When academics weigh in on social issues, they tend to get sociological. “Now it’s probably true that in many circumstances guns make us safer, or at least make us feel safer, and that’s not unimportant,” David L. O’Hara writes in The Chronicle Review. “But I do wonder whether they make us better people, in the more enduring sense of being whole and well.”
“I don’t think that question is easily answered.” O’Hara is an associate professor of philosophy and classics at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“Fearing for our safety, we focus on our individual rights, without thinking about the best way to exercise those rights, like the men who bring assault weapons, to political rallies, or like the guy who brought his AR-15 into a Kroger in Charlottesville, Va., recently, simply because he could,” O’Hara avers. “Yes, the Second Amendment safeguards the right ‘to keep and bear arms,” but the exercise of that right is also a bit like flexing your muscles or pissing on a tree to mark territory.”
It is worth noting that in neither of the incidents O’Hara describes was a shot fired. Nevertheless, the concern of law enforcement authorities in both cases is understandable.
To get closer to actual violence associated with the exercise of second amendment rights, O’Hara quotes works of fiction, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Of the latter, he notes, “If you know the novel, you know the complicated ways in which guns, trust, love, and fear figure into it. If you don’t, I won’t spoil it for you. Instead, let me rephrase the question I began with: What do guns do to us? Do guns expand our sense of community, or cause it to contract?” Maybe he should go to a gun show and find out.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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