Rick Warren: Son bought 'unregistered gun'
April 11th, 2013
08:15 PM ET

Rick Warren: Son bought 'unregistered gun'

By Greg Botelho, CNN

(CNN)–High-profile Pastor Rick Warren tweeted Thursday that his son who shot himself late last week had bought an "unregistered gun" from "someone over the internet."

"I pray he seeks God's forgiveness," wrote Warren, a best-selling author and the head of Saddleback Church, referring to whoever sold his son the gun. "I forgive him."


Law enforcement authorities have the gun they believe Matthew Warren used to kill himself, according to Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman Jim Amormino.

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Amormino said he could not say from where, or whom, the 27-year-old got the weapon. But he did confirm the gun was not registered, adding that its serial number had been scratched off.

"(The fact) the serial number is scratched off ... is going to make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trace," Amormino said.

Matthew, the youngest of Warren's children, worked at the Saddleback Resources Warehouse, which distributes books and DVDs. He was "an important part of the church but played a quiet role," church spokeswoman Anne Krumm said.

He'd had "a fun evening" with his parents, Rick Warren wrote Saturday to the staff of his Southern California megachurch, before he committed suicide "in a momentary wave of despair."

Matthew Warren was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Mission Viejo, California, late Friday afternoon, the Orange County Coroner said. The autopsy completed Monday put the time of death at around 10 a.m. Friday.

"Matthew was an incredibly kind, gentle and compassionate young man whose sweet spirit was encouragement and comfort to many," the church said in a statement. "Unfortunately, he also suffered from mental illness resulting in deep depression and suicidal thoughts. Despite the best health care available, this was an illness that was never fully controlled, and the emotional pain resulted in his decision to take his life."

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Rick Warren is a pioneer of the megachurch movement who looked to translate traditional evangelical messages to a wider audience.

Warren founded Saddleback with his wife 33 years ago and wrote "The Purpose-Driven Life," a Christian self-help guide that became a mainstream best-seller. He also gave the invocation at President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration.

CNN's Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • California • Christianity • United States • Violence

soundoff (913 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

      One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over 4,000,000 members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

      One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

      One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

      One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

      Some believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Some believe Obama is the Anti-Christ.

      Some believe that celibacy is the only option for certain people, or for people in certain positions. Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but pretend not to understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

      In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of Lutheran CMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

      Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create more extreme divisions as time goes by, constantly subjecting others in its crossfire.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      April 12, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data, has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!

      April 12, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  2. Nick Smith

    The guy is off his rocker. He cannot blame the person that sold his crazy kid a gun. It was his job to supervise the kid.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • .

      The"kid" was a 27 year old man.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  3. Yasha

    I thought the leftists were generally in favor of suicide – it's your life and your choice. So why is it so terrible if someone uses a gun but it becomes a trendy challenge to social norms – almost a civil rights issue – if you use poison or a doctor chooses to "assist" you?

    April 12, 2013 at 10:22 am |
  4. mklsgl

    Got to wonder why this article is in the "Belief Blog."

    April 12, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  5. lord toronaga

    Something stinks here..... Whose gun was it???? Maybe the son stole the gun from the father. Why does someone who kills themselves, ever worry about gun serial numbers...unless it is his son worrying about it. There are only a few gun auction websites. The kid would have to be a member to use. RECORDS. Normal gun selling sites NEVER sell guns with no serial numbers. NEVER. The father is lying.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Give me a Break

      Apparently, you lack some common sense here. The fact that the serial number was scratched off, means that likely, the gun was stolen at some point in time, and whoever stole said gun, etched off the serial number in an attempt to make it untraceable. Then, he apparently sold it to Warren's kid, or someone down the line did. Warren's kid wasnt the one who scratched it off, because there is no reason for him to try to hide it. Now, a little lesson on gun manufacturing that most people probably do not know....The serial number that is stamped and visible (the one ppl typically attempt to scratch off) is not the only serial number on the gun. Most, if not all, gun manufacturers also stamp this number somewhere obscure, typically inside the slide of a handgun, for example. It is also quite small, and impossible to read with the naked eye. This is done so that the firearm can be tracked, even if the large, visible number is scratched. Not to mention, even if it is scratched off, any mettalurgist worth his weight can make it visible again. Trust me, I'm a mettalurgist, the technique is tricky, but I would say 7/10 times, one can "pull" the numbers back out.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • lord toronaga

