Not to hammer on the pro-gun crowd, but let's keep hammering. Yet not so much on them as on the doublespeak they (and equally their opponents) so readily take up and defend tooth and nail.

prudence-and-manly-virtueA few instances come to mind, which best characterize the bulk of discussion in light of these two posts. Namely, that the conclusions of gun-related arguments are really all that matter (even to the exclusion of how one arrives there), and that there's no luxury of "not choosing a side" in these most dire of times.

To the first, I argue thus: gun control is clearly a very important issue, because only on very important issues do folks like you throw away your principles (and sometimes religious sensibilities) for the sake of something that openly contravenes them. Q.E.D.

As for the demands of side-picking, a little reflection on the reality of what's going on—and our proper moral response—is helpful. To be sure, gun control is a very important issue (although obviously not for the reason I gave, above). It's a policy decision that reflects much about our understanding on basic human dignity, liberties, and responsibilities. Moreover, the talking points on either side are grounded, more or less, in authentic concern for social and individual well-being. (Just how rational this grounding turns out to be, on the other hand, is quite arguable.)

As for choosing a side—pro- or anti-gun access—those with a clear conscience and some degree of moral certainty are not only advised, but perhaps even compelled to do so. However, as I've mentioned before, gun access (or restriction) is hardly a natural, universal right. In other words, it's hardly something we require unswervingly to perform our basic moral duties as human beings. Rather, it's a right that can (and perhaps ought to be) conferred in a civil setting—one linked to those moral duties given the circumstances, but not part and parcel of them.

On the other hand, just as abiding by one's conscience is a basic moral obligation—on the same order as defending one's family—so too is forming one's conscience. This is especially true for prudentially significant scenarios. Since free access to guns isn't something we can reason to merely by studying human nature, nor is it clear from any divine command (beating swords into plowshares, and all that), determining its moral worth is a matter of not insignificant thought and calculation. No one can be forced—or should even be encouraged—to jump the gun (sorry), if he or she isn't prepared to commit to that opinion confidently and with a clear conscience.

The great thing about situations like this, however, is that we can often do much more good by our faithfulness to forming our consciences than we could by rushing to one side, or by rambling on (more exactly: shouting down) in talking points at anyone not yet enlightened enough to see the truth. Furthermore, keeping our clear moral obligations to understand what is best, and doing the non-negotiable goods we're bound to in our state in life, we set the stage not only for a more thorough appreciation for making good prudential decisions, but also for providing testimony to the quality of those decisions by the force of our own character and actions.

[Note: the picture on this article is Paolo Veronese's fresco depicting prudence and manly virtue. A worthwhile image for us all to consider.]

Andrew M. Haines is editor and founder of Ethika Politika, and co-founder and chief operating officer at Fiat Insight.