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Are there any Christian denominations that consider it sinful for believers to own weapons for any reason, even if the weapon is legal to own?

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Are there any denominations that consider it sinful to own guns for any reason, regardless of laws?

As far as I am able to ascertain, there is not a single denomination that considers it sinful to possess a gun or rifle outright, including Quakers.

It is true that Quakers are pacifistic in their their moral code, that does not mean that they cannot possess weapons such as a gun or rifle.

Conscientious objection

During World War I and World War II, Friends' opposition to war was put to the test. Many Friends became conscientious objectors and some formed the Friends Ambulance Unit, aiming at "co-operating with others to build up a new world rather than fighting to destroy the old", as did the American Friends Service Committee. Birmingham in England had a strong Quaker community during the war. Many British Quakers were conscripted into the Non-Combatant Corps during both world wars. - Quakers

Modern weapons are not always associated with violence between members of humanity. This is how we should explore this question.

Some denominations may seem to make a distinction between hunting for sport and hunting for food. The distinction is a valid one. And this is where Quakers and possibly other denominations may try to view the morality of possessing firearms of one sort or another.

I am a hunter, and it has been suggested to me more than once that I cannot be a Quaker so long as I hunt. This suggestion has moved me to serious contemplation over the matter. I have read; I have prayed; and I have even quit hunting for a while. However, after examining early Quaker thought, the real reasons we hunt, and the danger of overly idealizing nature itself, I feel firmly settled.

In my limited research, there is not a lot of discussion of hunting in Quaker writings. There are two notable examples of Quaker hunters: Daniel Boone and Annie Oakley. It goes without saying that until recent modern times, hunting has been a normal function of human living. When Quakers came to the colonies, like all other settlers, they hunted for food. While some may have resisted the act of hunting, it did not become a majority view.

According to wildlife biologist Chris DePerno, who is a professor at North Carolina State’s College of Natural Resources (CRN), “Hunters do more to help wildlife than any other group in America,” as quoted in an article for CRN News. This may seem like a contradictory statement, but the truth is that wildlife conservation largely lies on the shoulders of hunters. They fund—privately, publicly, and voluntarily—the majority of conservation efforts. While it is a common misconception that government conservation programs are tax-funded, “in reality, they’re mostly funded by hunters” through the purchase of stamps, licenses, and permits for hunters and anglers. The support doesn’t stop there. As passionate as they are about protecting wildlife, hunters contribute a great deal of personal resources to the cause:

DePerno added that hunters also raise millions of dollars and contribute thousands of volunteer hours to wildlife conservation through their memberships in organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Whitetails Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited.

The notion that hunters don’t care about the life of animals is unfounded. Hunters are ethical people. Most hunters take precautions beyond regulations to ensure the cleanest death possible. For different types of hunting, certain weapons and ammunition are prohibited. In some states, standard AR-15s— the infamous ArmaLite rifle that has become the target of public outcry—is illegal to use when hunting deer, not because it is too powerful but because it isn’t powerful enough to guarantee a clean kill.

For me, hunting and fishing are not without spiritual merit. While needless slaughter of animals is an obvious affront to creation, hunting can be a dutiful, even worshipful experience. If we are to emphasize personal experience over corporate morality and theology, surely there is a place for those who live close to the land in this regard.

A Friend Explores the Morality of Hunting

Do Amish hunt? Some do in fact hunt!

Again, the Latter Day Saints permit hunting for food!

In a statement in the LDS Church News of Oct. 7, 1978, President Kimball , "The decision to hunt and fish, under appropriate regulations, is left to the discretion of the individual. However, many clear guidelines have been supplied to assist those who may be involved in such activities. These guidelines are designed to stop the unnecessary and wasteful slaughter of animals and birds, not to define public policy on predator control and game management." - Churches speak out on hunting

Even Jehovah's Witnesses hunt, if they want to.

What is Jehovah's Witnesses view on a baptized member owning machine guns?

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The Quakers teach an absolute pacifism.

