Beating Guns

Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence

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Publishers Weekly starred review

Parkland. Las Vegas. Dallas. Orlando. San Bernardino. Paris. Charleston. Sutherland Springs. Newtown. These cities are now known for the people who were shot and killed in them. More Americans have died from guns in the US in the last fifty years than in all the wars in American history. With less than 5% of the world's population, the people of the US own nearly half the world's guns. America also has the most annual gun deaths--homicide, suicide, and accidental gun deaths--at 105 per day, or more than 38,000 per year. Some people say it's a heart problem. Others say it's a gun problem. The authors of Beating Guns believe it's both.

This book is for people who believe the world doesn't have to be this way. Inspired by the prophetic image of beating swords into plows, Beating Guns provides a provocative look at gun violence in America and offers a clarion call to change our hearts regarding one of the most significant moral issues of our time. Bestselling author, speaker, and activist Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin show why Christians should be concerned about gun violence and how they can be part of the solution. The authors transcend stale rhetoric and old debates about gun control to offer a creative and productive response. Full-color images show how guns are being turned into tools and musical instruments across the nation. Charts, tables, and facts convey the mind-boggling realities of gun violence in America, but as the authors make clear, there is a story behind every statistic. Beating Guns allows victims and perpetrators of gun violence to tell their own compelling stories, offering hope for change and helping us reimagine the world as one that turns from death to life, where swords become plows and guns are turned into garden tools.

Note to the Reader
Introduction: Whispers of Another World
1. Turning Weapons into Farm Tools (and Other Lovely Things)
2. The Mess We Find Ourselves In
3. Gun History 101
4. The Gun Empire
5. Do Black Guns Matter?
Consider This: Gallery of the Absurd
6. Mythbusting
7. Kids and Guns
8. Another Dark Secret
9. Dudes and Their Guns
10. The Second Amendment and the Sermon on the Mount
Consider This: Laying It All Out There
11. In Guns We Trust
12. Exorcising Demons
13. Christians with Guns
14. Unlearning Violence
Consider This: Matthew 5
15. The Third Way of Jesus
16. Love Casteth Out Fear (and Fear Casteth Out Love)
17. Commonsense Change
18. Reimagining the World


"We all know we have a gun problem, but here Shane and Mike put clear words and ideas on what we can actually do to beat it. Sometimes we get stuck in our frustration with problems that seem like they will never go away. This book is how we get unstuck on guns."

Shaun King, writer, speaker, and activist

"I thought I knew in advance what Shane and Mike would say on this topic, but I was wrong. Finally we have a winsome, reasonable approach to an issue that usually generates far more heat than light."

Philip Yancey, New York Times bestselling author

"As a Black woman, mother, and reconciler who has witnessed countless parents losing their children to gun violence, one of my greatest concerns is to find a way to stop this senseless loss of life. That's why I highly recommend this timely, relevant, and necessary book! The authors help us to develop the moral imagination to create a world that is not characterized by violence but by God's shalom. If you're like me, you can hardly wait to live in a world where we study war no more. This book will show us how!"

Brenda Salter McNeil, author of Roadmap to Reconciliation and A Credible Witness

"With mass shootings regularly in the news, this powerful, provocative new book by Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin is not only timely but critical reading. Their creative response to the grim realities all around us is exactly what we as followers of Jesus need today."

Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church

"This is the quintessential pro-life book if there ever was one! The tireless, intrepid Shane Claiborne is joined by Michael Martin in a summons to face up to the claims of faith in response to gun pathology. This book is a painful memorial to myriad gun deaths, a straight-up history of guns and gun violence, a carefully researched statistical report on gun reality, an exposé of gun capitalism, and a repudiation of the cluster of carefully managed myths that sustain gun ideology. Finally, this book is both a bold summons to imagine a gun-regulated society and a mandate to act in the public domain. The book is a must for those who care but who have not yet cared enough to weigh in actively for the sake of an abundant life that overrides the lethal power of fear."

