And the ontological approach requires a hermeneutic method in a great social conversation.
It is 14 years since I first wrote a university paper on guns and violence in my rural community. In that small enquiry, I found that the use of guns as threats including the discharge of weapons, was a disturbing aspect of domestic abuse.
By the time I wrote that paper, Australia had already regulated and destroyed many weapons after the last massacre (Port Arthur, Tasmania) to have occurred in Australia. However it has only been this latest massacre in the USA (Sandy Hook School, Newton, Connecticut) and the conversation that has followed, that has hade me revisit the idea of being a gunless world. My first responses have been to castigate the NRA of North America for its own culpability. However, a sport shooter called me out on the idea of prohibition of firearms. Here were my responses:
Me: I realise firearm sports are even on the increase in Australia, and I have some empathy for the draw it has. I’m not a prohibitionist, and don’t see there is any evidence that it works for any issue. What does work is strong community conversation and regulation. Training and licensing are the key elements of working regulation. However, even in Australia, while we have a reasonable grasp on workable regulation, what we lack is strong community conversation. Peace will only be won by peaceful conversation. In spite of my approach here, I do think peaceful conversation also can’t be rampantly derogatory, just that it doesn’t have to be nice. My challenge here is really to say, “Think about this. What would you do, here, now, to support the next step towards a gun less society?”
He: As you do, I can commit to initiating and continuing a rational, gentle conversation about the balancing of public/personal safety in our Australian ( and to a lesser extent international) society with legitimate, safe and peaceful pastimes which happen to use firearms. As a left of centre voter with a strong sense of social justice and an abhorrence of violence, I still don’t see your presumption that we need a gun less society is correct anymore than one that might say we should have a carless, ropeless, drugless, knife less , Bungy-jump less etc society. But I am astounded by the American refusal to balance individual ‘rights’ with public safety in the face of such evidence. The massacres are not numerically significant whilst shocking. The 10000 gun homicides vs Australia’s 19 per year is more shocking. That anyone could have a concealed weapon next to me in a supermarket queue if i lived in the states is shocking. Thankfully I think Australia has found a balance. Our psyche is different. Our civil society is very different and we can have great discussions without being polarized or extremist. Thanks.
Me: This is essentially an ontological argument ie an argument for BEING gunless or BEING people for whom the idea of weapon is strange and unusual. I can’t be sure that the future of the human society will be weaponless, I simply offer myself the possibility that (while)the rationale of my own mind isn’t capable of going to that place where human society lives in 100 or 500 years, it may indeed be weaponless. However, from that possibility I know (expect) that weaponry at least need be scarce for what the hell would there to fight over, kill. If it is scarce in 500 years, it can be scarce today. Why, because the reason it is not scarce today is because humans believe they are important for something, mainly killing someone, secondarily to kill an animal, thirdly to shoot an inanimate object. However, if you rank all the beliefs and reasons, and you really desire to have them on that basis, I am happy to concede to you. And all the ones that have no belief or reason, well let’s get rid of them. And I am happy to make the same deal with a Neo Nazi with his cache of assault rifles. However, if I ask everyone for their list and then apply hermeneutic conversation to the one’s that are off each list, until we have some clear 90% agreement what can stay and what should go, then I will be extremely happy with that conversation and that outcome. And once we have seen that outcome applied we are already far done the track of a cultural change in which the weapon is a strange and unusual idea.
I am glad this engagement has lead me to review the possible approach to a big community conversation. Such conversation can translate to many, if not all, issues of governance, policy and public health. The hermeneutic approach is no easy method to translate on a mass scale but when doing that research back in the 1990’s I realised that a combination of household survey and an analytic approach to select representatives of the diversity of opinion, for a hermeneutic group approach is do-able. For the application of the hermeneutic approach to community problem solving I used the 4th Generation Evaluation concepts of Gubba and Lincoln.