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.

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

soundoff (913 Responses)
  1. capiers

    Someone help me understand why Universal Background checks are a bad thing. Now is your opportunity to prove it.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • A Conversation

      I support universal background checks, even though I believe such checks will prove useless (hope I'm wrong). I'm unaware of any facts that would suggest that Warren's son could not have purchased a gun with a background check in any event.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  2. Bill

    If he has gone to a gun store and purchased one the result would be different how?

    Another sensationalist story about a tragic event. We have dealt with suicide in my family a couple of times. Both by guns, both legally purchased. The mechanism doesn't matter, the will to end their lives was the problem.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • capiers

      Since he did use a gun and not some other method the gun helped facilitate his death. People choose guns to kill themselves because they think it is a quick and painless death much like TV/Movies portray. Yes he could have used a knife but that would have taken longer and been much more painful.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Howard

      To capiers: When is the last time you read about suicide by knife? Guns are used for making a statement, not because people believe it will be painless. Taking a overdose of Valium or Vicodin is painless.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • capiers

      That is my point people don't choose to use a knife. Guns are quick and painless. yes overdosing can be painless if you know what your doing but it can also fail leaving you in pain and agony along with brain damage.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • capiers

      Also, I totally disagree with the comment "people use guns to make a statement, not because it is painless". What kind of a statement does using a gun to kill yourself make. And how would you even know this since the person that used the gun is now dead and you can't ask them.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
  3. Liberal Voice

    If he hadn't used a gun to kill himself he would have killed himself some other way. This gun didn't pull it's own trigger. Matthew pulled the trigger so don't blame the gun for his death, blame Matthew. It's just that simple.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • capiers

      Since he did use a gun and not some other method the gun helped facilitate his death. People choose guns to kill themselves because they think it is a quick and painless death much like TV/Movies portray. Yes he could have used a knife but that would have taken longer and been much more painful.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • bill shelley

      Actually, it isn't that simple; had the gun not been so handy, the "momentary moment of despair" may have passed and not recurred.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • Howard

      To Bill Shelley: Matthew had in fact been struggling with severe depression and suicidal impulses for most of his life. Pastor Rick was expressing the event, not saying that this was truly a one off event. If there had not been a gun in the house, Matthew could have easily slashed his wrist or taken pills. People who ruly want to take their own lives usually succeed.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Howard

      To capiers: Are you kidding? When is the last time you read about someone killing himself with a knife? People use guns to make a statement, not because they think it will be less painful. Pills are less painful. Cutting wrists are less painful.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Dazzy

      @Capiers, yes, we've heard that canned response ad nauseum, the bottom line is that if he wanted to kill himself and couldn't get hold of a gun, he'd have gotten a knife,a rope, a chain, over the counter sleeping pills etc. etc. LEGALLY from any store in america.

      The method has nothing to do with it.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Sal

      Very true. If a person wants to kill themselves they will find some way of doing it. It happens everyday and it's not just guns that are being used when a person decides they no longer want to live.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • usresham

      The fact is he got a 'gun' which had a trigger & a bullet. If there was no gun or bullet there is no question of pulling a trigger. So if you eliminate gun he would not shot himself.
      People die by taking drugs, jumping and so on. Deaths cause due to use of guns are too many as compared to other.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    April 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • meifumado

      We are all born atheists!

      April 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • 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 12:41 pm |
    • Which God?

      Did Rick Warren, praying for his son help? No, it didn't do a damn thing. Praying is a meaningless indulgence. I don't care for Warrens, nor for what he stands for, but I don't wish him illl, nor his family.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Just Me

      meifumado – Wrong, no one is born an atheist, we are born SINNERS. An atheist is just a person who chooses to deny the existence of God, therefore, no one can choose to be an atheist from birth.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • .

      Then why use him to beat your filthy drum?

      April 12, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • .

