Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Please Stop Being Dishonest: Guns Are Not “Just Tools”


There is a discussion to be had on America and guns.

I think the average person gets this– I mean, it’s pretty hard not to. We have a proliferation of guns and near-daily acts of unspeakable death and violence committed with many of those guns.

It seems only reasonable that we, as a nation, talk about common sense steps towards reducing all this violence. And, since this violence is typically committed with legally purchased guns, it’s also reasonable that we have a discussion on who should have guns and how to prevent those with nefarious intent from obtaining them.

However, I think the average person also knows that this discussion is almost insufferable to have. Each side has both reasonable and unreasonable people and arguments, and it is this insertion of refusal to reason by unreasonable people, that often make the discussion a no-go-for-launch.

One of those such arguments comes from the pro-gun crowd, and it goes something like this:

“You idiots! Guns are just tools.”

I’m convinced that each time this sort of logic is pushed forward an angel loses their wings or something. Because no, guns are not just tools.

If we’re ever to have even the most basic discussion on gun violence in America, we’ll have to move beyond a non-starter that is either ignorant or blatantly disingenuous.

This attempt to make those who wish to have a discussion on guns look foolish, backfires. Even if a gun were “just a tool,” those who use this argument often forget the full definition of the word tool:

“Tool: a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function.

When saying, “but a gun is just a tool!” it seems they often mean, “it’s just an implement or device like a screwdriver, so stop acting like it’s dangerous.”

These folks ignore that a tool, by definition, carries out a particular function. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think one needs to be a member of Mensa to know what the particular function of a gun is.

We wouldn’t say the electric chair is “just a chair” or “just a tool” because we know that it is designed and used for a very specific function: killing people.

A gun isn’t some all-purpose tool– I mean, come on now, it’s not a freaking letherman.

Never in my life have I said, “Gee, honey, that picture looks crooked. Can you go grab my pistol so I can straighten it?” or, “Man, this IKEA furniture is really hard to put together without an AR-15.”

The way gun-advocates use the word “tool” is almost always the fallacy of false equivalency– guns are not equal to the other objects in life we commonly call tools, nor do they serve similar functions.

A 6 year old didn’t accidentally kill his father this week because Dad left a screwdriver on the table.

A 3 year old in Michigan didn’t accidentally kill his mom this week because he got his hands on a pencil sharpener.

A woman in Alabama didn’t inflict life threatening wounds on herself because she accidentally discharged the palm sander that was under her pillow.

The 6 people who died in Kalamazoo didn’t die because an Uber driver decided to drive around town and throw tape measures at people.

I mean, for the love of Lemmy people, a gun isn’t just some sort of tool that is divorced from a very specific function.

In fact, “tool” isn’t a very precise word for a gun at all; the word we should be using is weapon:

“Weapon: a thing designed or used for inflicting bodily harm or physical damage.”

Inflicting bodily damage is the entire purpose of a gun. It’s what they do. It’s why we don’t send people to war armed with screwdrivers, and why gun-advocates would not be satisfied if we just let them open carry hammers. They don’t want some generic tool– they want weapons, and they know it.

And this is also why the conversation must be centered around how we responsibly regulate deadly weapons, because that’s what guns are designed for.

There is reasonable dialogue to be had somewhere here in the middle, but that dialogue is quickly stifled when extremists disingenuously argue that we’re only talking about “tools.”

Because that’s not at all what we’re talking about.

I am hopeful we as a people can move forward in some fruitful conversation, but that can’t happen until the blatant dishonesty about guns being “just tools” comes to an end.

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Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.


Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is a cultural anthropologist, public theologian, writer, speaker, global traveler, and tattoo collector. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell with graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies, and went on to receive his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. In addition to his blog, Formerly Fundie, his work has been regularly featured by a wide array of media outlets such as TIME magazine and CNN, among others.

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But let's be honest-- this is pretty #$@%! close.

