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. Phill

    God sent him that gun!

    April 11, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
    • We've got another one, room 22

      Agreed. When we actually witness a miracle, we don't even recognize it for what it is.

      April 12, 2013 at 12:00 am |
  2. Harlequinn

    Did Rick Warren's son have an felony convictions? I ask because why would someone go through the trouble of buying an "unregistered gun" with the serial numbers scratched off to kill themselves? He was 27 years old, and, unless he was a felon, would have been perfectly within his rights to buy a handgun from a reputable dealer, sporting goods store, at a gun show, etc. If it was an impulsive act as a result of being caught in a moment of despair, going through the trouble of buying an illegal gun from some guy over the internet would seem to require a lot of planning. Also, how did he pay for it in such a way that the transaction can't be traced? Paypal, credit cards, checks, all require identification. Did he send cash through the mail?

    I am sure that this was a tragic happening at a number of levels, but I wonder if some things are being held back for some reason?

    April 11, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
  3. nuclear mike

    "unregistered gun" ...and Preacher the gun "found" your son is your explanation for the total failure of this poor young man to not receive the professional medical help he needed to survive whtaever environment & influenece he was subjected to cause him to take his own life...seems his Family and friends failed him completely as prayer obviously did not work for him.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:47 pm |
  4. disgrunteled american

    The guy who shot the sherrif recently bought his gun with a background check!The fact he was a fellon and was not allowed to own a gun was never updated to his personal file !!good old USA gov screw up! aNd here is another example de we really want our Gov once again to be given powere to screw up again???The bad guys seem to always have a gun legal or not and the death of the sherrif is a prime example!

    April 11, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
  5. evolve1

    If the serial number is gone, how do they know the gun is unregistered? Knowing that would be impossible without knowing what the serial number was. This is just a pathetic and really stupid attempt to attack guns. It's all complete BS.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
  6. Mike Taylor

    "I pray he seeks Gods forgiveness" I am sorry for mr Warren, but this kind of statement makes me so angry. Beg gods forgiveness? How about demand from god an apology for not giving him the strength to overcome his weaknesses? this is what a lifetime of Christian indoctrination did to mr Warren, put him in a mentality where he thinks his son needs to beg the forgiveness of "god". absolutely repugnant, and Warrens so brainwashed he couldn't recognize the absolute ridiculousness of this kind of thinking.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • sockpuppet1984

      hey dummy did you read that entire paragraph? He wasn't saying his son should pray for forgiveness–he was referring to the person who sold the gun illegally to his son

      April 11, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
    • Mike Taylor

      You are right, my bad

      April 12, 2013 at 12:18 am |
    • John

      God doesn't give a S%%T, it doesn't exist. Pray all you want, people are animals. Need proof look at all the reports covered. If God existed and created us he or she is one sick perv!
      Wonder why the son of a Con-artist needs a gun? Hmmm... I have nothing against gods or god, but his/her fan-clubs are morons! God bless lol

      April 12, 2013 at 12:23 am |
  7. disgrunteled american

    what is to stop the gov.eventually from just rejecting anybodys application to control gun sales??The dealers are not going to know why !they just know the applicant is turned down!I agree in checking of back grounds before a licensed dealer sells a gun butthe right to know why they are turned down ! I have had my name show up on a list as being arrested for drugs and being a theif!I have no criminal record and have never had anything more than a speeding ticket!I even have an FBI and homeland security clearence!

    April 11, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  8. Judith

    Another gun tragedy. Rick Warren should use the power of pulpit to advocate for gun control. There is nothing Christian or holy about guns, but, of course according to the gun-nuts who worship guns as a sacred object, they've put them in the category of holy icons. Just like the precious Second Amendment, which they consider somehow divinely inspired.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
    • major jakov

      That gun should be arrested and serve 20 years to life. Let's get TOUGH!!

      April 12, 2013 at 12:08 am |
  9. disgrunteled american

    First off how do they know that his son did not file the numbers off before using his gun on him self! He new his father has sold out to the media and anyone who will give to his ministry! So that said the gun could have been bought legally and he filrd the numbers off because he knew the person who gave or sold it to him would be crucified for doing so legally or not! And dont say somebody who is crazy would not have the presence of mind to think it out ! crazy people plan things all the time ! look at the movie theater killings!!

