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. Skynyrd

    Again, the gun didn't kill him. He killed himself so why would the guy who sold him the gun have to ask for forgiveness?

    April 12, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Roger that

      True. If he had used a rope, would Warren then blame and forgive the clerk at Home Depot that sold it to him?

      April 12, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  2. Jake

    Guns do not have to be registered, but it is illegal to remove the serial number in some states, as that usually means they are stolen.

    April 12, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  3. roe

    sometimes people need to be protected from them selves

    April 12, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  4. roe


    People like you are the source. no one sword fights anymore and ktichen knives are use as a utensils. Guns are use for protection. you can protect your self with a baseball bat. but let me guess u will call that a weapon too right even though professionals use it to hit balls. name me one and i mean one thing a gun does but kill people, things and destroy objects. and it doesnt matter if u have a gun when they have the drop on u. any expert will tell you that

    April 12, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Michael E. Maus

      Your use of sweeping and opinionated generalizations about the purpose of knives, swords and guns reveals your disinterest in facts and your disregard of other people. 300 million guns in America are NOT used only to kill people. It is the stupidest thing in the world to presume that all danger can be eliminated by writing a law. In fact, the laws that are being proposed will hinder some people who have a right to buy a gun, or a magazine. Authoritarian attempts to "protect yourself" by denying other people the right to protect themselves are hypocritical (and stupid).

      April 12, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  5. CommonSense

    Perhaps this is just me, but this smells of self-promotion of the very worst kind.

    I guess I would expect that forgiveness is a personal, private, heartfelt action, especially in this gut-wrenching situation. Why does he feel the need to let the twitter-verse know that he forgives him?

    Perhaps, I am just too jaded ...

    April 12, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  6. roe

    This issue is way deeper than back ground checks. Its about us as humans. People will suffer because some cant let go of past relics. There is not one single use for a gun or any sort in civilized society. We all under stand criminals break the law. But what about those who become criminals once they pick up the hand gun to rob the store. Or the man who panics because life is falling apart and decides to shoot everyone at his work place. Thats what this is about. No one should have the means to take the life on anyone so easily. and i know people like to use a lot of false comparisons and thats fine. You can make excucess for the reason why guns should be allowed. But remember people are getting rich for the price of our safety.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  7. Jim

    There are no legal registry for guns in the US so it was an 'unregistered gun' as much as it was an, "unlicensed gun." Once again we see where gun laws have no affect to those who wish to break the law.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Edward

      This guy should have had a gun. His death could have been prevented if only he had been armed.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      A: "We need more gun laws!!"
      B: "We have about a hundred now, but ok, here's 12 more."

      A: "We need more gun laws!"
      B: We have about a hundred and twelve, now, that the perp broke, but ok, let's do 15 more."

      A: "We need mroe gun laws!"
      B "We ahve about a hundred and thirty that the criminal broke, but ok, let's do 9 more."

      And on and on.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  8. JW

    It will be a cold day in hell before I register ANY weapon. The government has NO RIGHT to demand that I register my guns, swords, kitchen knives, or any othe thing that may be used as a weapon!

    April 12, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • NoDogma

      Such as your car?

      April 12, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  9. mzh

    @ Austin:

    The Advocate/Counselor/Helper/Or anyother translations is the last messanger whom The Quran is revealed to and his name Jesus mention as "Ahmad"... look into the following verse in Quran:

    61:6 – And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, "O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad." But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, "This is obvious magic."

    61:7 – And who is more unjust than one who invents about Allah untruth while he is being invited to Islam. And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.

    61:8 – They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it.

    61:9 – It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion, although those who associate others with Allah dislike it.

    61:10 – O you who have believed, shall I guide you to a transaction that will save you from a painful punishment?

    61:11 – [It is that] you believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if you should know.

    And many more verses talks about Jesus and his family...

    April 12, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  10. Farrok

    There is no law written that can stop a person bent on suicide, guns or no guns. There are always other methods.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Jeebus

      Wrong. So very wrong. Research has conclusively proven that the harder it is to commit suicide, the less likely a person will actually take their own lives. One study from England showed that when coal gas stoves were in use suicide by sticking your head in the over was the #1 method in the nation. When those stoves were outlawed for pollution reasons, the suicide rate dropped significantly and never rose back to where it was. The longer it takes someone to actually commit suicide, the more chances they have to change their minds. If Warren's son didn't have a gun, he would probably still be alive today.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Jojo the monkey

      A study shows you will believe anything as long as it's preceded by "A study shows".

      April 12, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  11. roe

    The bigger question that no has asked is why are we arguing about tools of destruction. Guns are used for death rather it be a means of protection or to attack. People dont ever think about the fact there are actually people suffering from this. All sorts of people are affected. all across the world. we should protect each other by trying to rid ourselves of this plague. No one wants to look down the barrell of a gun. And only a few us want to be on the trigger end of it. What people should ask them selves is this. Wouldnt you feel safer if no one had a gun. The goverment can and will if it wants to kill you. Without you ever having a chance to bear arms and its just a fact of living in the 21st century.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • TCIM

      He suffered deep depression and suicidal thoughts under a doctors care taking antidepressants. The FDA and the entire medical community know the drugs causes this side affect. What's with the gun talk? The gun didn't kill him the medication did. Depression plague? Why do you think depression even exists in our utopian society? People will believe what they're told and what you suggest is depression is real and we shouldn't have guns. What planet are you from?

      Teens and young adults. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires all depression medications to include a warning label about the increased risk of suicide in children and young adults.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Judy

      The problem is that none of these laws would stop criminals from getting guns. Obama has an agenda and this is just the tip of the iceberg. He is totally unamerican.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • midwest rail

      " Obama has an agenda and this is just the tip of the iceberg. He is totally unamerican. " Um, no.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  12. tony

    Guns have several unique, non domestic, capabilities

    The only widely available machine that can kill several victims who are running away from you is a gun.

