Ethicist Gushee offers an action plan on gun violence


Baptist ethicist David Gushee, writing at the Huffington Post, has laid out 12 proposals for action in the wake of the latest "American massacre." Why has he done this?

"I have become convinced that we need to treat this steady downpour of gun massacres as a form of domestic terrorism that must be deterred, prevented and punished through every possible effort of government, civil society, families and individuals. Everyone has a responsibility to do what they can to end these monthly massacres of children in school, mall shoppers, churchgoers, movie watchers.
"Only a comprehensive solution will do. Every aspect of this problem needs to be considered with the best and most creative thinking available."

More of us should be convinced, and all of us have a responsibility to do what we can.

I could quibble with some of David's wording, but he definitely is pointing us in the right direction. I especially like that he begins with addressing the issues faced by the shooters.

"Gun massacres by alienated, sick or angry American young men represent a mental health problem of the first order. We need improved mental health services and universal, affordable access to such services for all who need them."

Most of us simply do not understand how difficult it is for those with mental illnesses to get proper treatment, counseling, and medications. The recent changes to health care in the U.S. helped some by requiring increased insurance coverage, but the many people in need bump up against a system that is simply hard to navigate and expensive to access.

The mental health issue is only part of the problem with gun violence, and David has done us a great service by surfacing a number of possible ways to address the issue. I will not list them all here (see the Huffington Post) but I encourage us to consider Gushee's proposals. Approach them with an open mind. Are they reasonable or not?

We need not be afraid of creating a "slippery slope" by pursuing appropriate restrictions in regard to guns. "Slippery slope" arguments are, by their nature, logical fallacies. As Wikipedia, that great purveyor of cultural wisdom, says: slippery slope rhetoric "ignores the possibility of middle ground and assumes a discrete transition from category A to category B."

There is indeed a middle ground on almost all public issues. Partisan and interest-group politics pull to the extremes, but it need not be that way. Wisdom can prevail. We can create a safer society, not one that is completely safe but one that is safer.

Related articles: Executive Board affirms statement of peace at May meeting / Tribute to MLK: He preached, practiced nonviolence until his own violent death / Today, we grieve