    April 11, 2013 at 11:34 pm |
    • Pat in IL

      That's quite a reach, disgruntled.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
  10. Marc

    I think some might be missing the point about this gun purchase and that is simply the fact that that is how criminals, or as Wayne says; "bad guys", get their guns! The fact that the serial number has been removed should be another concern also. Each bullet that leaves the chamber gets a signature on it from the bore. Likewise the casings also get signatures. The question I would ask is; "Do I want to own a gun with an unknown history"? It sure would put a damper on someones life having to answer questions about a murder weapon in their possession! Just another perspective!

    April 11, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  11. We've got another one, room 22


    April 11, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  12. Michael

    Banning guns will eliminate most of them off the street.... just like it worked so well with heroin and cocaine

    April 11, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Righteo

      False analogy. Guns are not drugs.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Janey Jones

      High explosives and surface to air missiles are illegal, and oh what a terrible problem we have with all the illegal smuggling of it.


      April 11, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • We've got another one, room 22

      No offense Michael, but you are REALLY naive.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • disgrunteled american

      actually its a perfect example of it! your just a nother unimformed by the media libral who cant see a fact if it slapped you in the face!

      April 11, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
  13. morgan

    This is very sad. It must hurt terribly to lose a child this way. My sympathy to the family and friends. Mental illness is a horrible thing to deal with.

    Unregistered gun?
    There is no such thing as a "registered" gun as far as I'm concerned.
    If you buy a gun at gander mountain you fill out papers to prove you are not a felon and if you pass you walk out with your legally purchased, unregistered gun. Gander mountain keeps a record of who bought it so it could be traced if need be but there is no such thing as a "registered gun" and it gripes me to even read that term.

    The gun was illegally altered by removing the serial number but it was registered nor unregistered. Somewhere, there is a record of a person buying it new.

    None of the guns I own are "registered" and never will be either.

    Don't underestimate the ability of police to get the serial number.
    The stamping process compresses the metal underneath. If you only grind until the number is no longer visible, the imprint of compressed metal is still underneath and can be detected with the correct process.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • Michael

      In California and other states, guns are registered. At least, handguns require it. Why do you think people in these states who have guns keep getting their houses raided after posting anti-government rants on Facebook? They don't care if you are anti-government....as long as you don't own guns.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
    • morgan


      So you can't speak out against the government IF you own a gun.
      I didn't realize you had to surrender one right in order to exercise a second one.

      I hope those people get lawyers who burn whoever "raided" their house on the basis of the first amendment.

      Now, I agree threats of violence are off limits. But you should be able to rant and rave and post how you think the gov officials are stupid all day long without someone raiding your house.

      I won't be moving to CA, not ever. If someone willed me a house in CA, I would immediately sell it.
      WI agrees with me just fine.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  14. Michael

    When is the media going to understand that if a person is going to commit a crime (suicide is a crime) they are really not concerned whether or not their gun is legal. Besides, if he didn't have a gun, he'd have hung himself. Are we going to outlaw ropes next?

    April 11, 2013 at 11:15 pm |
    • Saraswati

      Wow – if you know that little about suicide do you really think you should be posting in a public forum?


      Gun availability increases both the likelihood and success of suicides. It's not rocket science and it's not obscure unknown data.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • Michael

      My point is...people kill themselves every day with ropes, pills, bridges. If he wanted to bad enough, he would have found a way. Yes, the availability of a gun made it easier. However, most crimes are committed with stolen guns bought off the street. Very few gun crimes are committed by people who are actually legally able to have a gun.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:25 pm |
    • Phattee

      Clothes are hung. People are hanged.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Saraswati

      "My point is...people kill themselves every day with ropes, pills, bridges. If he wanted to bad enough, he would have found a way. Yes, the availability of a gun made it easier."

      Look carefully at the data. Not just easier, but if the gun weren't so easily available there would be a good chance that the suicide would either not occur or not be successful Yes, if he wanted it "bad enough" but we don't know how much he wanted it. Just that he succeeded.

      "However, most crimes are committed with stolen guns bought off the street. Very few gun crimes are committed by people who are actually legally able to have a gun."

      It is the number that are available on the street is the issue. You reduce this by reducing the number purchased by people who shouldn't have them in the first place. This doesn't eliminate them, just reduces the number.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Brian Richards

      This is a very offensive post by an incredibly ignorant person who seems to want to make a insensitive political point.

      It only reveals the cruelty of the NRA.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
    • John Holmes

      That's not true fatty. I'm a human and I'm really hung.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
  15. Sara

    If someone is stupid enough to kill them self than that is what they chose. We can't protect everyone in the society....from themselves.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
    • Saraswati

      So you want to leave guns in the hands of 4 year olds? Let people with Alzheimer's drive? Eliminate all product safety laws? No? Well you already believe in protecting people from themselves, it's just a disagreement on where you draw the line.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
    • Walla Walla

      So you're saying I shouldn't have giving hand grenades to the preschoolers? That sounds like commie pinko socialism to me!

