If we’re going to come to any sort of agreement on how we address the frequency of mass attacks in the U.S., we going to have to include the Rational We.
Mass shootings have been our topic these last two weeks. This week I asked a good friend, Hank Brown, to share some of his perspectives. Hank’s a thoughtful leader. Here, in his own words, is Hank.
One would be hard-pressed to find a rational person who feels the frequency of mass attacks in the U.S., committed against innocent people gathered for peaceful or benign purposes, to be tolerable. There are other, numerically significant, causes of violent death/injury we are willing to tolerate given the collective perceived benefits. This is not one of them.
This is why—omitting the extremists on the left and right—the solution lies in the collective rational we. This segment of the population must together focus on determining the roots causes and what can be done to mitigate their effects.
This has not yet happened. In a well-meaning conviction to stem violent mass attacks, a significant number of the rational we attach the causality of these horrific events to guns. They generally have not had positive exposure to guns, or do not have an apparently good reason to own them. Their aversion is understandable—no one should own and want to own firearm(s) without a legitimate need or requisite expertise.
Yet there is another significant segment of the rational we who do have one or more legitimate reasons to want or need firearms, or they co-exist with people who do. These people generally enjoy refining a skill set and the accompanying rigor that leads to proficiency, just as others enjoying developing skillsets for complex work or hobbies that have direct or indirect benefits to society.
These two groups—making up much of the population of moderate Americans whose shared gun values likely have more in common than difference—find it hard to relate to each other on the issue of guns. Within the group of persons who know no need for firearms, they might see guns as a harbinger of needless violence rather than a requisite component to life. But by attaching their abhorrence to mass attacks to the common symbolism conjured by guns (rather than to the conditions that led the attackers to act), they are misplacing their efforts to solve the problem while alienating a significant portion of the reasonable population who ultimately share similar sentiments about the attacks.
If the persons who commit atrocities with guns against groups of innocent victims were denied access to forearms (a difficult proposition), these attackers would likely come up with other weapons to carry out their acts of aggression. For a significant percentage of our population, firearms have a rational utility when applied to the purposes for which they were created. When used for malevolent purposes, their rational utility becomes irrational (this is true of everything, including alcohol, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and so on). Misuse and abuse remind us that evil lurks in the individual as well as the various societal influences upon their life.
Instead of focusing on gun rights, we should work together to determine the root cause(s) contributing to the increasing frequency of these horrific events. We need to ask ourselves why so many in this society of instant and broad connectedness feel so isolated and disenfranchised that violence against their community feels like the best (or only?) course of action. The complexity of these illogical acts necessitates a corporate pursuit of understanding and investment in resolution. If we would focus our resources toward the common goal of understanding and mitigating the root casusality—rather than expending resources in intramural fights over a divisive symbol—we could make progress toward reducing and perhaps even eliminating this terrible trend. It’s a tragedy that not one of the rational we are willing to accept.