,empathy and openness look like. Wow, what a gift you have Heather! I've been loving all your non violence/peace posts recently as they're helping me ruminate on what I believe deep in my soul about conflict and how to find resolutions. Thank you.

  6. Hi Phil and Heather: Wow! Today's blog is mind-boggling to me! Phil, I also live in a place where guns are an everyday way of life. We use them for protection again various things such as snakes and wild hogs. We hunted when we were younger and venison was always on our table during those years. We live extremely rurally in East Texas and I, for one, wouldn't dream of living here without my trusty gun. I would not think of EVER using it on another human being; that is not the intention for owning my gun.

    However, Heather, I can very well see a gun in a different light and agree with the argument you raise. Having been reared by a father who was on the L.A. Police Dept for 30 years, our family was very practiced in gun safety, but we also knew exactly what a gun could do. We always have had great respect for firearms. As I write these words, I laugh to myself when I think of the changes that have occurred since that very innocent time. Although we lived through the Watts riots and we worried that our father would be hurt on his job, it was a very, very different atmosphere than in the world today.

    Anti-sacrament is a very profound way to look at guns, guns used to maime and kill; guns used by teenage boys who have no idea what they will REALLY do; guns used to threaten and settle scores; guns used in war. But not all guns signify hatred and fear. You are speaking of a far different gun than Phil and me. We are no less appalled than you by the shootings at schools and various places throughout our country and the world. And, yes, gun control is a matter of life and death in what the world has now become. It is no longer that safe place of my youth. I am 70 now and it is alas a much different place than when I was a child.

    Thank you so much, as always, for this blog. You bring something to our attention to think about outside the box! Be blessed, Heather. Thanks for the pictures. You are always in my prayers.

  7. I hear ya! But the thing about shooting animals for sport or target practice or owning guns, using guns, practicing with guns, a culture of guns is that guns can and often are used to shoot human beings. Of course that would not be you people, but the fact is it is a whole lot of people. I know how we love our hobbies! Mine include playing the piano and knitting. But the thing about a piano and knitting is that there is no danger of those things getting into the hands of the "wrong people" and say, massacreing a school full of children.

    If there were, I hope I would not deliberate more than half a second before GIVING THAT HOBBY UP FOR THE GREATER GOOD. And if I refused to, I hope I would admit that my insistence upon the right to pursue my hobby was directly or indirectly responsible for statistics like these:

    In 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour.

    73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in 2010.

    Firearms were the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide in 2010, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents.

    Between 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers – less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the U.S. in an average two-year period.

    In the first seven years of the U.S.-Iraq War, over 4,400 American soldiers were killed. Almost as many civilians are killed with guns in the U.S., however, every seven weeks.


    Guns were used in 11,078 homicides in the U.S. in 2010, comprising almost 35% of all gun deaths, and over 68% of all homicides.
    On average, 33 gun homicides were committed each day for the years 2005-2010.

    Regions and states with higher rates of gun ownership have significantly higher rates of homicide than states with lower rates of gun ownership.

    Where guns are prevalent, there are significantly more homicides, particularly gun homicides.


    Firearms were used in 19,392 suicides in the U.S. in 2010, constituting almost 62% of all gun deaths.

    Over 50% of all suicides are committed with a firearm.

    On average, 49 gun suicides were committed each day for the years 2005-2010.

    White males, about 40% of the U.S. population, accounted for over 80% of firearm suicides in 2010.

    A study of California handgun purchasers found that in the first year after the purchase of a handgun, suicide was the leading cause of death among the purchasers.

    Firearms were used in nearly 44% of suicide deaths among persons under age 25 in 2010.
    More than 75% of guns used in suicide attempts and unintentional injuries of 0-19 year-olds were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend.

    The risk of suicide increases in homes where guns are kept loaded and/or unlocked.

    From the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. More here: http://smartgunlaws.org/gun-deaths-and-injuries-statistics/

    Thank you for your civil and thoughtful responses. As you say, Michelle, stringent gun control would at least be a step in the right direction.

  8. There are 1,000 knife crime victims in London each month. Fewer deaths among them than would be the case with guns, but that seems to be mostly due to "the skill of surgeons and the speed of getting victims to hospital by ambulance and the London Air Ambulance".

    The sickness is in our hearts. And it's exacerbated by the madness inherent in our current way of living, which involves constant change, constant motion, broken homes, lack of direction, progressive coarsening of popular culture, and much more. Underneath it all lies a widespread lack of faith.

