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Wednesday, 29 November 2017 16:24

Consciences and consequences

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Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old Texan, killed 26 people before apparently taking his own life on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, during church services at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church (Texas). News reports indicate the slaughter was the result of a heated “domestic situation.” All indications are that upon his bad conduct discharge from the U.S. Air Force he should have been identified as an individual who could not buy or possess weapons legally. Sadly, that crucial information was never relayed to civilian authorities. Thus, Kelley obtained and used a Ruger rapid-fire assault rifle as he carried out his atrocious mass murder.

With perhaps some over-simplification, this essay attempts to shed light on how and why this tragedy took place.

There are two “doors” that regulate human behavior. One is the conscience. The New World Dictionary defines the conscience as “a knowledge or sense of right and wrong, with a compulsion to do right.” The second door is consequences-natural physical consequences along with man-made laws and consequences. The conscience has the potential to require the individual to do what he/she thinks is right. It can also require the individual to not do what he/she thinks is wrong. Humans have the choice to obey or violate their consciences on a daily basis. In regard to consequences they are seldom totally predictable in nature. Also, consequences set up by man-made laws are very difficult to enforce consistently.

In the classic serial killer novel made into the movie “The Silence of the Lambs” this duality of conscience/consequences is very well portrayed by Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal has no conscience to prevent him from killing people who get in his way. He kills them and eats chosen “delicicious” body parts. Hannibal displays little fear of being caught in his criminal/anti-social behavior. He has proven himself very capable of avoiding capture and confinement.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) along with thousands of its members insist that the Second Amendment to our Constitution guarantees the right of Americans to own firearms. Their mantra is that “Guns don’t kill, people kill.”

To many it appears the NRA is willing to ignore the harsh reality that too many people have been killed by people wielding assault rifles. How long will the NRA shirk its responsibility to support legislation that sets reasonable limits on who can legally own firearms and which firearms pose too great a risk of harming/killing Americans and, therefore, must be controlled/banned for the safety of all? What could possibly motivate that influential organization to continue with its present philosophy and lobbying to Congress? Surely people don’t have to be told the answer to that question! It is money.

I have personally chosen not to join the NRA because of their rigid stance that perpetuates this needless killing. I will continue, like many of my friends, neighbors and relatives to own simple non-assault firearms for personal safety.

There was a time when peoples’ consciences told them not to kill people with their firearms. There was a time when assault rifles were not readily available. There was a time when people did not play video games that resulted in people dying before their eyes. For some who have never witnessed a killing/death this surely must diminish the value of human life.

If we could re-tool the “American conscience,” perhaps we could reduce killing to zero per year. But, since we can’t control consciences, what can we control? We can, if we choose to do so, regulate/control assault rifles.

There is a prevent-minimize-control continuum that is considered in regard to disasters and tragedies. Prevention is generally the least expensive choice. Minimization is more expensive. Correction is usually much more expensive than either of those two. The huge trouble with the correction phase is that human life cannot be restored once taken. That is a somber reality that NRA officials and many of its members need to ponder on.

Are they so intent on the right to possess any firearm that they can convince themselves they have no part in the prevention of killing innocent people? There is at least a thin line here between what our military personnel should have and what civilians should/should not be allowed to own. Most of my neighbors say they see no need for any hunter or gun enthusiast to own assault rifles.

In her great song “Superman,” Donna Fargo sings, “Now, let’s go through this one more time. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. But, honey baby, we got to draw the line when your hang-up starts messin’ with mine.” It is becoming quite clear that the NRA’s hang-up is messing with precious human lives. Bob Dylan asked, “How many deaths will it take ‘til we know that too many people have died?” When will the collective American conscience kick in and tell the NRA that profit should never trump human life?

Should we beg NRA members to discontinue their membership in an attempt to persuade that powerful organization to support legislation banning assault rifles?

Dave Waldrop

Webster

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