How do we respond to yet one more mass shooting?
I would like to make some clear statements.
- There are ways, tested and proven, to reduce gun violence in a nation.
- The US Congress has blocked the implementation of such measures, and has even blocked the accumulation of data that would help us know how to implement programs to reduce gun violence.
- The blocks imposed by Congress have been made on the founding principle of Liberty and Freedom for all. The underlying premise is that small government is better; and that government ought not to impose itself on its citizens in too many ways. Citizens ought to have the right and the freedom to decide if they will own and use guns.
- Yet, we have laws against murder and violence. Laws that are unevenly imposed upon perpetrators for various reasons. Often perpetrators go free and innocent victims suffer unnecessarily.
- President Obama has made strong statements regarding the perpetrators of the numerous mass shootings from the past few years. He has declared that these perpetrators have some type of mental illness that has resulted in unnecessary violence being imposed upon innocent victims.
- In order to wade our way through this complex set of views and circumstances we need a guiding ethic.
- Frankena, in his book entitled Ethics, espouses the following ethical basis for his decision making:
In a normative theory of moral obligation justice equals:
1) Dealing with people according to their deserts or merits
2) Treating human beings as equals w/ regard to the distribution of rewards and punishment
3) Treating people according to their needs and abilities: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
** 1 is balanced by 2; 3 is the case for special needs; unequal treatment requires justification
8) Given the reality that the US citizenry is uneven with regard to access to resources, levels of education, emotional maturity, and mental health, it seems essential that we adopt an ethical framework, with regard to gun violence, that addresses the abilities and needs of each. We need an ethical framework that allows for responsible, safe ownership and use of guns and prevents misuse of guns and abuse of gun ownership.
9) As a faith leader in our nation, I adhere to, teach, and preach the sanctity of life, as well as the need for equity and justice for all. Simultaneously, I am aware that the population is not even. For example, Children and youth do not have the maturity of an adult, and we do not expect them to behave as an adult. Those with disabilities, physical and mental, do not have the same capabilities and access to the world. If we, as a nation, do not formulate laws, processes, and standards that address the unevenness in the population, with regard to gun violence, we are in essence putting guns into hands of people that are not equipped to use them in safe, ethical, and responsible ways.
10) The current policies on gun ownership and violence in our nation are irresponsible and unethical. It’s time for Congress to take down the road blocks and move forward toward the implementation of proven processes that will reduce gun violence. In essence Congress is asking all citizens to risk their lives, and the lives of their loved ones, everyday so that every person may have equal access to guns.
12) Finally, let’s be clear, mass shootings are only the tip of the iceberg, everyday gun violence in US black communities kills many more Americans; everyday! .
Is this the way we want to live and die?
LeAnn Snow Flesher, PhD is Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament at American Baptist Seminary of the West.