Guns, Schools, and Selfishness

At a certain developmental stage, young children are appropriately concerned only about themselves and what they want. At that stage, that behavior is appropriate and we would be wrong (and ineffective) if we tried to hurry them out of that stage. We would interfere with their normal, healthy development, and they would suffer consequences at they moved into adulthood.

When we are adults, living in society, and presumably capable of understanding the world in a much broader way than a three year old does, we come to realize that some of the things we might want to do that we cannot do out of concern for the greater good. For example, we might want to drive through a school zone at seventy-five miles per hour, but children might be hurt. We pass laws to make such things illegal, and no reasonable person objects to those laws.

You might think that same logic would apply to questions of gun control given that high number of gun incidents in school zones. You might expect that reasonable people, seeing the danger inherent in the regularity with which shootings and near-shootings* occur at schools in America, would be willing to change our laws to restrict access to firearms even if such changes impacted their perceived right to own as large an arsenal as they might like. You would be wrong, however.

America is well past the point where there is any reasonable argument in favor of the status quo in gun control. What we have isn’t working. Any politician who argues against stricter gun laws is likely in the back pocket of the NRA and is corrupt and needs to be removed from office. Even the most rudimentary understanding of any of the world’s great religious and spiritual traditions tells us that nothing is more important than the health and safety of a child.

The truth is that when we encounter someone who believes that their need to own a gun is more important that a child’s need to life, we have encountered a moral midget who needs to be ignored. If we are to live in a civilized society, we have to do everything we can to ensure the safety of our children. If you feel you need to hunt, I’d suggest you buy a bow and arrow.

What Makes a Right Choice?

Sometimes, knowing right from wrong seems remarkably easy. At other times, it seemsright-vs-wrong impossibly difficult. When it does seem difficult, how do we know what choice to make?

Looking to the law is not the answer. Just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it’s wrong. For example, suppose your spouse needed a life saving drug that you couldn’t afford and you had exhausted all ways of getting assistance without any luck. If you walked into the pharmacy and noticed the drug just sitting on the counter, you might steal it to save her life. While the action would be illegal, it isn’t clear whether it would be wrong. From some perspectives, it would be wrong. From others, not so much.

right-and-wrongIf tomorrow murder were made legal, would you kill somebody just because the law now said it was okay? Nothing changed about the action itself, just the laws around the action changed. Apartheid, slavery, and a host of other horrible systems were at one time legal. Some people used their legality as an excuse, others saw that participating in such a system was wrong no matter the laws surrounding and supporting it. Therefore, while laws can help us determine right from wrong, the cannot define it.

Suppose your best friend was having a heart attack in your car. Would you speed to the hospital, breaking the law, or continue driving the speed limit? Most of us would speed. One way to explain why we would speed is that speeding would be life-giving, while continuing to putter along at the speed limit would be life-denying. That is an excellent question to ask when trying to determine right from wrong. Is it life-giving or life-denying? If it’s the former, it’s right; if it’s the latter, it’s wrong. That’s true no matter what the law, or any number of “experts,” might say!