Actress Alyssa Milano sparked a Twitter debate about the Bible, guns and the Bill of Rights following a series of shootings in Texas, Alabama, and Illinois over the weekend.
On Saturday, after a gunman's shooting rampage in the West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa left seven people dead and 22 injured, Texas state Sen. Matt Schaefer of Tyler said in a Twitter thread: "I am NOT going to use the evil acts of a handful of people to diminish the God-given rights of my fellow Texans.
He added, "YES to your God-given, constitutionally protected rights. YES to God, and NO to more government intrusions."
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas responded to Milano in a series of tweets, saying that while the Bible does not specifically address gun ownership, is does address the right to life and liberty, and a key part of that is the right to defend one's life and family.
"The right to self-defense is recognized repeatedly in the Bible, eg Exodus 22:2: 'If a thief is caught breaking in at night & is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed.' (Note, though, verse 3 says it IS murder if during daylight (i.e., not self-defense)," Cruz said.
"The Declaration of Independence acknowledges our rights thusly: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,'" he added.
Cruz went on to describe how this right was played out when Stephen Willeford, an NRA instructor, used his gun to chase down a man who committed a mass shooting at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in 2017.
"That’s also why, post-Civil War, disarming black Americans was a critical objective of the KKK, and was memorialized in countless Jim Crow laws—to strip African Americans of their God-given right to self-defense from violence," Cruz said.
In another tweet to Cruz on Monday morning, Milano added: "I’d love to come in and meet with you on the gun issue and many other issues that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, @tedcruz and also, 1 Peter 4:8. I’ll be in DC next week. We can live-stream the meeting so the American people can hear your bull---- 1st hand."
Cruz responded, saying: "I’d be happy to sit down & visit next week about uniting to stop gun violence & about the Constitution. If we can have a civil & positive conversation — in the spirit of 1 Peter 4:8 as you suggest — despite our political differences, that might help resolve the discord in our Nation."
Milano replied to the senator on Tuesday, saying: "Great. I just called your office. They gave me your schedulers [sic] email address. I emailed to set up a meeting. Looking forward to it."
The NIV translation of 1 Peter 4:8 reads: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."
In response to Cruz's tweet thread, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., argued that the Constitution does not permit the kind of status quo on guns that the United States has today.
While not commenting on the biblical passages Cruz referenced, Murphy said he believes the Second Amendment is speaking of collective, not personal, defense. He further argued that the government is permitted to place conditions on firearm ownership, and suggested that the Founding Fathers had a different view than Cruz.
"Nowhere in [James] Madison's copious notes from the Constitutional Convention does he mention the 2nd Amendment being about the private right of gun ownership. And the term 'bear arms,' which today is connected with private gun ownership, back then was connected to militias," Murphy said.
"No Democrat is arguing to outlaw private gun ownership," he continued. "But we do believe, as the founders did, that there should be reasonable limits on gun ownership. Like, some people are too dangerous to own guns, and a few guns are [too] dangerous to own."
The debate over gun policy continues to roil U.S. politics as mass shootings occur with increasing frequency.
The mass shooting in Texas over Labor Day weekend came just hours after 10 people were shot at a Friday night football game in Mobile, Alabama, by a 17 year old following a neighborhood gang dispute. And in Chicago over the weekend, eight people were killed and 37 were injured by gunfire.