    The only widely available machine that can kill one or more victims seeking safety by locking them selves in their car is a gun.

    The only widely available machine that can kill one or more victims who merely happen to be driving nearby is a gun.

    The only widely available machine that can kill one or more victims from a passing nearby car is a gun.

    The machine that cannot protect a victim from being surprised and shot at, is a gun.

    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 10:36 am |
    • jay

      Thank you for your service and welcome home. Thank you also for expressing common sense. That is a rare commodity in this debate.

      April 12, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  13. matt

    The person who sold, and actually the son who bought it as well, were already committing a felony by possessing a weapon that has had it's serial # destroyed or tampered with. Do you think that additional background check restrictions would have stopped these two from committing additional felonies to make this transaction?

    April 12, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • cw

      No, but DUI laws don't stop people from driving drunk, so should we eliminate them? Strawman, I realize, but if we can stop even one legal transaction that would have otherwise resulted in someone's death, shouldn't we try?

      April 12, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • terry

      have only dealers listing guns on internet sites would have helped,someone who is not a dealer really should not be selling on the internet , that is the person who will not follow the laws.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  14. Tim B

    Or did the unregistered gun belong to Rick Warren himself. I smell a cover-up.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  15. Al

    And what law would have prevented this purchase from happening? No law would have prevented this tragic event from happening.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • tony

      No easy access to guns would have made it much more difficult. And saved a whole bunch of fatal 4-14 year old's "Accidents".

      April 12, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • yahoos

      Parents properly storing their guns would prevent the 4-14 year olds, not more gun laws.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Billy


      You give "parents" a lot of undeserved credit.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  16. lord toronaga

    Question to father: If you knew he purchased an illegal gun and you knew he was mentally unstable...why didn't you alert the authorities ????? Especially in light of the national debate on gun ownership and mental health.... Your son could have killed others.... What does that say about YOU & GOD?

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

      I think the father found out through the investigation into his son's death.

      April 12, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • lord toronaga

      According to the story so far.... the father said internet. The police said ground off numbers and obviously not registered. Why would the dad know how he got it ? Doesn't add up. If he knew his mentally unstable son had a gun, wouldn't he have said something to someone ? And why is the number ground off ? The claim is that this kid buys guns with ground off numbers over the internet.....???? ROYT. No way. Doesn't pass smell test.

      April 12, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  17. fsjunkie

    He hopes the SELLER seeks forgiveness? Here's where religious fanatics get their bad name. Skip all around anything that resembles personal accountability, or anything that shakes the faith, and blame the random guy that posted an ad in the Little Nickel.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • me

      Here is where personal accountablity comes into play – someone sold an unregistered gun on the internet with the numbers scratched off. The man killed himself with that gun. He paid for his error with his life. His father is saying his son was wrong but so was the person that sold the gun.

      April 12, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  18. lord toronaga

    Questions to father: When did you become aware of the gun ? How did you know it was unregistered ? How did you know it came from internet sources ? YOU seem to have intimate knowledge of the gun and its origins. Hmmmm Interesting.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Another tin-foil conspiracy theorist heard from. Yay.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • lord toronaga

      @Mrs. Pepperpot: "Tin Foil Hat" REALLY.... You are the "pin head" not to see this story has problems. "Head in the Ground Idiot" best describes you.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  19. F*** sensitivity

    When a child commits suicide it is extremely hard for the parents, and it should be. Because they failed to notice that their child was in emotional turmoil. Usually caused by the parents not accepting their children for who they are, and failure to communicate on that level. Oh but wait, that's not the punchline here is it folks. Let's focus on the firearm he purchased to do the deed. The firearm was not registered, so what. Firearm registration is WRONG, and would not have stopped this from happening. Only the parents are to blame here.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • lord toronaga

      I'm in agreement with you on all points.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Mrs. Pepperpot

      Would you even have commented if it had been some other method of suicide?

      April 12, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • lord toronaga


      April 12, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • NoDogma

      Why were the parents to blame? Parents are supposed to be able to stop every bad choice their kids make? They were aware of his mental health issues and he was under medical care, but that didn't help. But maybe you're right. Maybe in this case it might be more the parents' fault if the reason for his depression was their unwillingness to accept that he was gay – then it's not a medical issue but one of spirit. If that's true, it's even more of a shame because it would have been easily prevented.

      April 12, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  20. scarf

    As the gun enthusiasts contend, probably no gun laws under consideration could have prevented this tragedy. Which I believe is a tacit admission by gun enthusiasts that the current interpretation of the Second Amendment itself is wrong. A "well-regulated militia" needs arms to oppose enemies, foreign and domestic. A private citizen doesn't.

    April 12, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • dbcooper

      You are an idiot. What to you think a militia is made up of? Let me give you a hint. Private Citizens!!!! Go drink more of that Obama Kool-Aid

      April 12, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Chris

      Keep the 'scarf' over your mouth, you're an idiot.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • lord toronaga

      This entire story is inedible. It's got everything in it. Internet purchase, ground off numbers, handgun, not registered, mental case child, prominent preacher father, Gay accusations, illegal sale, father knows all about the gun ... after suicide happens....NO evidence to support how gun got there....NONE.
      Wait for it ...... real story on the way...

      April 12, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • me

      Lord toronago – the gay accusation was something someone threw in the mix. It is no where in this story. Yes lets wait for the real story. In the mean time how about everyone have kind thoughts for a grieving family.

      April 12, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • lord toronaga

      I do feel sorry for the parents on any level. But...Rick said some things that sound strangely hard to believe and it was a swipe at all gun owners. Something I think he was all along.

      April 12, 2013 at 11:24 am |
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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.