A new poll has found that a majority of evangelical leaders are gun owners, and at the same time, most of them favor in stricter gun laws.
The findings of the August Evangelical Leaders Survey revealed that 58 percent of evangelical leaders live in a household that has a gun, while 55 percent believe that gun laws should be more strict. Only five percent of evangelical officials are in favor of relaxing existing laws on gun ownership, while 40 percent believe that the current laws are adequate.
"Evangelical leaders have nuanced views on guns. Many own guns for hunting or protection. Some own antiques with no bullets. They accept the Second Amendment, but also deeply grieve when weapons are used to take innocent lives," said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
Many evangelical leaders stated in their comments that handgun and assault weapon sales should be limited and background checks should be tightened. Some called for a stricter implementation of existing laws.
"While I support the Second Amendment, we clearly have a growing citizenry that is incapable of the responsibility necessary to keep and bear arms," said Carl Nelson, president of Transform Minnesota.
Some evangelical leaders who own guns emphasized the importance of gun safety. "We have chickens, cows and coyotes. We owe protection to the animals in our care. We have a gun safe, and everyone takes classes from certified instructors before ever getting to touch a gun. We are responsible gun owners with carry permits, and we are evangelical Christians," said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of Presbyterian Lay Committee.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the NAE, which include CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.
This was the second time that the NAE had conducted a poll on gun laws, according to The Trace. The previous survey, which took place during the month of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, found that 73 percent were in favor of tighter gun regulation.
The survey was conducted ahead of the launch of a day of nationwide remembrance on Oct. 15, which was organized by the "Prayer Warriors Against Gun Violence" social network in partnership with the Washington-based Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute and prominent church leaders.
In what is intended to be an annual commemoration, a range of evangelical leaders and survivors are inviting individuals and churches to pray for victims of gun violence.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention has reported that about 33,000 people in the U.S. die from gunshot wounds each year, with two-thirds of the deaths being suicides.
A survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in January 2013 indicated that white evangelicals are more opposed to stricter firearms laws than any other religious demographic. As many as 59 percent of white evangelicals were against stricter gun laws, even in the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting.