Gun Control Advocates Miss the Big Picture
In the wake of last week’s most recent mass shooting in Parkland, the furor has once again started over how we can prevent future tragedies from occurring.
Those on the right have identified mental health as the issue. Addressing the nation shortly after the shooting, President Trump said “We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
Those on the left have renewed calls for “reasonable gun laws” to prevent future tragedies. On the day of the shooting, Senator Chris Murphy tweeted: “Don’t tell me tomorrow isn’t the appropriate time to debate gun violence. If you’re a political leader doing nothing about this slaughter, you’re an accomplice.”
Both sides are sincere. Both sides detest the violence, the bloodshed, and the destruction left in the wake of these acts of domestic terror. Each side has come to a different conclusion, but each side misses the obvious: tragedies are unavoidable.
That is not to say that all tragedies are unavoidable. Nor is it to say that we should be numb to tragedies when they do occur. In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, we learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation mishandled tips that may have prevented the shooting. Over the past few years, in fact, many of the mass shootings that occurred may have been prevented if tips had been acted upon or suspicious behaviors reported. Both sides of the aisle seem to agree on that point. The FBI gets a lot right, but to prevent tragedies they need to be right every time. Those seeking to do evil only need to get it right once.
Shortly after the first World War, Winston Churchill was appalled by Europe’s bloodlust. In the intervening peace between the World Wars, science was hard at work creating new weapons to increase bloodshed. “Could not explosives even of the existing type,” he wondered, “be guided automatically in flying machines by wireless or other rays, without a human pilot, in ceaseless procession upon a hostile city, arsenal, camp, or dockyard?” Churchill’s worry was how new technologies would make war more destructive, but his critique went deeper: What does all this say of the men willing to wield these technologies?
“Without having improved appreciably in virtue or enjoying wiser guidance,” he observed of mankind, “it has got into its hands for the first time the tools by which it can unfailingly accomplish its own extermination. That is the point in human destinies which all the glories and toils of men have at last led them.”
Almost a century later, can we say that anything has changed? Almost certainly they have and for the worse. Relativism - the belief that right and wrong are relative to an individual or a culture - has invaded our culture. Institutions of education and popular culture have inculcated people toward the view that there is no truth. Instead of growing in virtue, we have taught generations that virtue does not exist – that we can decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. In a society where men are taught that right and wrong are relative to the individual, is it any wonder that some have willed themselves to commit acts considered atrocious by those who recognize the good.
The dangerous effects of our moral deficiencies would be mitigated by outlawing all guns. But doing so would make us vulnerable to new threats without doing much to remove the root cause of the problem. We are in an age where deranged individuals can look up how to make all sorts of weapons online from poisons to bombs. Technology that has blessed us with so much, has cursed us with new dangers that will continue to plague our society for years to come.
We can’t become callous to the evil in the world, but we also can’t place hope in the federal government to save us from it. The best path, going forward, is to make sure law enforcement is following proper protocols to prevent these acts from taking place. We can proclaim “never again” all we’d like, but until a politician reveals how to fix human nature, we should look at such platitudes with suspicion.