If people know anything about Quakers, they know we’re nonviolent, rejecting war and violence in all its forms. Think Grace Kelly in High Noon, urging Gary Cooper not to pick his guns back up and confront the outlaws headed to his town. The Quaker commitment to peace goes back to our roots in 17th-century England. “All bloody principles and practices we do utterly deny,” George Fox and other early Friends wrote to the British monarch Charles II in 1660, “with all outward wars, and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole world.” - Quaker.org

Presumably, rejecting violence in all its forms would lead to the question of why it is necessary to own a firearm, as essentially any use will be violent in nature (besides target shooting, but this begs the question of what one is target shooting for).

That said, groups like the Amish, while preaching Christian pacifism, own firearms for hunting. This helps demonstrate the inherent difficulty in the question. While I don’t believe there are any denominations who would flat out say that owning a firearm is sinful (for instance I don’t think anyone, even quakers, would claim owning an antique firearm for show is sinful), there would certainly be a question pertaining to use and intention of ownership.

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Asking if owning guns for any reason is considered sinful by any Christian denomination misses the point. Way back in the distant past men killed with swords and metal farming implements. Historians consider firearms to have reached the form of a "classic gun" in the 1480s, which persisted until the mid-18th century. Rifles existed before this time (as did canon) but a modern firearm is perceived to be a hand-held gun. However, it doesn’t really matter what instrument is used when human life is taken, whether it’s a pistol, an automatic assault rifle or a machete.

The real Christian issue should be based on the theological and ethical position according to whether pacifism and non-violence has a scriptural and rational basis for Christians. Pacifism pertains mainly to warfare, but non-violence extends beyond that.

Many Christian denominations are pacifist and refuse to take human life by bearing arms in war. They denounce the taking of human life, by any means, but I can find nothing to suggest they denounce using a knife or some form of gun or rifle to shoot animals for food.

This article lists many Christian denominations who are pacifist.

Seventh-day Adventists are Christian pacifists opposed to bearing arms: During the American Civil War in 1864, shortly after the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Seventh-day Adventists declared, "The denomination of Christians calling themselves Seventh-day Adventists, taking the Bible as their rule of faith and practice, are unanimous in their views that its teaching are contrary to the spirit and practice of war; hence, they have ever been conscientiously opposed to bearing arms."

BUT that is not an SDA mandate. They are taught pacifism, so observant individuals will often choose other roles [in war] which will not require violence, even at great risk. No mention of carrying guns into church or keeping weapons at home to repel would-be murderers.

This article presents two opposing SDA views, the conclusions presented below:

Does Love and Compassion Come from the Barrel of a Gun? Should Christians use guns? NO! By Frank M. Hasel: If I am completely honest with you, try as I might, I simply cannot imagine Jesus looking into the eyes of another person and pulling the trigger of a gun or a semiautomatic weapon, firing a round of bullets at someone, or engaging in a knock-down, drag-out fistfight with an adversary. I cannot imagine Jesus deliberately hurting or killing another human being. His love compelled Him to act differently. We too should model this love by recovering the courage to learn from Him to be agents of peace.

Frank M. Hasel is an associate director of the Biblical Research Institute at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Turning Guns into Shields - Should Christians use guns? YES! By Joseph Olstad: Seventh-day Adventist Christians possess a wholistic (sic) view of humanity. We don’t just focus on the mental and spiritual aspects of our lives; we also highlight the physical experience. Think about our health message or the bodily resurrection that Scripture teaches. Physical life has always been a priority with God (Gen. 9:6). If a firearm or other weapon is used appropriately to preserve the life of loved ones, it is difficult to see how this violates one’s commitment to Christ. Preserving innocent life seems, instead, to be a fulfillment of that commitment.

Joseph Olstad is a graduate of the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies and Andrews University. He lives in Utah, United States, with his wife and his four daughters.