      Everyone born comes from God with an inner knowledge of God. Life gives the intelligent the opportunity to choose God in love and so return to God and the wonderful eternity God has prepared for them. Fools opt out.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • meifumado

      @Just Me

      No , your very wrong.
      We are not born with a belief in the super natural, that is impressed upon us from outside influences.
      You a sick person if you think an innocent baby is a "sinner"

      April 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      "Everyone born comes from God with an inner knowledge of God."
      Ya know ... I've never really cared for the angry atheist tactic ... but sometimes it is totally deserved
      This is the stupidist statement I've read here in a long time
      ok .. so IF everyone born comes wih an inner knowledge of GOD ...
      why do you evangelize?
      Why do you have to spread god's word?
      It is totally lost, it is a total waste of time, it is redundant

      April 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • JWT

      I was born an atheist so there goes the theory that people are not born as atheists.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  5. Royce

    I feel sorry for the father but there's really nobody to blame here, more guns will migrate to the black market as more restrictive laws are passed. Common sense here people.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • OOO

      I just heard a good report on NPR about this. It's all about making it more difficult to get the guns out there. If you enforce universal background checks, you move illegal guns to the black market where they get way more expensive and more difficult to obtain. AND it is something that law enforcement can tighten the noose on even more.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • capiers

      We are a technically advanced society, lets use tech to prevent guns from being used by non registered owners. We went to the moon and now mars why can't we figure this one out.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Howard

      Hey OOO: Yes, the government has done a marvelous job "tightening the noose" on black market guns. Look at the great job they did cleaning up Chicago!

      April 12, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • meifumado


      A good report from NPR?


      NPR is as bad or worse then CNN when it comes to propaganda.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  6. faboge

    if someone wants to kill himself bad enough, they dont need a gun, its that simple! Stop blaming guns!

    April 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • OOO

      Your argument is old and tired. It's well established that the easier the act is enabled, the more likely the act will be done.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • capiers

      Since he did use a gun and not some other method the gun helped facilitate his death. People choose guns to kill themselves because they think it is a quick and painless death much like TV/Movies portray. Yes he could have used a knife but that would have taken longer and been much more painful.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Howard

      OOO: Filmmaker Tony Scott killed himself last August by leaping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge. It's really not that hard for a person to kill himself if he has the will to do so. We're dealing with mental illness here which is not always accompanied by rational thought.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • flaitguy

      First, killing yourself shouldnt be illegal. He has the right to do with his own body as he chooses. The issue here is that he got it illegally through the internet. The guy who sold it needs to be in jail for selling guns with shaved off serial numbers. Why would someone sell those guns? He may have sold a gun this time to a guy who committed suicide but you can be sure he sold many to felons who used them to commit murder. But go ahead, stick up for the guy. Maybe he will sell one of his guns to some guy who will kill your kids. At least I hope he does.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  7. Ty

    Good thing we will soon have universal background checks.... oh you need a serial nummber for that ... ooops!

    April 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Retired Army Officer

      Yeah.....you're so typically conservative.

      Since universal background checks won't solve ALL gun problems, then it MUST be no good and therefore, shouldn't be brought into law......right? Yeah.....got it 😉 .

      April 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • capiers

      It has already been proven that background checks work.. they used to be required and supported by the NRA. Something changed within the NRA and they decided not to support it any longer and fought to have it removed from law.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  8. Dean

    Pastor Warren, with all due respect, don't you think it's a little inappropriate to be adding your voice to the current gun control debate at a time when you should be mourning the death of your son? You are a nationally-recognized figure, sir. There will be plenty of other opportunities to argue your political opinions. Whether or nor it was your intention, your comment seems polarizing and ill-timed, and I'm not the only person who views it as an attempt to use this tragic event to promote yourself and your ideas. Please don't stoop to that level – you're better than that. My condolences to you and your family.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • dave

      this is the perfect time - now go back to wetting your bed and licking your gun

      April 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • ztom

      What is his political opinion? He just said that someone sold his son an unregistered gun. He didn't say anything about universal background checks or banning guns or anything. Knowing his ultra-conservative views, I don't think he is a big anti-gun fanatic.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Akira

      He tweeted one thing. What the media does with that is out of his control.
      My goodness.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • dave

      It doesn't seem that he had any agenda in this. He's a conservative and the only "agenda" that can be inferred from his statement would run counter to any Republican's. What the person who sold his son a gun did was wrong and illegal. Plain and simple. He's saying he won't blame that person, but hopes they will seek forgiveness for the wrong they did.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • flaitguy

