This same paranoid fantasy undergirds much of religious conservatives’ opposition to gun control. While no personal arsenal is likely to turn back the federal government’s forces, many religious conservatives, especially white evangelical men, worry that any limitation on gun rights will infringe on their ability to protect their loved ones. If defending the traditional family has been a largely metaphorical concern for the religious right when it comes to abortion and gay rights, it’s very much literal when it comes to guns.
That belief has tangible results and political consequences. As Christianity Today reported in 2017, 41 percent of white evangelicals own a gun — a number far higher than the average American and one that has likely grown since then. Influential evangelical leaders have supported gun ownership and advocated for its growth among fellow believers. After a gunman murdered 26 worshippers at a rural Southern Baptist church in Texas in 2017, Jeffress told Fox News he felt particularly safe preaching at First Baptist Dallas knowing that so many of his congregants brought guns with them to church. In 2015, following the massacre in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people, Jerry Falwell, Jr., exhorted students during a convocation at Liberty University to get concealed weapons permits and carry guns on campus. “I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” Falwell exclaimed to riotous applause.