Most evangelical leaders (58 per cent) live in a household that has a gun, yet at the same time a majority (55 per cent) also believe that gun laws should be stricter, according to the August Evangelical Leaders Survey.
Meanwhile, only a few (five per cent) favour less strict gun laws. In their comments for the survey, many evangelical leaders noted that handgun and assault weapon sales should be limited and background checks should be tightened, with some also saying that existing laws should be enforced more strictly.
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.
Around 33,000 people in the US die from gun wounds each year, with two thirds of the deaths being suicides, according to the Centres For Disease Control and Prevention.
'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 [the right to bear arms], but also deeply grieve when weapons are used to take innocent lives,' said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
Carl Nelson, president of Transform Minnesota, conceded: 'While I support the Second Amendment, we clearly have a growing citizenry that is incapable of the responsibility necessary to keep and bear arms.'
Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of Presbyterian Lay Committee, added: 'Christians should start with the Bible when considering social issues. While the Bible doesn't say anything specifically about gun ownership, I appreciated that many of our leaders noted principles they find in Scripture and were concerned about the victims of gun violence in America.'
The survey came as the Washington-based Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute joined with prominent church leaders and the 'Prayer Warriors Against Gun Violence' social network to launch a day of nationwide remembrance on October 15, 2017.
In what is intended to be an annual commemoration, a range of evangelical leaders and survivors are inviting individuals and churches to come together in prayer for those whose loved ones have been injured or killed as a result of gun violence.
'God bless Prayer Warriors Against Gun Violence, [Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute president] Rob Schenck and the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute for organizing a national prayer effort appropriately titled Survivor Sunday. With our present epidemic of gun violence, we must not forget the survivors who are also victims. Let's all support them with prayer and compassion,' said Pastor Joel C Hunter, the chairman of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness.
'Survivor Sunday is a wonderful way for Christians to reach out with the love of the Great Physician to those devastated by gun violence,' said Schenck. 'A bullet can take a life suddenly and frighteningly, but it can also leave survivors, loved ones, witnesses, and even whole communities deeply traumatised and in bondage to fear. Survivor Sunday telegraphs the critical message that Christians care about all the ways in which people suffer after a gun is used to harm someone. It is a powerful, prayerful ministry of compassion.'