      Ill timed because he is now one of the victims of gun trafficking? Maybe we need to wait till your kids or wife are murdered so you can join with Warren? But if your wife gets her head blown off by some felon driving by with a gun he got illegally, dont go tweet about it. You need to stay silent about it till the whole situation blows over. Better yet, dont ever say anything. You need to let your wife die in vain with the rest of them because by god, those guys on the street need to have access to guns jus tlike you do.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Dean

      Don't be naive, people. Rick Warren, whether you agree or disagree with him, has built his career on being one of the most visible clergymen in the country. His career and income are directly correlated with how much he makes his opinions public. Not even the loss of a family member will stand in the way of this process. I wouldn't necessarily compare him to other such as Michael Jackson's family (who are now basically using his death to stay in the limelight), but the Rick Warren show must go on regardless of any tragedy. I don't know what Pastor Warren's opinion regarding gun control was in the past, but it seems a little shady that he would be speaking up on it now when there are clearly more important things that he should be focused on. If he wants to forgive the person he blames for his son's death, that's his business. There's no need to make a statement on Twitter. The world will still be here waiting for him after he's buried his son.

      April 12, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
  9. Jesus freaker

    This was God's plan. Rick needs to point the blame where it belongs.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • flaitguy

      Well said Jesus. God gave him the depression and god decides when he needs to commit suicide because he cant stand the pain anymore from the depression God gave him.

      God knows best.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
  10. Jack K.

    So with the laws in place, why didnt his son FOLLOW the laws that are already in place? OH thats right because people intent on causing themselves harm or harm to others, have no regard for the laws.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  11. Michael Nunn

    He committed suicide "in a momentary wave of despair."

    With no disprespect meant for the grieving father, I don't think there is any way Pastor Warren could know what was going on in his son's mind, or for how long he had been grappling with this issue, at the time he took his own life.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Dr Tom

      How can you say that about somebody you don't even know. He may not have known everything, but you don't know how much they shared. Is scratching off the serial number illegal? If not, is there anyone that doesn't agree that it should be?

      April 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • Royce

      @ Dr Tom – It's already a federal crime to grind off a serial number on a firearm and every firearm I've seen has the serial number stamped into the steel, not painted. That said, most folk outside city-dwellers are used to owning tools so removing something engraved into the metal really isn't that hard to do.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  12. Emmi

    The seller simply sold the gun for money. If a person wants to kill, they will find a way. My prayers to the family.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • Dr Tom

      Certainly not true when it comes to suicide. If a person can't get a hold of a gun during a period of despair, that period may pass or they may get help before they kill themselves. Or they may attempt suicide by a non-gun method. Most of the non-gun methods have a low success rate, thus leading to the person getting help. Guns have a very high suicide success rate.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • dave

      People steal for money, too. It's called robbery and is also illegal.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • flaitguy

      Did the seller shave off the serial numbers for money too or do you gt that service no charge? And how many of these guns do you think he knowingly sold to felons with which, they committed murder?

      April 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  13. Mark

    Not suggesting we don't need laws, just stating that the article pushes the issue that guns not being registered cased this death or could have prevented it. I'm suggesting that's not the case. Someone who wants a gun bad enough will get one and no law will stop it - just like no law will stop speeding. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • flaitguy

      Here is the fault with your reasoning. Would it have prevented THIS killing? Maybe not. I suspect it would have because this guy would have been known around town . A legit internet gun shop would have him pass a background check and show up to get the gun locally from a local gun dealer, who might have very well recognized him. But forget all that. If this were illegal, this seller would have done alot of time for this and he wouldnt have been selling to hundrerds more thus preventing many killings down the road. Laws dont stop someone from comitting a crime , they stop the guy from committing a second one.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  14. heloise8

    Reblogged this on The Trough.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  15. Gort1

    PS....the gun seller doesnt need forgiveness from anyone. His son knew it was illegal to purchase a gun over the internet, andprobably planned his suicide. Its a very sad time and a great loss to his family. Im sorry he felt so bad.....

    April 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • ANTON333

      Maybe he should be praying to god to forgive him for not praying enough with his own son!!