This article presents findings from The Pew Research Center which found in a 2017 survey that about 4 in 10 white evangelicals own a gun, the highest share of any religious group, and that 74 percent of all gun owners in the U.S. agree with the statement that their right to own a gun is essential to their sense of freedom. Today, only three states (North Dakota, Michigan and Georgia) and Washington, D.C., prohibit firearms inside places of worship, according to the Giffords Law Center.

Only the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has ordained a “minister of gun violence prevention,” the Rev. Deanna Hollas, who lives in a religious community outside Dallas. Hollas is the only known minister exclusively assigned to work on gun violence.

At the bottom of the article it quotes Micha 4:3: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”

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The closest thing I am aware of would be a localized "sub-denomination" of the ancient Church of Jesus Christ. Modern members of that same church believe the people of Anti-Nephi Lehi made a special covenant that they would never again take weapons of war for the purpose of shedding man's blood. This group went beyond the verbal or symbolic avowal of absolute pacifism by physically and permanently disposing of their weapons of war:

Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.

Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins.

And the great God has had mercy on us, and made these things known unto us that we might not perish; yea, and he has made these things known unto us beforehand, because he loveth our souls as well as he loveth our children; therefore, in his mercy he doth visit us by his angels, that the plan of salvation might be made known unto us as well as unto future generations.

Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.

And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold, we will hide away our swords, yea, even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold, we shall ago to our God and shall be saved.

And now it came to pass that when the king had made an end of these sayings, and all the people were assembled together, they took their swords, and all the weapons which were used for the shedding of man’s blood, and they did bury them up deep in the earth.

And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.

And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace.

(Alma 24:11-19, The Book of Mormon)

While the record isn't fully clear as to whether those who had entered into this covenant were allowed to own or touch a weapon ever again (as they may have still used weapons to hunt animals for food and for skins and so on), it does attest that they never did shed any man's blood again, and sacrificed their own lives rather than ever kill another human soul again. The act of burying their weapons of war was intended as an incontrovertible testimony that they "had never used them". To raise a weapon of war for war after having made this covenant would have been a profound breakage.

Others of the same religion, including their own sons who had not entered into this covenant never to use weapons of war, took weapons of war and fought in several major defensive battles and wars, but those of the original sub-denomination of Anti-Nephi-Lehi (also called the people of Ammon) who entered into this covenant could never lift a weapon for war again, even in self-defense.

More modern accounts reveal that the ancient Americans viewed the ceremony of burying one's weapons of war as having the meaning of peacemaking and forgiveness, equating it with the most profound possible covenant of peace:

We find, that as you quickly forgot what you promised Colonel Coursey, so you have wilfully broke the Covenant-chain which you promised our Agent, Colonel Kendal, should be kept more strong and bright, if we of Virginia would bury, in the Pit of Oblivion, the Injury then done us; ... Hear now, now is the Time to hearken; the Covenant-chain had very near slipt, by your not keeping it firmly. Hold it fast now, when all former Evils are buried in the Pit. ... And you Assarigoa, great Sachem of Virginia, we thank you for burying all Evil in the Pit. We are informed, that the Mohawks, Oneydoes, Onnondagas, and Cayugas, have buried the Axe already;

(The History of the Five Indian Nations of Canada, by Cadwallader Colden, 1747)

Massachusetts colonist Samuel Sewall wrote in 1680:

of the Mischief the Mohawks did; which occasioned Major Pynchon's going to Albany, where meeting with the Sachem they came to an agreement and buried two Axes in the Ground; one for English another for themselves; which ceremony to them is more significant & binding than all Articles of Peace, the hatchet being a principal weapon with them. (New England Historical & Genealogical Register, 1870)

Jesuit Relations, 1644, gives one of the earliest known accounts of the practice:

Since war broke out between the Iroquois and ourselves, we have not yet seen on their part a more solemn Embassy — whether in point of the number and rank of the ambassadors, or the beauty and number of the presents — than that which they despatched last Spring.

