The frustration and anger was visible when Barack Obama lamented the mass shootings at a community college in Oregon. This was understandable, as it was his 15th such statement.. He said that
… thoughts and prayers [do] not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted some place else in America next week or a couple months from now.
He ordered the U.S. flag to be flown at half staff in memory of the victims the day after the shootings.
This seems to be a sad routine which America allows to happen every few months.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 7, 2015
But as Stoics should we be bothered? For example, we can classify mass shootings as an “indifferent”, or a morally neutral event. Weapons are not good or evil in themselves. The choices made by the perpetrators are also indifferent. So, as Stoics are we to shrug our shoulders and do nothing? Epictetus said:
In reality, the various circumstances of our lives are merely what the volition has to work with and cannot in themselves be either good or bad. “The materials of action are indifferent, but the use we make of them is not indifferent” (2.5.1).
So, Stoics can’t just sit back and do nothing. Rather we want action to promote justice and virtue. Stoics want cosmopolitanism; we are all citizens in a single community. Stoics would want to respond, albeit in the most virtuous way possible. If they didn’t then this would be an injustice. The way we react to these events is in our control, and this reaction can be good or evil. While the past cannot change we can ask why did this happen and what can we do to prevent this? And to me these are not indifferent, or morally neutral activities.
America will always have a problem with gun violence unless it takes a massive amount of guns out of circulation. It’s owns almost half of the civilian-owned guns, yet it has just 4.4% of the world’s population. I’m not sure if stricter gun ownership laws will make a huge difference. It’s never going to be like Europe as it has a culture that endorses widespread gun possession. Perhaps one day the US will hit a tipping point but until then why not focus on the bullets and not the guns themselves? If you need a licence to buy bullets and the casings were traceable back to seller then people could still bear arms, but this could save lives. It may well be worth a try, especially as:
… the nation has a 200-year supply of guns but only a 4-year supply of ammunition.
Do you agree or disagree with my conclusions? Am I mad? Have I got it totally wrong? Leave a comment below.