The Rev. Franklin Graham has blamed the entertainment industry and the rising tide of evil in the world for the recent mass shootings that have gripped America, arguing that gun legislation is not the solution to the problem.
"Gun control proposals now circulating in Washington and in many state capitals don't address a more important issue – the constant stream of violence put forth by the entertainment industry," Graham wrote in a statement on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website. "Every year brings a flood of movies, not to mention cable and television programs, that are filled with violence. Whole segments of America's music industry make their profits from song lyrics that glorify gratuitous violence, and there is seemingly an endless number of video games that are nothing more than murder simulators."
The Samaritan's Purse leader reminded readers that 2,000 years ago, "blood-thirsty Romans" gathered at the Coliseum to watch gladiator fights and mass slaughterings, which he compared to the present day society which has become "desensitized to murder and mayhem."
Graham continued: "We gather around computers, televisions, and movie screens to watch scene after scene of more graphic violence than anything the Romans could have imagined."
He stressed, however, that the root of the violence is "the evil and depraved heart of man."
"This is why moral, heartfelt transformation is really the only solution to the deadly and dangerous ills that are plaguing our nation. The Scripture says we need a new heart, not new legislation or regulations. 'I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you' (Ezekiel 36:26)," Graham suggested. "In this violent, sin-sick world, our only hope is the Prince of Peace."
Other conservative Christians, like Greg Stier, founder and president of Dare 2 Share Ministries International, have made the same argument against gun legislation, insisting that the root of the problem lies within the evil of men's hearts.
"What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School was at a level of malevolence beyond any earthly explanation or solution. Like a river of magma underneath the earth's crust, unimaginable evil burst forth that day, looking for a place to explode," Stier wrote, referring to the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre in Newtown, Conn., where a lone gunman fatally shot 20 children and six school staff members. "It (gun control) may be an answer but it is not the answer. Preventing mentally unstable people from having easy access to automatic weapons may be part of an overall solution, but it is not the ultimate solution."
The Newtown tragedy has sparked a great deal of debate in America about how to address the historically high rate of gun violence in the country. Although the rate of assault deaths per 100,000 people in America has been dropping since its height in the 1970s, it is still considerably higher than all other economically developed nations in the world.
President Barack Obama promised "meaningful action" on new gun legislation following the Sandy Hook tragedy, and the White House administration is currently debating a new ban on assault weapons with a high capacity range.
The religious community has also been divided on the issue, with a January 2013 survey of evangelical Christian leaders in America conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals revealing that 73 percent of church leaders agreed that that there needs to be stricter gun regulations.
"Evangelicals are pro-life and deeply grieve when any weapons are used to take innocent lives," said Leith Anderson, president of the NAE. "The evangelical leaders who responded to the NAE survey support the Second Amendment right to bear arms but also want our laws to prevent the slaughter of children."