... They proclaim that they wish to unite all the nations of the earth and to hurl the hatchet so far into the depths of the earth that it shall never again be seen in the future ; that they wish to place an entirely new Sun in the Heavens, which shall never again be obscured by a single cloud; that they wish to level all the mountains, and remove all the falls from the rivers — in a word, that they wish peace. Moreover, as an evidence of the sincerity of their intentions, they declare that they are coming — women, and children, and old men — to deliver themselves into the hands of the French, — not so much in the way of hostages for their good faith as to begin to make only one Earth and one Nation of themselves and us. (Jesuit Relations, 1844)

While there might ostensibly still be room for owning weapons (guns included, ignoring anachronism) under the original religious covenant for other purposes (such as hunting) since the record isn't perfectly clear on whether they disallowed ownership of weapons altogether or "for any reason" as the question asks, there was a specific covenant prohibiting the use of weapons in shedding man's blood, and that required the burying of all their weapons of war in a very literal act and ceremony intended to demonstrate the sincerity of that covenant. Once this covenant of peace had been made, the record suggests that one could not find a weapon intended for war anywhere among these people who had entered into it. They had buried all of them.

As even the more modern echoes of the covenant illustrate, the intent is to create permanent distance between oneself and any weapons of war, or in other words, the temptation to war. This is demonstrated by burying the weapons so deep as to make them unrecoverable. It quite plausible that if not forbidden, the possession, use or display of weapons the primary or recognized use of which was in warfare could have at least been strongly discouraged in those who entered into this covenant. It was also a voluntary covenant which God honored for those specific people, and is not an official teaching or doctrine of the church they belong to. Notably, they required the protection of their sibling tribe (of the same religion) and of their children who had not entered into the covenant of peace in order to continue to survive.

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    To incorporate the Jesuit Relations is to misinterpret the actual morality of this issue as regards to the Catholic Church. The Church has always permitted the use of arms to used as self-defense. The Jesuits in your post are promoting peace amongst the Native Indians as best they can. That is awesome, but Church doctrine still permits the use of arms if necessary for self-defense.
    – Ken Graham
    Feb 14 at 19:35
  • @KenGraham Perhaps you misunderstand. This is not a commentary on the doctrines or practices of the Catholic Church at any point. It is an expounding of a particular religious practice and covenant made by some ancient Americans who believed in Christ. The contact of Jesuits with those people and reports of the ancient American practice as viewed through the eyes of Jesuits (among other varied witnesses, including French and American settlers of other denominational backgrounds) is only incidental. The new settlers were not its originators but sometimes participated in the ancient ceremony.
    – pygosceles
    Feb 14 at 19:49
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    The question at hand is as follows: "Are there any denominations that consider it sinful to own guns for any reason, regardless of laws?" Thus this is a question of doctrine: doctrine of a particular point of usage that is sinful. Many Christians in the "Ancient Church of Jesus Christ" were soldiers. Search it out in the Early Church.
    – Ken Graham
    Feb 14 at 19:57
  • @KenGraham I am aware of the history that the Catholic Church did not forbid the use of weapons. My answer details a specific sub-denomination or group within the ancient American Church of Jesus Christ, not the Catholic Church, and admits that many of them were soldiers. The chronicles of a Jesuit identifying the existence of a practice among American natives is not the same as taking or stating a stance on behalf of the Catholic Church, nor would it contradict a doctrine that combat is allowable or even commanded under certain circumstances.
    – pygosceles
    Feb 14 at 22:15
  • @KenGraham There may be distinctions of doctrine based on voluntary covenants or circumstances, for example eunuchs, Nazarites, and married persons, so we needn't suppose that absolute pacifism is unsupportable via general church doctrine merely because the general doctrine allows combat. The existence of a covenant made by those ancient natives does fall within the purview of a question asking if it was sinful to own weapons. If it is doctrine, it is a doctrine specialized to that covenant. The question of whether it is considered sinful isn't limited to blanket statements of doctrine.
    – pygosceles
    Feb 14 at 22:24

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