Looking into human heartsPublished 10:57am Monday, February 4, 2013
Amidst all the clamoring for “tougher gun laws,” have we not noticed how miserably generations of gun laws have failed? Is anyone giving attention to anything other than laws? Guns (swords, clubs, and fists) are weapons of means, while killers are people who use them. It is the people who injure and kill who need primary attention, and the best of laws will have minimal effects.
That something effective must be done about increasing violence by the use of guns few would doubt. Nor is there serious objection to more laws, not even by the NRA. Yet, we must do what we can by increasing the effectiveness of laws by crafting more intelligent laws and enforcing them rigorously. I urge lawyers and lawmakers to work overtime to accomplish this, and I will gratefully leave it to their knowledge, skill, and wisdom.
My concern is to recognize why anyone uses a gun to harm or kill and learn what we can do to prevent people from doing so. It is all the more desirable and effective to dissuade them morally so they do not even want to harm or kill. That they do, put simply, is consequent to evil deep within human hearts and expressed more broadly in the collective notions, feelings, and values of societies. It is, then, a moral, social, and even cultural quality.
It has been so, of course, since Cain killed his brother Able. Cain had already bucked against the way he was told he it was necessary to live his life wholesomely and successfully. He supposed he knew better, and he exploited his moral freedom in order to do what he wished, as he wished. Rather than recognizing error and changing his ways, he killed his righteous brother—as if this solved his problem and actually accomplished something.
Earlier societies and cultures usually developed standards and rules found to be successful in restraining evil and constraining good behavior. They often made mistakes, but they eventually corrected them and formulated more successful restraints and constraints. Frequently, they missed the spirit of rules and laws and stressed to ineffectiveness the letter of the law. Consequently, people often found such laws unhelpful and lost respect for them. This, however, is not the fault of law as much as that of lawmakers who enact senseless laws, police who fail to enforce even good laws, and citizens who flout all laws.
Partly due to poor laws, partly to inconsistent law enforcement, but largely the consequence of individuals supposing they know better, amoral social conventions but also moral convictions that were valid and reasonably effective were disputed and then rejected outright. To play with an old analogy, they threw out the bathed baby with the dirty bathwater.
In philosophic terms, they went from legalism to antinomianism, from rigidity to chaos. In rightly fleeing bad laws, they continued hell-bent all the way to lawlessness. They rushed past good common sense and wholesome balance without a notice.
We now live in a society and with a culture that has replaced human rights granted to everyone by society itself with selfish and self-indulging demands by every individual. We live in a society of victims indulging themselves with entitlements. We have victimized ourselves but blame it on society at large. The entitlements we boast are not awarded, but seized.
There are no moral or even social restraints. They “let it all hang out” even when what hangs out is disgraceful. They “tell it like it is” even when it isn’t that way at all. Everyone is “entitled to his opinion” when most opinions are just plain wrong. They “look out for Number One” when everyone being Number One, no one is. They liberate from oppression until there is nothing left that had “oppressed,” and the liberation becomes the new oppression. They assert there are no moral absolutes and morality is relative without recognizing they have laid down the most dogmatic absolute. They exercise all freedoms but make no commitments.
This is why violence is rampant in America. This is why mass murder is becoming almost a daily event. It is, ultimately, the evil in people’s hearts and not the guns.