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"What does history teach us? Guns and violence offer the momentary illusion of control--the thrill of power--but then we look up and find ourselves seeped through with the stench of death. From the genocide of Native Americans to slave patrols armed by the Second Amendment to the militarized racism of the last century to Columbine and Pulse nightclub and Chicago, guns have promised Americans peace and delivered heartbreak again and again and again. Beating Guns dives deep and uncovers the pathologies of violence in our society. Claiborne and Martin shine light on a path out of the madness. It's time to never again say 'never again.'"

Lisa Sharon Harper, founder and president of

"Beating Guns fills a spiritual void in our national conversation on guns. This powerful book employs pragmatic wisdom and challenging biblical insight to offer a fresh, humane, and sacred view of our guns, our violence, and the nation's collective response to human suffering."

Otis Moss III, writer, activist, sacred troublemaker, and pastor of Trinity UCC, Chicago, Illinois

"Outrage about gun violence in this so-called Christian nation is the easiest path of resistance. In fact, outrage is too easy. It is much harder to grieve over those suffering from gun violence and over how Christians have embraced a legal right--called the Second Amendment--as their Christian right. But the most difficult path is hope carried by love, and it is this love that empowers Beating Guns. Look at the pictures, ponder the sidebars, and read the text--and pray. Then pray some more. Then ask God to guide you and empower you to walk in the way of love. It is time for Christians to turn from the insane violence of guns and their defense by rights to a cross-shaped vision of how we ought to live. It will begin with peace through love, not peace through strength. Better than a good guy with a gun is a good guy with a weapon called 'cross-shaped love.'"

Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"This book could change America and awaken Christianity! Seldom have I seen such a combination of documented history, compelling narrative, helpful visuals, and practical, readable theology in one book. Read Beating Guns and try to decide whether you need to weep or rejoice. Probably both!"

Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation

"Shane is a good friend of mine, and he's got a message of love and peace for us. He's usually not the kind of guy to shout, but he's willing to when it comes to matters this important. Shane isn't asking us to just agree with him. This is a book worth reading and then doing something about."

Bob Goff, New York Times bestselling author of Love Does

"A story behind every statistic. Beating Guns is a book of stories that will crack our hearts wide open--stories that will inspire us to make change. Stories that will convince us that if we value life, if we are pro-life, we have to find a way to beat guns. Mike Martin beat a gun at Middle Collegiate Church, beat it into a farming tool. Shane Claiborne's honest prose will convert you. Together these visionaries show us the way to beat guns."

Jacqui Lewis, senior minister, Middle Collegiate Church, New York; executive director, The Middle Project

"Anyone who is worn out by our country's day-to-day infatuation with violence needs the hope that is contained in this skillfully written tour de force. Buttressed by meticulous research on the unending tragedies of guns that take place only in America, and supported by sound biblical and theological scholarship, the authors ask the question, Can one carry a cross in one hand and a killing machine in the other? Some may answer yes. But, if one reads this book, no simplistic answers are possible."

James E. Atwood, retired Presbyterian pastor and author of America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé and Gundamentalism and Where It Is Taking America

"If you're vexed by increasing gun violence, you've found the right book. When it comes to guns and to violence, Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin know what they're talking about. Shane grew up hunting in Tennessee and now lives in a tough urban center. He knows what guns are and how to use them--and he knows how devastating their misuse can be. In Beating Guns, Shane and Michael help gun lovers and gun haters to suspend their assumptions and look afresh at lethal firepower and find surprising solutions to the deadly problems associated with them. This is a very timely book that can be enormously helpful to individuals, churches, and whole communities who know that something must be done to curb an increasingly deadly problem."

Rob Schenck, subject of The Armor of Light, an Emmy Award-winning documentary on evangelicals and guns; president of The Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute

"The violence epidemic in America that has made guns a part of America's wardrobe is making our children 'road kill.' It comes from a love affair with guns and the deception that they somehow make us safer. This obsession with guns has in fact made us less safe. In the book Beating Guns by Shane Claiborne and Michael Martin, we are reminded of what Dr. King taught us, that if we can change our hearts we can change our world."