      April 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Blaine

      It is not illegal to purchase a gun over the internet. where do you get that idea from? It is however illegal to file the serial number off of it. Maybe the son filed it off himself. The article does not state if he did or if they know if he did.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • dave

      Well, if the person who sold the gun is found, they will be rightfully be charged with a crime. The law is clear. Whether they need or will seek forgiveness is up to their own conscience.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  16. Travis

    His son just took his own life, yet Rick Warren is still a self-promoting opportunist. Less than a week after a horrible personal tragedy, and he's still diving headfirst into the issues of the day. For God's sake, man, at least wait until your son is buried until you start exploiting his death for your own publicity purposes.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Gort1

      Once a snake oil salesman, always a salesman. Rick Warren is the consumate salesman and nothng interferes with him doimg that. The fact that his worked in the warehouse, filling orders, says alot to me.....and none of it is good.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
  17. MagicPanties

    Please google "An Open Letter to Pastor Rick Warren".
    It says "in a nice way" what many are thinking.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  18. Gort1

    how about looking at this emails? bank statements in case it was purchased wth a credit card......His phone records to see if any phone calls took place with the seller....soooooooooooo....Im not a detective. but Id start there.....gawd

    April 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • flaitguy

      I think they already did. I dint think the guy shot himself and left a letter saying, "by the way, i got the gun on the internet'. They got credit card charges found one for $400 or whatever, traced the URL to a site. Pretty easy. they probably had the info within a day.

      April 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
  19. Jeff Harris

    Why in the world would Warren bother to get involved here by posting a message that he knows will get involved in the anti-gun movement and be used to deny our liberties. We are manufacturing these killers because "pastors" like Warren have no principles – that is what he should be preaching ...justice and responsibility ....not the 'joe biden' gospel of political leftism.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • JFG

      Justice and responsibility but no free speech?!
      He can say whatever he wants...just like you and I. It's called democracy, you need to get used to it.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
    • jrh0

      yes, he can say whatever he wants, LEGALLY. That does not change out right to have and share an opinion on it.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
  20. Mark

    California has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. It's already illegal to purchase a gun through any source without a background check and a ten (that's 10) day waiting period. This includes private sales which covers gun shows. Here's the link - http://oag.ca.gov/firearms/pubfaqs. So tell me how any Federal law requiring background checks would had changed the ability of this person to acquire a gun and turn it on themselves? No law will stop the illegal sale of a firearm or force someone to be background checked if they are hell bend on getting a gun by any means.

    April 12, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • JFG

      Then why have any law? You can speed if you are hell bent on it in spite of speed limits, same goes for tax evasion, drunk driving etc. In your world probably having ANY law does not matter, right?

      April 12, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
    • dave

      pro-gunners do not have to make sense

      April 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Dr Tom

      This is demonstrated by the common use of fully automatic weapons by criminals. They can just go buy one on the street, even though they have been illegal under Federal law for years.
      Oh wait, I'm being told that this is not true. They are rarely used and criminals don't usually have them. Sorry, I guess laws do work, even if not perfectly.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Royce

      @Dr Tom – criminals go for easy targets so why pay the additional black market prices for a fully automatic weapon? They're certainly out there but really not needed for the common stickup. Once you've committed the crime of trading in stolen firearms you probably don't care whether or not they're automatic.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • flaitguy

      You dont get it like so many others. Your thinking is faulty. It sounds to me like this warren kid wanted to get the gun secretly. With his depression, noone is going to get a gun for him. He is probably known well in the area and wouldnt want to go to a gun store to get one. On the internet , if you buy a gun from a legit seller, they send the gun to a local gun dealer, run the background check and you have to show up in person to pick it up. So this does him no good.

      But either way, laws dont prevent someone from selling guns illegally, that is without a background check or registration, but they do help to prevent that guy from selling a second time , perhaps to the creep who kills your kids with the next gun he sells, because after Warren, he is sitting in prison for 15 years. So it isnt possible. In this instance, on the internet, it was impossible to make a cash sale . A credit card was traced and this seller has a real problem.

      If any good came of the way he committed suicide, it was that maybe this guy who sells guns to any killer on the street may have been stopped from killing more. So many look at them as just sellers of guns instead of active indirect participants in crime.

      April 12, 2013 at 3:04 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.