      Are you kidding me? I've been around a long long time. Guns with no serial numbers are not commonly seen and easy enough to do with your own gun. This case STINKS. Why would anyone BUY a gun with no serial number if one planned on killing themselves. Why even care... FATHER'S GUN or linked to it somehow.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Give me a Break

      Guns that are stolen are very commonly sold with the serial number scratched off. That is the whole point of scratching off the serial number-an attempt to make it untracable. As to "why would someone who is gonna kill themselves buy a gun without a SN?" wellllll, think about it. He bought a gun 'off the record' so to speak, apparently from someone on the internet. He didnt neccesarily want a gun w/o a SN, he just wanted a gun, and this particular person he found on the internet that sold it to him, had scratched off the SN. Of course, none of us know any of this for sure, but logically, that is the scenario I can see as being true...Did the pastor kill his son? I dont know...but there has been no evidence revealed to the public that would even hint that this is a possibility....its a story of a depressed young man, who bought a gun from someone he shouldnt have (bc it was stolen, etc...) and shot himself with that gun. open and shut case....lol except for tracing the gun, which will happen. (see previous comments on multiple locations of serial numbers, and mettalurgical ability to retrieve SN's that have been etched off)

      April 12, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  6. charles smallwood

    and you knew he had a gun or not?

    April 12, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  7. S

    Matthew Warren's story is very sad. My heart goes out to his family. No parent should outlive their child.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  8. tony

    As an ex-military sniper, I know I could kill ANY unarmored enemy, or small group, using even a simple rifle, from up to half a mile away. And it wouldn’t matter how many, or what types of guns they were carrying. I’d get a whole bunch them before they would have a chance to use their own guns or figure out where I was.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  9. charles smallwood

    very sad for the loss of his son but the person selling the gun prob had no idea of your sons problem as it was a internet sale,blame the internet for a lot of crimes.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  10. YeaRight

    Humm... no serial number. How do you tell if it is/was registered or not? How do you know he didnt remove the serial number himself? This crap is about as stupid as it gets. Put some real facts in not speculation.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  11. socalpimp

    If it was already illegal why do we need more laws?

    April 12, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Big Shiz

      Because criminals and the mentally ill are still able to buy guns without background checks at gun shows and on the internet and private sales. You can argue the assault weapon thong and the clip size thing but to say we don't need universal background checks is wrong and ridiculous.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • bs1

      Big Shiz, you are sadly misinformed, and in reality have been outright lied to by the rabid anti-gun minority. There is no "gun show loophole" and it is not legal to purchase firearms over the Internet without a background check. Thos claims are purely fabrications of the anti-gun propegandists. Don't take my word for it, call your local BATFE office and ask them.

      The firearm purchase noted in this article consisted of multiple federal felonies, background checks have nothing to do with it.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:29 am |

    I cannot believe this guy Warrne is blaming the seller. "I pray he seeks God's forgiveness," wrote Warren, a best-selling author and the head of Saddleback Church, referring to whoever sold his son the gun. "I forgive him."

    Warren, losing a child is something no parent should ever have to go through. This is not about the seller of the gun, this isnt about the gun, this is about YOUR SON and HIS CHOICE. It is called personal responsibility.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • socalpimp

      Suicide is a sin....Rick Warren is a rich man

      April 12, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • crazyvermont

      As both a Christian as well as a parent of an adult son with mental illness, I totally agree with your comment and can only surmise Warren made his statement in response to grief he is experiencing. As far as socalpimp comment below of suicide for the truly mentally ill being a sin......I'm glad those type judgements are left to God

      April 12, 2013 at 10:20 am |
  13. Van Krunk

    Waiting to here how new gun laws would have prevented this. Quick answer, they wouldn't do a thing, we need new help on the mentally ill front, not a bunch of useless "feel good" laws on guns!

