Virtues. We are hearing this word a lot lately. It is a word tempered by its counterpart, vices. This theme of good versus bad (or evil, depending on one’s dispassion) has been the basis of many of the discussions in the past 10 days.
Aristotle listed a dozen spheres of virtue. More recently, André Comte-Sponville talks to 18 virtues in his 1996 “A Short Treatise on the Great Virtues.” Both men — and all those between and since — provide a spectrum of virtuous emotions and actions, from excessive to deficient.
Comte-Sponville speaks to justice as one of the cardinal virtues, a virtue that encompasses all other virtues. He wrote, “To speak injudiciously of any virtue is to betray it.” He and Aristotle also speak to the virtues of compassion and of courage. Today’s conversations concerning gun control must also speak to justice, compassion and courage.
With all of the discussions we are now having concerning Tucson, it seems that we are only talking about the dichotomies of these virtues and not the high point of the bridges that connect the extremes.
It also appears that the line of fire extends beyond firearm ownership. Should “extended clips” be outlawed? Should a change in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) be considered to allow limited access as it concerns possible mental illness? How will Americans balance their Second Amendment collective rights with individual needs and wants? Are other laws needed?
For gun control advocates to blame the Glock semi-automatic handgun or the 33-round extended clip is wrong and injudicious. As a liberal and supporter of controls, like closing gun show loopholes, I owned handguns and know that the weapon is benign until there is a hand on the trigger. It is the person.
For ownership advocates to declare that gun ownership is an absolute right is equally injudicious. Nothing is absolute, except death. With gun ownership falls the responsibility of safe, proper and astute handling of that firearm.
For many years, I believed that I had a partial answer to the seemingly endless discussions on gun control. Not to restrict the ownership of guns nor make the states and federal agencies any more aware of who owns what and how many.
No, a privately developed but mandatory gun-safety training plan for new owners of firearms and a mandatory shorter biannual “renewal” training program for those who already own firearms.
The programs should be developed by an organization knowledgeable of such courses — the National Rifle Association — which would also be responsible for records. No law enforcement agency could have access to those records without warrant, and even then the records would be limited to a specific person or persons, not groups or the entire listing. The NRA would not be allowed to mandate joining the organization to receive the certificate of completion, but it would certify trainers and have the ability to charge for the training and certification process.
The law could be similar to Missouri’s current concealed-weapons-training statute with small modifications and one small addition. Instructors can refuse to issue a completion of training certificate for specific reasons: inability to show knowledge of firearm safety, inability to use the firearm in a safe manner and suspicion of possible mental defects or that the firearm may be used illegally.
Mandatory firearms training is already required in Missouri for hunters and those who seek a concealed gun permit. There is no reason not to expand this training to include all gun owners. There is no reason to prevent certified trainers from denying a certificate of completion for the reasons stated above. There is no reason for the NRA to dismiss such training. It is time the NRA admits that reasonable restrictions are part of virtuous citizenship.
This is not a discussion of limiting Second Amendment rights. It is about the courage of our state legislators to say that with the ownership of a firearm there is a responsibility to properly and safely use that weapon.
I call on Columbia’s legislators Kurt Schaefer, Mary Still, Stephen Webber, Chris Kelly, John Cauthorn and Paul Quinn to introduce this training mandate and to understand that such a law is for the better good of Missouri citizens.
In short, virtuous.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice.com and New York Journal of Books.