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What you think

Post Comments:

  • RonnyTX says:

    Thinking about my nearly 60 years of living and some of my neighbors. Well, the ones I really wished hadn’t of had any guns, were the ones who drank too much.

  • There’s a great Simpsons episode where Homer joins the NRA. He makes the argument that his gun is a tool and does things like shoot his lights out at night.

  • Herm says:

    Okay, here goes;

    My guns are tools…

    … that I can put meat on the table with when the store shelves are empty.

    … that I can use to protect my stores of food housed in my beloved family’s survival shelter.

    … that I can protect my beloved family from any tyrannical government invasion of our freedoms and independence.

    … that I can intimidate enemies of my family’s peace to go to the unarmed house next door.

    … that I can trust with my life as I grip them ever so solidly in my cold dead hands.

    My guns are, in the mean time, my friends in play as we hone our skills of relationship with each other as a team at the range or in harmony out in the field with the other good sportsman gun practitioners and their friends at play. My guns are hardly more dangerous, or in need of any regulation, than is my basketball or tennis racket on the courts in playful competition with my good sport teammates as we practice at play.

    My 357 mag loaded with hydroshock ammo is hardly any more dangerous or even less of a tool I might need someday than any other gun loaded with 16 penny nails. Toys, tools, or obsessions for future needs: what is the difference in my gun from any other tool I keep polished and loaded in my toolbox? Each in their own way serves me to feel secure that I am ready for whatever the future might bring, either by destroying a collapsing society without love for one another or constructing a new and stronger survival shelter I can trust even more than my last. What else could there be more important than choosing to give my responsible time to than the single minded defense of my constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and God graced freedom of choice? I wonder???

  • BrotherRog says:

    Excellent piece. Tragically, needed. It’s not merely about tools, it’s about idolatry. Too many American Christians put our faith into guns instead of in God. To many of us live in fear, not in faith. See: “Jesus: an unwanted Christmas present”

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity”

  • spunkets says:

    A gun is a tool. Folks that use tools like guns, did not forget what they’re used for. Their use is based on their morality and the only morally valid justification for their use is to protect rights, in particular, to protect life and freedom. They can also be used to violate rights, which is of course never morally justified, but nevertheless occurs. The purpose for the tool in self defense is to enable an effective self defense, which would not be possible without the tool.

    It also needs to be understood that a military and a police force are tools. Their purpose is to enforce political intent. If the intent of the political hierarchy is to violate rights and abolish freedom, which can not ever be morally justified, then folks will need the appropriate tools to defend against that offense onslaught.

    It also needs to be understood that freedom is the condition wherein folks recognize, respect and honor their fellow’s rights– those things that are inherent in every sentient rational being equally. Fighting and war is impossible when the condition of freedom exists. It is therefore equivalent to peace. Peace never occurs, when rights are surrendered, that is simply submission to tyranny and nothing more.

    • Enesvy says:

      It is a weapon. Call it a subset of tool if you must, but it is designed for one use: to cause injury or death. You can defend yourself in many ways without a gun. A gun is designed to cause injury or death. That’s it. Weapon much more clearly defines a gun than “tool.”

  • jimbd says:

    Very short-sighted article aimed at a narrow audience. I neither worship violence nor do I live in fear. Part of a man’s God-given duty is to protect his family. You men who think it noble to die empty handed, knowing that your wife and children are next, have that option, but don’t infringe on my right and responsibility to protect my family. If you think that being Christian ensures protection, you need to read a little deeper into the Word. Many righteous men of the Bible were murdered, including most of the apostles. Turning the other cheek when persecuted is for personal application, and there is no commandment to turn the other cheek when it is your family that is being attacked.

    There were 130,000 accidental deaths in the U.S. in 2013 (compared to 33,000 gun deaths), yet I hear no calls to ban cars or ladders or hair dryers or clumsy people. For those of you who are opposed to violence (except violence against yourself, since you voluntarily give up the right to self-protection) there are many places you can move where you can feel safe right up until you are attacked by someone who doesn’t care that you are in a gun-free zone.