    April 12, 2013 at 10:11 am |
  14. KATHY/Minnesota

    Such a sad story.....RIP ...will his father/family ever revel the rest of the story. Having a "FUN EVENING" and then going home and killing yourself,leads one to beleive the"FUN EVENING" wasn't so "FUN" for him.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • meifumado

      So true, of course the parents of this guy will not admit to or tell us the truth about his real mental state at the time.
      For all we know they could have had an argument that evening.

      Something fishy about this "fun evening"

      April 12, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • crazyvermont

      For a person not totally understanding mental illness, I can understand your thoughts about the "fun evening", but please remember, we're not talking about normal healthy people. My wife and I have a 27 year old, highly functioning mentally ill son. With proper medication, he has gone several years with no issues, but a wide mood swing in a matter of hours is not uncommon among the mentally ill and for what you and I might think are the silliest reasons. Several years ago while on a business trip, our son lost control due to his cell phone not having a signal in area traveling. He had been in high spirits just hours earlier at a company dinner.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  15. Religion

    90% of the American people are for universal background checks.

    The NRA and their GOP lapdogs are against it. The only thing they are interested in protecting is gun industry profits.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • Van Krunk

      Yo Religion, buddy... How would background checks help with a gun where the serial #'s were removed so it could sold or used for illegal means, just curious.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • meifumado

      I was never polled

      April 12, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  16. ed dugan

    I speak to god every day, just like fellow religious huckster billy graham, and he told me this was punishment for Warren writing that god-awful book..

    April 12, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  17. MagicPanties

    Terrible tragedy and I feel for the family and friends, even the bigot Rick Warren.
    But ya gotta wonder how the dad's delusions fit in with all this.
    Was the kid... you know, sinful?

    April 12, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Sin

      According to his religion it is a sin to kill yourself, for which you go to hell. Perhaps Warren should pray and beg for his son's entrance into heaven instead. Describing a pre-meditated suicide as a 'momentary wave of despair' is disgraceful.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  18. shootslikeachick

    If the gun was obtained from correspondence off the internet...wouldn't you think they would look closely at Matthew's computer and try to trace where and from whom the gun came from and hold that person accountable for his crime? Or is that not a credible part of the news story, CNN?

    April 12, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • MaryM

      I am sure they already have

      April 12, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Saraswati

      I don't imagine the police are feeding CNN minute to minute updates of the process, especially when those details would alert the seller to be careful

      April 12, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  19. Doc Vestibule

    Those who wish to die will find a means to do so.
    A gun is just the quickest, easiest tool to use.

    April 12, 2013 at 9:58 am |
    • Saraswati

      For those with a serious long term mental illness or desire this may be the case, but the majority of suicides do not fit into this category. Most suicides take place during episodes often lasting only hours. It's usually not that easy to. find a good way to kill yourself unless there's something convenient lying around in the next room. And that availability is not something humans had to worry about until the advent of guns. We are taking the normal human processes of things like grieving and emotional fluctuation and turning them into something potentially life ending.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Here in Canada, we don't have the same kind of gun culture as the US.
      Handguns are much harder to come by, though rifles abound in rural areas.
      My best friend suicided by overdosing on heroin after contracting HIV.
      Another swallowed a bottle of sedatives and downed a bottle of vodka.
      Three of my friends hung themselves.
      One ran and jumped off the roof of a parking garage.
      Not one of them had access to firearms, but they all still managed to kill themselves.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  20. derp

    "He'd had "a fun evening" with his parents, Rick Warren wrote Saturday to the staff of his Southern California megachurch, before he committed suicide "in a momentary wave of despair."

    He realized he was gay, that his father and his god hated him. I think that was just too much to bear.

    April 12, 2013 at 9:57 am |
    • Joan

      I agree. I felt this from the moment heard the news. His son was unable to tell his father he was gay, that is the sad part of this entire story.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • crazyvermont

      Source for that belief?

      April 12, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • derp

      "Source for that belief?"

      I'll show you proof of my belief the second a christard shows me proof of a god.

      I'll wait.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.