Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It is Not About the Guns

Your political and religious belief system is rooted in fundamental moral drivers that direct all of your most passionate expressions of right and wrong. One of the most powerful drivers in humanity is the one that compels us toward care and averts us from harm. With the possible exception of mentally ill individuals, every person is motivated by these two opposing factors.

When innocent children and their teachers are senselessly slaughtered, and the media exploit the carnage in a massive news feeding frenzy, our moral sensitivities toward care and averting harm are absolutely affected. Since we are inescapably human, this violation of our shared moral foundation is nearly absolute. It triggers an emotional, visceral, and moral response. What differs, however, is the way we individually interpret care and harm—particularly when it comes to violence and firearms.

Some have a moral affinity toward the gun. It is a necessary means of protection from harm and an essential assurance that care will be provided. Any threat against the individual, the family, the community, or even the nation can be duly defended by the possession and responsible use of the firearm. Without it, one cannot ensure proper care for what is important and one cannot fend off potential harm.

Others have a moral aversion to the gun. It is a weapon of death and violence that threatens care and only causes harm. It was created strictly to kill and has little or no redemptive value. The world would be safer without it and its deadly consequences and as long as it is allowed to exist, the world will be a more harm-filled, less caring place.

These two powerful moral interpretations quickly (and predictably) rise to the surface any time there is an unexplainable shooting catastrophe such as last week’s Sandy Hook School disaster. The debate is powerful and polarizing.

Some people feel a strong moral outrage to take up guns, arm teachers, place armed guards at the doors of the schools and use the weapon that promotes care and averts further harm to prevent future carnage.

Some people feel a strong moral outrage to call for stricter gun control, greatly restricting who can own a weapon, limiting the firepower and ammunition capacity, and reducing the deadly potential of those weapons that inhibit care and promote harm so as to prevent future carnage.

The danger is, most people dig their heels in on one side or the other of this debate, absolutely convinced of their own moral superiority; and essentially they are right! Each moral argument is superior given the visceral and basic moral assumptions that are driving the belief system. The problem is, rather than understanding our shared moral foundations, both sides are demonizing and ostracizing the other as being immoral.

Rather than arguing who is right and who is wrong (because we all know that “we” are right and “they” are wrong and that is not going to change) it is time that we start looking at what is really threatened here. Our sense of safety has been threatened. As a culture, we were not able to provide care to those slaughtered in Sandy Hook Elementary. Vicious harm was inflicted and the only thing we were able to to is watch the incessant news coverage and wring our hands in shocked disbelief while our moral outrage bubbled up from inside.

Our common ground is our most basic moral foundations—not the guns that were used or how society should view them. If we are truly going to find healing after this tragedy and seek authentic means of eliminating the potential for future carnage, a debate on gun control will not help. It is time we have the real conversation—our shared humanity.