Rick Warren Forgives Whoever Sold His Son the Gun He Used to Kill Himself. But Should He?

Matthew Warren

That was quick. Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren wasted no time in forgiving the person who sold online an unregistered handgun with the serial number filed off to his son, who used it to kill himself.

On the Thursday following 27-year-old Matthew Warren’s death on Friday, his father tweeted:

Someone on the internet sold Matthew an unregistered gun.I pray he seeks God’s forgiveness. I forgive him. #MATTHEW 6:15

The passage cited reads, from the New International version of the bible, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Warren is no doubt using the quick logic that if his son hadn’t gotten that gun he would have gotten another, because someone who is bent on suicide will find a way. But he should slow down and, painful as the truth is, examine that idea.

Statistics show that having a gun around increases the risk of suicide, and not just by a little but by a lot.

According to many experts in the field, and every study conducted in the U.S. on the subject, there is a strong correlation between guns in the home and higher risk of suicide, especially among youth.[2] According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, simply having a firearm in the home increases the possibility that someone within that home will commit suicide by a factor of 2-10.

Guns are also the most common — and effective — way to commit suicide, judging from the numbers of those who are “successful” in their attempts.

More use a firearm (52%) than every other method combined. Suffocation (mostly hanging) accounts for 23%, poisoning/overdose for 18%, jumps 2%, cuts 2%, and other 4%.

It isn’t hard to figure out why guns are better for killing oneself, and are in fact more commonly used for that purpose than for killing someone else, at a rate of two to one.

Suicide has been termed a permanent end to a temporary problem, but guns make that outcome even more likely.

About 85% of attempts with a firearm are fatal: that’s a much higher case fatality rate than for nearly every other method. Many of the most widely used suicide attempt methods have case fatality rates below 5%…

Attempters who take pills or inhale car exhaust or use razors have some time to reconsider mid-attempt and summon help or be rescued. The method itself often fails, even in the absence of a rescue. Even many of those who use hanging can stop mid-attempt as about half of hanging suicides are partial-suspension (meaning the person can release the pressure if they change their mind) (Bennewith 2005). With a firearm, once the trigger is pulled, there’s no turning back.

It’s commendable for Rev. Warren, who truly has our sympathy here, to rush to forgive, and hopefully, as the scripture he quoted implies, it will do him more good than the person he’s absolving. But those who sell unregistered guns with the serial numbers filed off can’t claim they couldn’t know what the gun might used for. It’s a slam dunk that the purpose isn’t a happy one.

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