The gun debate has erupted once again. The two sides are entrenched in their respective positions, which have changed little over the decades. One side claims their right to keep and bear arms. The other sees all guns as violent and wants them outlawed.
But guns are not the real issue. This is a moral problem. What leads people to kill others is not the instrument — anything can serve as an instrument of death. What is being done to prevent more people from committing immoral acts with guns? That’s the question we must ask.
And when we ask it, three real problems present themselves: mental illness, frustrated young men, and the glorification of violence.
The first problem is dealing with those who are psychologically unbalanced. Many mass shooters belong to this group. America is full of unbalanced people. Some have explosive behaviors yet have been deinstitutionalized. Many of these more violent individuals are walking time bombs, waiting to go off.
There are already laws limiting access to guns in proven cases of violent mental illness. The main problem, however, are cases where violent mental illness is unproven. Where behavior ranges from acting strange to causing minor disturbances.
Often these individuals make credible threats to others. But monitoring them seems impossible; there are simply too many mentally ill people out there. And there are so many types of media available to make these threats; no current system or budget can deal with them all. So it’s almost inevitable that people will escape the system and kill.
The second problem is with young men from broken families. These make up a good portion of mass shooters. America is full of frustrated young men in a culture that does much to suppress true masculinity. These young men are often on medication, socially immature and without any moral compass.
There may be millions of frustrated young men out there that could exhibit signs of unbalance. Once again, there is no way to find and treat them all. Many of them are isolated and anti-social. Some are only waiting for an opportunity to act on their resentment.
Finally, America has a culture that glorifies violence — especially gun violence — in movies and video games. This culture is teaching children to kill. Impressionable young people become desensitized and come to view killing as normal. Video games develop the actual motor skills to point and shoot accurately at anything that moves.
Curiously no one calls for controlling violent movies and video games. Those in the entertainment establishment, who demand gun control, will never allow the guns in their movies and games to be controlled. Safe in gated communities, actors and actresses deny that their screen lives contribute to the violence destroying the nation.
Proposed solutions to these three problems usually don’t deal with the causes. They only address the symptoms exhibited by those who use guns to kill people.
People suggest ways of treating mental illness. However, they don’t take measures to prevent people from becoming unbalanced in the first place.
People suggest ways of detecting and monitoring frustrated young men. However, little is done to address the reasons why young men are frustrated, and fill the void by giving meaning and purpose to their lives. Millions of boys, for example, lack role models(or fathers) to challenge them and give them the psychological security they need.
The entertainment industry may suggest ways of limiting exposure to extreme violence by rating movies to exclude some age groups. However, what about the industry’s lack of a real moral compass? Few insist upon entertainment standards that teach right and wrong to both young and old.
The first step toward solving the gun problem is acknowledging that this is a moral problem. There is no crazy gene that makes people kill. Yes, there are medical conditions that foster imbalance. But most killers have behavioral problems that involve moral decisions. They kill because they have acquired habits and behavior that disregard life and ignore good and evil.
The second step is to admit that modern society is like a factory that mass produces mass killers. How? By shattering all the institutions, morals and norms that naturally prevent the making of monsters. When individuals are not morally anchored, they become more susceptible to imbalance and immoral behavior.
The family is no longer the primary and most important social unit, teaching boys to be gentlemen and girls to be ladies. Gone is the Christian community with its role models, who foster virtue, not violence. Suppressed is the influence of the Church that guides and teaches all to follow the natural law and strive ever higher toward sanctity.
When God is no longer welcome in the public square, it should be no surprise that immoral acts proliferate. There can be no moral order without God and His Church; secular efforts are doomed to fail.
The only way to stop the killing is to close the factory that produces mass killers. Anything else is an exercise in futility. This can only be done by returning to order, a Christian order that seeks to produce not monsters but saints.
And that is the problem. Society has decayed to such a point that people are reluctant to make the effort to return to order. Such a change will involve tough decisions in the family, business and practice of the Faith. These decisions can and should be made in individual families. However, most will prefer to ignore the problem and address the symptoms.
One thing is certain. As long as the factory remains open, there can be no peaceful solution. The only way to control an immoral person is by force. That force can be wielded by the State, which will employ ever more intrusive means upon all society to monitor and detain the criminals. That force can also be exercised by responsible citizens who sense the obligation to arm themselves against evil.
That is why the two sides remain entrenched in their positions. The debate is over which force will keep evil at bay — the State or an armed citizenry. People rightly fear empowering the State to control more aspects of their lives. But if they want to avoid that outcome, they should remember the importance of the moral issue.
If the cultural factory that produces mass killers is closed, the gun control debate is emptied of its content. Guns would again be instruments of sport and security. Until that time, the gun war will rage on.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.