Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas, believes putting God back in in public schools could curb gun violence, but he says that’s only a start. He’s also in favor of tougher gun laws.
“People are surprised to hear me say I believe we need tougher gun control legislation. I think we need deeper background checks. There are some people who should not have guns,” he said. “But what I’m saying is, if we try to solve this problem with legislation alone, it’s like putting a band-aid on cancer. You’re not dealing with the root problem, which is a heart issue.”
“I believe teaching our children that there is a God to whom they are accountable is not the only thing we need to do to deal with gun violence, but perhaps it’s the first thing we need to do.”
Thousands of members of First Baptist Dallas took part in the March for Eternal Life on Palm Sunday, one day after millions of people took to the streets to rally for stricter gun laws in a coordinated effort called March for Our Lives. It was organized by survivors of the February 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Calif.
“I think people need to remember that for the first 150 years of our nation’s history, schoolchildren prayed and read the bible and memorized the Ten Commandments in schools,” Jeffress said.
“Now what changed? Did the constitution change?” Jeffress asked. “No, what has happened is we’ve allowed secularists to pervert the first amendment into something our founding fathers never intended. The First Amendment is not about the freedom from religion in the public square. It’s about the freedom of religious expression.”
It’s relatively rare for Antong Lucky, director of expansion and training at Urban Specialists to agree with Jeffres. But on the issue of focusing on changing people’s hearts, they might have found common ground.
Few know the reality of inner city life as intimately as Lucky and his colleagues. Urban Specialists trains community members to work with youth in Dallas, encouraging those young people to choose alternatives to violence.
“Not only does this affect affluent white suburban kids, you have kids in this community that deal with gun violence every single day,” Lucky said. “They should be included in the solution, figuring out how we get out of this mess.”
“Whether it’s a heart change, whether it’s a behavior change, whether it’s an attitude change. We believe in that too,” Lucky said. “We believe in all of that, so we say whoever has an idea to change and stop violence, we’re willing to listen, we don’t have a problem with it.”
Lucky says the key would be focusing on people’s hearts while respecting different faiths and very different backgrounds.
“Whatever the solution is, we need to all work together so that our kids don’t lose their lives,” Lucky said. “That’s something I can certainly agree on.”