    Freedom and security are, to a degree, mutually exclusive. The only way to guarantee total security is to completely give up all freedom. I guess the folks here are still on the fence, willing to give up some freedom for some security. Paraphrasing Ben Franklin, those people deserve neither freedom nor liberty. Thankfully, our founding fathers were not as short-sighted as the author and commenters here.

    • Yes, the article was written to a somewhat narrow audience as most of my readers are Jesus-followers. The blog and the types of things I write will undoubtedly be rejected by those who have no interest in actually doing what Jesus said to do.

  • scott stone says:

    Forgive my little rant here before I get to the topic at hand but why do progressives hate Uber so much? Here’s a headline from The New York Times: Man Accused in Kalamazoo Shootings Has Driven For Uber. That’s the headline! Why does it matter that he drove for Uber. Isn’t Uber progressivism at it’s best? I’m waiting for the headline Union Bricklayer Kills Three. Sorry, I just needed to get that out. Now on to the gun debate..
    I actually don’t understand the problem and I’m a midwest gun owning individual. We grew up poor and hunting was actually a way to provide food. I’ve grown up with guns my whole life but don’t understand the visceral reactions people have on both sides of the argument. Is this just another example of how polarized we are as a country? Mass shootings seem to draw the most attention yet they account for a fraction of all gun deaths. The minute one occurs you can be guaranteed that the President or another democrat will be out trying not to let a crisis go to waste.The truth is most of these shootings couldn’t be prevented by any law.
    Then we have the republicans who seem not to have a lick of common sense regarding gun control. What the hell is wrong with the concept of all firearms having to be registered? We register our cars for goodness sake! Is there no ability to have honest dialogue on an issue that is of utmost importance? I really have no solutions but would love to be educated by those who do.

  • Larry TheKeyboardist Blake says:

    In the words of Stephen King: “Semi-automatics have only two purposes. One is so owners can take them to the shooting range once in awhile, yell ‘yeehaw,’ and get all horny at the rapid fire and the burning vapor spurting from the end of the barrel. Their other use – their only other use – is to kill people.”

  • David says:

    People don’t see that it isn’t the OBJECT, it is the SUBJECT. The subject is violence. The object (guns, stones, knives) cannot be the subject. The object arises because the subject causes it to do so. But America cannot admit that. Admitting that would be saying its society is an abject and dismal failure. And it is. But it can’t tell the rest of the world that after hectoring them for decades about how brilliant and righteous and democratic it is. Thus, it is trapped by its own concepts, which are false. Guns, stones and knives can come or go, but the violence will remain. Why? Because no one will admit it is the society that America created where it would rather consign its children to violent deaths than change its ugly and violent ways.

  • Elyse Frances Enger says:

    I think Benjamin has a point here. When he refers to the guns as a weapon, he is speaking the truth.

    Weapons are symbols of violence and anger in many stories, and words can also be weapons.

    And when there is a weapon in the house it is more likely for a person to be killed in it. This is proved in statistics about domestic abusers & guns. When there are guns in a house, it is ten times more likely that a woman and her children will be killed.

    Easy access to guns also mean higher rates of suicide. When Washington restricted access to guns, the suicide rates fell, but it went back up after it loosened it rules.

    The points so many gun rights advocates forget is that they should be referring to them as weapons, not tools, and the fact that weapons are specifically designed to kill.

    This is why I believe that guns need to be restricted to these who CAN prove that they can behave in a responsible and sane way. This includes not shooting from the hip, locking them up at a secure place out of children’s way, not using it to threaten, bully or abuse others, and giving them up when the courts mandates them to do so.

  • 7iThor says:

    Great article! The whole “just a tool” talking point is overused and like you said, a non-starter.

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