April 21, 2019 | 55° F

Mass shootings call for midway compromise in policies

Opinion Column: Waxing Philosophical

It is a sad state of affairs in our country. Three hundred and fifty-three mass shootings to date and still no practical solution at hand. What is one to make of this violence in a society where we pride ourselves on being the exception in a world of barbarity? Before one deduces that I am of typical liberal stock, wishing for firearms to exist only in museums and battlefields, I will say that the matter is not clear to me. The Second Amendment appears to be fairly solid in procuring one’s right to bear arms, but then again we haven’t had the pleasure of doing battle with a Hanoverian monarch in quite some time. Can ethics be had on an issue where rights and tradition meet an ever-evolving society?

As a child, firearms were always these strange and dust-laden contraptions behind locked glass cases. My father, an avid but usually unsuccessful hunter, never had his various shotguns and rifles out for examination and they were never glorified or offered for inspection, much like the fine scotch on top of the refrigerator. How did this staple of my childhood banality become such an issue?

For the longest time, I believed class stratification was the answer, with firearms being merely a tool for the expression of a distraught majority, pandering for the goods or coping with the rigors of daily life. However, my proletariat dismissal seems to, well, miss the mark. Mentally unstable individuals, quick-draw police officers and fringe groups have all abused this simple tool. Institute new legislation to make it harder to purchase weapons and still, the wrong people have the means to reach their ends.

So, what is the issue? Can guns really be said to be the culprit or are there underlying factors that have yet to be discovered? One thing is for sure, the typical NRA rhetoric about “good guys with guns” is ridiculous. I love a good John Wayne movie every now and then, but returning to the Wild West does not seem the best strategy at this time. There is something to be said though for the people that still wish to carry concealed weapons in public, like some extension of their already lacking person.

Perhaps, the issue does not exist in the weapon itself, but rather in a community at large: a community where the value of life has been diminished and replaced by greed and narcissism. I lack the exact results, but I surmise that most people who own weapons and wish to make weapons more freely available, do so under the pretense of defense. However, the latter is to me a selfish endeavor not fit for a society that promotes the idea of peace. I, for one, find it troublesome to trust strangers on a daily basis. I would most certainly not trust some random citizen with a weapon at my local shopping mall, under the guise of self-defense. I think there is a time and place for one to exercise their Second Amendment right, namely the shooting range or hunting spot. Aside from that, the best defense against an armed offense is a quality education.

Imagine how the world would be if instead of rhetorical flourishes by fringe politicians, promoting some half-assed ideology, one was given the companionship of John Milton or James Joyce, Huxley or Orwell, or any type of literature promoting the idea that we are individuals in a society, rather than a society of individuals. Instead of the rigors of testing our meager knowledge, the education system ought to be adapted to promote personal and moral growth, be it by means of quality material and classical learning. I would much rather punch out papers and study Ancient Greece than ever hold a weapon. Why? Because learning, to me, is more valuable than a material object.

As quixotic as my sentiment may be, between the disparity of class, improper education and a political system that does not allow critical thinking, it is no wonder that we, a modern nation, still cannot figure out how to drop our barbaric tendencies. Weapons do not need to be banned, nor do they need to be openly available to everyone, as a modest and moderate position will often prove to be superior. Why is it that we only think in extremes? Compromise may not make one happy, but it will allow a field where everyone can stand. Good nor bad, weapons are something we use by the virtue of our minds and actions. The latter requiring the most modification toward the values we wish to see in the world.

Jonathan Finnerty is a School of Arts Sciences junior majoring in classics and philosophy. His column, "Waxing Philosophical," runs on alternate Fridays.

Jonathan Finnerty

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