When possible, don’t wait until something goes terribly, tragically wrong until you decide what you think about it.
I had been planning on letting some of the hoopla about gun control in light of the most recent awful school shooting die down a little before I made this brief comment, lest it get lumped in with the arguments about gun control itself (which this post is certainly not about). But evidently those heated discussions aren’t going anywhere in a hurry, so I’ve resigned myself to saying this with all the other conversations still happening. This is more of an observation/rant/vent than most of my comments tend to be.
In the immediate aftermath of the murder of children and staff at Sandy Hook elementary school at the hands of a gunman (whose name we do not need to repeat – more on that another time perhaps), as you would expect, social media was abuzz with conversations about it, and about the issue of legal access to firearms. I’ve got views on that, but those views don’t matter just now. Among some of the comments I was seeing were comments from people who seemed shocked – not just by the fact that such a terrible act had been carried out (which is perfectly understandable), but by the fact that such a scenario was even possible. Now, I know that of course they realised that it was theoretically possible for someone to commit mass murder. But they reacted as though they had never paused to think that people could do this with guns, and as though the possibility of these actions had never before factored into their ethical thinking about gun control.
I say this because I began to see comments – from more than one person, actually – along the lines of “Wow, I have now changed my stance on gun control” or “I am now stridently in favour of gun control.” Maybe it’s right to be in favour of heavy gun control, maybe not. But how can a morally reflective person who considers the implications of their stance on gun control just now realise that this sort of thing can be done? It seems akin to someone thinking that it’s acceptable for nations to have and use nuclear weapons in warfare, and then to find out that a nation actually used nuclear weapons in warfare, only to respond with a mortified: “Wait, nuclear weapons kill millions of people? I’m now opposed to it!” You mean you took your previous stance on nuclear weapons not realising that? Similarly, some people’s sudden and impassioned change of heart in light of school shootings leaves me asking: “Do you mean to tell me you took what you thought was a principled stance and defended that stance before other people without actually considering that this kind of thing can happen? Really?
Part of becoming a mature, careful, reflective morally thinking person is that you think beyond what is happening right in front of your face at this moment in time, and your thoughts move across a whole range of possibilities.
On a more participatory note, and to get me out of rant mode: Can you think of a time when you (or someone else – provided they did so publicly, so don’t go revealing what was said in private, please) suddenly realised that your “well-thought out and carefully considered moral point of view” had missed the patently obvious? Feel free to share.