Michael L. Pfleger, pastor of The Faith Community of Saint Sabina

"For any who feel helpless in a society that seems to accept gun violence as inevitable, this book will change you. Being faithful to Jesus requires taking seriously the message of this book."

Tony Campolo, professor emeritus, Eastern University

The Authors

  1. Shane Claiborne

    Shane Claiborne

    Shane Claiborne is a bestselling author, renowned activist, and sought-after speaker, and is a self-proclaimed "recovering sinner." He writes and speaks around the world about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus, and is the author or coauthor of...

    Continue reading about Shane Claiborne

  2. Michael Martin

    Michael Martin

    Michael Martin, a Mennonite pastor turned blacksmith, is founder and executive director of RAWtools Inc. and blogs at RAWtools turns guns into garden tools (and other lovely things), resourcing communities with nonviolent confrontation...

    Continue reading about Michael Martin


"[The authors] assemble statistics, policy alternatives, and detailed histories to document and persuasively condemn America's apathy toward gun violence. . . . They slowly build their case, laying out evidence of exactly how armed and lethal America has become. . . . One especially fascinating chapter recounts the evolution of gun marketing in the 20th century, which entered the home through new forms of media; another recounts the politicization of the National Rifle Association beginning in the late 1970s, turning the organization away from its roots in gun safety and sportsmanship. The authors advocate regulations, call for gun violence to be declared a public health emergency, and provide instructive Biblical quotes aimed at 'unlearning violence.' Particularly moving are 19 sidebars that memorialize the victims of mass shootings. Timely and moving, this important book deserves a wide audience and will be eye-opening for any reader concerned about the effects of America's open embrace of guns."

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Filled with tributes to those killed in recent mass shootings, informational graphics and interesting pictures, this book is divided into 18 chapters that provide a look back at the history of guns in America and where we are at today. The authors call on Christians to be pro-life in every aspect of life."


"Accessibly written and presented in an appealing format. [The authors] use statistics and stories to present the problem of gun violence. But they go on to posit a hopeful, biblical and commonsense approach to addressing this critical issue."

Gordon Houser,

The Mennonite

"Inspired and inspiring, timely and 'real world practical,' Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence is an extraordinary, unique, and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library Contemporary Social Issues collections in general, and Gun Ownership supplemental studies curriculums in particular."

Jack Mason,

Midwest Book Review

"A badly needed and very timely contribution to our on-going national dialogue over the role of guns in American society and culture, Beating Guns: Hope for People Who Are Weary of Violence is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to every community, college, and university library in the country. Deserving of the widest possible readership, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, gun control activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that Beating Guns is also available in a digital book format."

Midwest Book Review

"This book does a good job of integrating public discourse with theology in a way that affirms the truths of Scripture and calls believers to live up to them. The book is truly comprehensive, despite its manageable length. . . . Spread throughout are graphics, photos, and statistics, giving me the impression that this book was very thoroughly researched, not just the byproduct of another echo chamber. Most important, the book shares the stories of real people impacted by gun violence and what we can learn from them. . . . At the center of the gun debate is the tension between personal liberty and public safety. Claiborne and Martin address that tension in a way that is sensible, practical, and faithful both to their Christian beliefs and to the American ideal of freedom for all. . . . Their book is a call for Christians to choose love over fear, to stop seeing the world through the lens of persistent self-defense and to choose what they call the 'third way' of Jesus in the face of violence. . . . As Claiborne and Martin assert, 'One of the greatest mysteries of our faith is that, for some strange reason, God does not want to change the world without us.' Beating Guns is a faithful attempt to imagine what that way could look like, and we would do well to listen."

Devon Dundee,

"A thoughtful, nonshouting call to a more sensible America."

David Ramsey,

The Gazette

"Wielding historical and cultural analysis, Jesus-centered biblical exegesis and community-based nonviolent activism, authors Claiborne and Martin identify our fear-based, marketing-fueled idolatry of guns and violence and forge a practical vision of a more peace-full nation. I highly recommend this book!"

Marrton Dormish,

Everyday Epics blog