In American society, gun ownership is a constitutional right, as is the carrying of a firearm. It is a right that many Americans consider sacrosanct, including many Christians living in America. More and more, the free exercise of this right is being curtailed through various municipal and state laws, forcing the Christian gun owner to consider an important question: if the government—or a would-be autocrat—someday attempts to confiscate all guns, what should be the response?
Ground-level rules for the Christian’s relationship to government can be summarized with four main passages of Scripture: Romans 13:1–7, Acts 5:29, John 18:36, and Acts 16:35–39. Broadly speaking, Christians are to obey all laws, other than those that require us to commit sin; even then, we are to submit to whatever punishment comes with disobedience. The Bible does not empower believers to disobey laws simply because the regulations are unjust or inappropriate, or even because the laws conflict with a nation’s constitution. At the same time, Christians are not obligated to be entirely passive or naïve in their dealings in a fallen world. Civil disobedience can be biblically justified in certain situations. Legal rights can and should be taken advantage of (see Paul’s defense of himself in Acts 22:24–29).
In general, any law not in conflict with God’s commands needs to be obeyed, as galling as that law might be to the one under the law. Romans chapter 13 indicates that earthly government exists for a reason. Defiance of a law based solely on one’s preference defeats the purpose for which God instituted government. John 18:36 establishes that violence is entirely incompatible with a “defense” of the faith or the promotion of Christian ideals. Acts 5:29 implies that laws requiring one to commit sin must be disobeyed, because God’s law is higher than human law. Acts 16:35–39 shows the legitimacy of using existing legal systems to their fullest extent, including in resistance to injustice.
Each situation has nuances. Arguments can be made that even laws not compelling sin could be dangerous precursors to exactly that. Some human laws seem to interfere with implicit biblical commands, such as the charge to care for and protect one’s family, or with essential aspects of religious practice. The American Revolution was grounded in this general sphere of arguments. Some Christians today defy pandemic-related restrictions on church attendance on grounds that the government is targeting worship rather than promoting safety—especially when the restrictions exempt bars, stores, and casinos.
A Christian gun owner’s response to government gun confiscation, or to the potential of such a “gun grab,” should be tempered by the above biblical considerations. Neither firearms nor their accessories are part of our relationship to Christ. In light of Romans 13:1–2, it is probably the case that even gun confiscation laws ought to be obeyed. Citizens of the United States who understand the Second Amendment to be foundational to American society would no doubt have difficulty submitting to such laws. But Christians understand that restrictions on certain kinds of guns are not a hindrance to biblical faith. Of course, aggressively using the legal and political system to prevent or correct unreasonable restrictions is also compatible with the Christian faith.
Working through the issues faced by Christian gun owners in response to potential gun confiscation is not easy. And future developments might tip the scales in favor of one response over another. Limits on magazine size, for example, are much different than a wholesale seizure of all rifles. A government taking appropriate legal steps to pass gun laws—which can be similarly overturned in the legal process—is much different from a government ignoring its own laws to enact gun control by fiat.
Determining one’s course of action (or inaction) regarding gun confiscation will be both personal and situational. There is no simple or universal answer for exactly how Christians ought to respond to potential government gun confiscation. What makes sense for one believer might be entirely wrong for another who lives in a different situation. Each individual Christian must faithfully, prayerfully, and humbly seek God’s will with respect to his or her unique circumstances (see Romans 14:23).