      April 11, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Clear

      If you BELIEVE (your statements precluding thinking) that killing oneself is "stupid", then you are stupid for (forum) words.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • Michael

      @Saraswati. No one wants a gun in the hands of a 4 year old. The problem is, gun control only works for those who are willing to abide by the law. Criminals, who have no regard for the law, will continue to ignore them. This is common sense that is lost among liberals. It's the same kind of common sense that says it's stupid to put a label on a hairdryer that says you can't use it in the shower. If you are so stupid that you need that warning label....then we can do without your genes in the gene pool.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
    • Saraswati

      "The problem is, gun control only works for those who are willing to abide by the law. Criminals, who have no regard for the law, will continue to ignore them."

      Criminals will only get the guns if they are able to purchase them. You decrease the number of guns available by limiting properly (closing loopholes) on who can buy them and while some will still fall into the hands of criminals the number will be far greater. This may well not reduce the number of violent crimes but will reduce the number that end in death.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • morgan

      Maybe stupid is a bit unkind. A word I would be more comfortable with is distraught.
      Sometimes people can get so "down" feeling they give up the will to live. Or they are faced with something so dreadfully painful they don't feel they can bear it. It could be physical illness or emotional.

      Sometimes otherwise sane people who have witnessed a horrible event do themselves because it is too painful to deal with the mental images of what they saw. There might be help for those people but they have to want it.
      And as you stated we can't protect people from themselves. We don't have the right to monitor their every movement and action. Unless they have been committed and are under a suicide watch. But in the public realm, we cannot control their actions.

      Mental health in America has a long hard road to travel.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • LMC

      Mental illness is not stupidity. If you haven't dealt with any form of mental illness or had a close relationship with someone who has a mental illness, then you have no idea how hard it is to deal with.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
  16. whta

    somehow it would have helped if the gun were registered....?

    April 11, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
    • Fernando

      It could have – yes. Can you not understand?

      April 11, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  17. ss

    more than likely would have slit his wrists or hung himself even if he couldn't get a gun. a mentally ill suicidal person determined to kill themselves will do just that by any means.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The case-fatality rate for suicide attempts with guns is higher than other methods


      April 11, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
    • morgan

      how many cases do you know of where people survived hangings?

      April 11, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Cted

      Of course it is. You ever think that is because people who take pills WANT to be saved. People who shoot themselves don't. However if those people didn't have guns and were still serious about killing themselves they'd jump off a building instead.

      Those who cut or pills want someone to find and save them.

      Lastly who cares. suicide is a inalienable right of all creatures. If they want to kill themselves with a reliable method (like a gun) have at it.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Saraswati

      "Of course it is. You ever think that is because people who take pills WANT to be saved. People who shoot themselves don't."

      Oh for goodness sake read the data. That has been discussed and explored for years and only accounts for a part of the difference.

      "However if those people didn't have guns and were still serious about killing themselves they'd jump off a building instead."

      For many people suicidal thoughts are fleeting. It takes a couple of minutes to get a gun from the next room. For most people it takes days or weeks to find an appropriate building from which to jump.

      "Those who cut or pills want someone to find and save them."

      Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It still doesn't account for the difference in suicides where guns are available.

      "Lastly who cares. suicide is a inalienable right of all creatures. If they want to kill themselves with a reliable method (like a gun) have at it."

      A lot of these suicides are kids or people with a temporary illness including post-partum depression.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:42 pm |
  18. NEC

    The serial number being 'scratched off' won't stop the police from recovering the number. Unless the complete area where the serial number was is destroyed they can us acid etching or x-rays to see the number stamped into the metal.

    April 11, 2013 at 11:02 pm |

    Really tired of the media using every little thing they can to get gun control passed. Seriously guys?? ALMOST makes me want to go to fox news. Not quite but geez.

    April 11, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Mirror Mirror

      I'm sick of seeing Rick Warren egotistically blame everyone else all the time.

      April 11, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
  20. Jim

    The serial number has been scratched off, that's already against the law. The sale and possession of this gun was ALREADY ILLEGAL, thus no additional laws would/could have prevented this tragic event. You can't stop somebody from doing something illegal by making it even more illegal, particularly when the perpetrator does not plan on surviving the event and thus has no interest in the consequences.

    April 11, 2013 at 10:52 pm |
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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.