  9. Yes, well-put, Lydia-if there were no guns, we'd find another way to hurt ourselves and each other. Soul-sickness and loneliness…

    Plus, dear hunter-people, I just went out for a walk and suddenly thought of this piece I did for NPR which is about the pheasant fest dinner party I had several years ago with birds shot in Minnesota and Fed-Exed to L.A. by a friend of a friend…here it is: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6582957

  10. Damn, do I ever love your blog when you write like this.

    That is all for now. Carry on.

    Wait, just one more thing: also love that hunters and Heather can have a cordial conversation here about guns.

    OK. Now carry on.

  11. Something I've wondered for a while is whether the upsurge in gun and knife crime is in any way related to the huge increase in abortions.

    My thoughts on this aren't at all crystallised so it's a conversation starter really but I often think of children subsequently nurtured in a womb where there has been an untimely death (on purpose) and think this must have a very profound effect on their soul and psyche. Or am I just rambling?!

  12. Yes, Lizzie! To me, the connection between the violence of abortion, the violence of crime, and the violence of war is obvious. That is the Mystical Body of Christ…This is PROFOUND. And it all starts with the violence we do to ourselves and each other in our daily lives…

  13. Just wanted to say that I've read your first paragraph in this post over and over again. It's perfect and beautiful.

  14. Thanks so much for writing and posting this. I was grabbed by the first paragraph.
    What a benison also that "pros" and " antis" can seemingly coexist on your page.
    Michael. an English Anglican in UK

  15. Heather,

    I was looking at your statistics ……. and I thought if you substituted "alcohol" for "guns" in many of those stats mentioned……. I wonder how much damage is done by alcohol (and.or drugs which are already illegal). The combination of violence that is administered through the combination of alcohol (and/or drugs which are already illegal) and guns, automobiles, fist and belts in child and spouse abuse, and many other aberrant behaviors is astonishing. Perhaps, these statistics would be greater than with guns alone.

    We can make a lot of things illegal…….. but in doing so we are slowly but surely making "Freedom" illegal……

    Just another thought from this law abiding gun owner……..


  16. Yes, Phil! Oh Lordy, the violence that's committed behind alcohol and drugs…That's one reason I devote many hours a week and have for 26 years to keeping sober myself and helping other alcoholics/addicts to stay sober. And a huge part of sobriety is rigorous honesty. Copping to my resentment, self-centered fear, self-seeking, self-pity, masking a bad motive under a supposedly good one. All any of us can do is keep our own side of the street clean, and discern minute by minute when that means staying silent and when it means speaking out.

    You don't have to worry about having to give up your gun anytime soon. In this society, the side of power and aggression always win. What you can't do in all honesty is pretend that your "freedom" to own a gun is not affecting the rest of us. There ARE so many alcoholics and addicts, as you point out, and the right to gun ownership means that we are helping to arm them. It means all of us are forced to live in a society where severely disordered people, angry people, fearful people, deeply spiritually sick people, and psychotic people are allowed to own guns.

    You don't have to care about that. I agree that everything has to be invitation. We can't legislate people's hearts or force people to sacrifice for the greater good. But I do think in a civilized society we make laws reflecting that we care about the greater good. That's how slavery was abolished, desegregation occurred, why many Catholics fight so assiduously for anti-abortion laws. In effect, we are saying abortion and slavery and racism affect all of us.

    When my family had an intervention, that's what they told me about my drinking. They said, in essence, your drinking affects all of us. It's not just about you and your right to drink. It's about all of us.

    I didn't have to give up alcohol either. Actually, I couldn't have given it up even if I'd wanted to. By some unmerited act of grace, the obsession to drink was removed. Since then, I've gotten to cooperate with that removal. Through moral inventories, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and an ongoing examination of conscience, I've come to see that everything we do affects everyone else. That's all. That's what freedom is to me. In my better moments, to have the honesty to see that everything I do, say, and think affects everyone else.

    And then to be willing to change…THAT'S the hard part…

    One last thing: you've wandered from the thesis, which is that a gun is an anti-sacrament. There is not one way the right to own a gun helps me, encourages me, inspires me or leads me to Christ. And you still haven't told me how in your view, based on the life and teachings of the Christ of the Gospels, the right of every U.S. citizen to hold a gun does, or could do those things.

    Bless you, Phil. And if we ever meet in the flesh, PLEASE DON'T SHOOT ME.

    1. I am still giving a lot of thought to your thesis that a gun is an anti-sacrament.

      But first permit me a comment on your last post….

      "There is not one way the right to own a gun helps me, encourages me, inspires me or leads me to Christ."

