Two nights ago on the local news one of the features was a group of inner city pastors lamenting the fact that each one had lost at least one person from their congregation to gun violence. Their collective idea was to do something about it by pressing the City of Milwaukee to establish a gun buy back program. The city’s mayor appeared to be all for the idea.

The idea is nothing new. It gets recycled frequently most recently in light of the Sandy Hook massacre and its aftermath when many communities sought “to do something.”

You would think with so much history of gun buy back programs the cheerleaders for such ideas would be able to point to some sort of success. They usually don’t because they can’t find much. Even left-leaning news outlets like USA Today note that gun buy back programs are popular but not effective.

Yet the programs remain popular and it’s possible to read stories like the one in the  Chicago Sun Times article that is largely favorable to Chicago’s gun buy program run in June, 2012. The article notes that 5, 500 guns of various types were turned in ranging anywhere from semi-automatic rifles to BB guns. People got a gift card of various amounts for turning in their guns.

Gun buy back programs are popular and get a  lot of media coverage. There is something impressive about a picture with 5,000 turned in guns all stacked up. It's a powerful visual and gives people the idea that it matters, but does it?

Gun buy back programs are popular and get a lot of media coverage. There is something impressive about a picture with 5,000 turned in guns all stacked up. It’s a powerful visual and gives people the idea that it matters, but does it?

So what we have is an apparent contradiction-popular programs with a weak history of success because everyone knows that gang-bangers and criminals are not going to turn in their guns and everyone knows that Chicago is Exhibit A when it comes to gun violence despite having the strictest gun control laws anywhere. Still, the gun buy back program helped people think “they were doing something” to reduce gun violence.

So far I’m just stating obvious and making an argument that has been made and made and remade and few seem to listen. No one seems want to admit the obvious and to try and figure out what the problem underneath the problem truly is. I would have hoped the Milwaukee inner city pastors would have gone a bit deeper rather than settle for a largely pointless gesture.

Let’s go back to history’s first murder. Spoiler: It does not involve a gun.

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”   Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:1-8 ESV)

This little story is often taught poorly in my opinion because some emphasize the type of offering rather than the fact that Cain was angry and resentful of his brother Abel. The Lord counsels Cain by pointing to the reality of sin. There is something wrong with Cain’s heart and Cain needs to rule it rather than it rule him.

Does not make the main point of the story and is actually silly.

Does not make the main point of the story and is actually silly.

Cain ignores the Lord’s counsel (bad plan) speaks to his brother (we do not know what was said) and then kills him, presumably with his bare hands or with the aid of a knife, large rock, or big stick.

Art work that clearly illustrates the violence within the human heart.

Art work that clearly illustrates the violence within the human heart.

The means of execution are irrelevant which is why there is no record of a rock buy back program or a knife buy back program. The issue is the human heart and the only one that can fix that is Jesus. You would think those inner city pastors would know that. I suspect they do but its way easier to blame a gun and get on TV than it is to do genuine soul work and do some serious confrontation about root issues with their congregations.

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