      I could substitute any number of words for "gun" in that sentence that might not help me or lead me in a direct way to Christ………but that is not a reason to dispense with the right to own it.

      Heather, I think that we are coming from completely different experiences in regards to guns. I just do not look at a gun as something to kill people with……. just as a butcher does not look at a knife as something to stab people with.

      That being said, I do realize that there are a lot of people out there who would like to ban guns. Most of them I suspect have never owned or shot a gun. They presume that all of us would use them on a human being in an instant.

      To get back to your thesis….. I said it was interesting….. I am not sure that it is true. A hug is also a sign. And there are people who are very sensitive about human contact. It may be because of their upbringing, or it may be because they were abused at a young age…..for them a hug may be a terrifying thing. THAT does not make it an anti-sacrament. It does not make it a sign against affection.

      To me a gun is a tool……. and as such is a sign of being together as a family and a community to participate in something that is full of memories of love and affection. It is deer camp, pheasant hunting with a great dog, it is weekends with my boys up north hunting grouse…. it is duck stories…… I could go on.

      It is as if we are talking about two different things.

      And Heather……. I would never shoot you!! I know you were kidding but it kind of bothers me that you would even kid about that!! I guess that is a sign of the different worlds we live in.

      If I ever do meet you…….. and I think that may happen some day as I know that we have some real life friends in common. ……. if I ever do meet you, I have something for you……

      A BIG HUG!

  17. I love this. Thank you. I shared it.

  18. Theophany, bless you. Bless all for your comments.

    And Phil, love it! I'm not sure you will be able to give me a big hug as I will probably be tackling all who stand in my way to give you a big hug first–you gun lovers will teach me peace yet…
    Where do you live, anyway?

    1. I live in north central Minnesota……. the Cuyuna Lakes area….. in a small town……. Ironton, MN.

      It is not L.A. …….. but it is very beautiful in its own way, lots of lakes, woods, streams and rivers (the Mississippi passes through just north of town but it is barely 100 feet across here). It used to be an area where a lot of iron and manganese was mined in open pits. The mining stopped in 1979 and all those ugly open pits have filled with water making for deep crystal clear lakes with beautiful steep shores overgrown with nature's greenery. For me this whole area is a sacrament…… a sign of how the good God can make beautiful what man has made ugly.

      I have lived here for 35 years… I am sixty years old. My wife's family is from this area and when we looked for a place to settle down…… we decided this would do. Good decision!!!

  19. Thanks, Phil, I'm coming to St. Paul May 3, 2014 and have lots of MN connections, not the least of which is that I got sober there, at Hazelden. I have a friend from Roseau, a friend from Internat' Falls, and a friend from Pipestone (SW MN) who goes fishing at the Suregame Lodge I think it's called each year in Wirt. And don't forget I'm a small town girl myself, originally from North Hampton, NH. Anyway, it sounds beautiful where you are. Enjoy the fall–I was at Hazelden right around this time in 1986…

  20. Rest in peace, the victims of the latest gun massacre in Washington D.C.

    The U.S. has the highest military spending as a portion of the GDP, the second-highest high-school dropout rate, the largest prison population per capita, and the highest rate of homicide in the world.

    Ahhhh, freedom!

  21. Here's a piece in today's NYT that might be of interest: Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll.

    An excerpt: "Children shot accidentally–usually by other children–are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable…

    A common theme in the cases examined the The Times…was the almost magnetic attraction of firearms among boys. In all but a handful of instances [of accidental deaths resulting from children shooting other children, adults, or themselves], the shooter was male. Boys also accounted for more than 80 percent of the victims.

    Time and again, boys could not resist handling a gun, disregarding repeated warnings by adults and, sometimes, their own sense that they were doing something wrong.

    When Joshua Skorczewski, 11, took an unloaded 20-gauge shotgun out of the family gun cabient in western Minnesota on July 28, 2008, it was because he was excited about going to a gun safety class that night and wanted to practice"…

    Instead, "for reasons that he later struggled to explain to police," Joshus loaded a single shell into the gun, pulled the hammer back, and accidentally killed his 12-year-old sister Natasha.

    Jodi Sandoval, whose 14-year-old son Noah McGuire, was accidentally killed last year with a handgun left accessible by the grandfather of a friend, is quoted as saying: "There are no accidents. There are simply irresponsible, stubborn, cowardly adults unwilling to stand up against the gun lobby and those who support it."

    Like I said–A gun is an anti-sacrament.

  22. Yes, it is an anti-sacrament. Not only when it kills people but also when it kills defenseless animals!


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