With children and adults dying from mass shootings enabled by Republicans who shamelessly put their own political futures above innocent lives, Democrats debate how much to compromise on gun control. Connecticut Sen, Chris Murphy, leading a bipartisan group of senators (including Susan Collins) in drafting compromise gun legislation, is all too familiar with the political roadblocks since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.

According to a report in the Washington Post, Murphy says he’ll  “support ‘anything that saves lives.’ … A decade ago he wanted sweeping reform; now he will settle for incremental changes.”  On  ABC News Murphy said, “I’m not going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Yet many worry that a watered-down bill won’t help and could hurt. As Newtown Action Alliance leader Po Murray stated, “We won’t … accept a bill that does nothing – basically a Republican bill.”

Despite bowing to moderation owing to political realities, Murphy expressed his outrage: “I need to convey my sense of outrage … so that other people realize it’s okay to continue to be outraged at this.”

Why would Murphy think that others might find continuous outrage problematic?  Whatever the reasons for this fear, he must rightly fear that our outrage will fade until the next mass shooting, which would diminish prospects for change.  As Murphy told the Washington Post, “Meaningful change in gun laws will come . . . only when voters put more pressure on his Republican colleagues than the National Rifle Association.”

How much outrage is needed to accomplish this? Must we remain in hyper-emotional state?


After all, we’ve heard the adage “everything in moderation.”  Should it apply to outrage over gun violence?  This advice, derived from Aristotle, could aid Murphy’s seemingly paradoxical mission to obtain moderate-but-meaningful legislation with benefit of immoderate outrage. But only if we understand moderation in Aristotle’s terms.

Aristotle located virtue between the vicious extremes of excess and deficiency.  Regarding shame, Aristotle placed modesty (as in moderation) virtuously between the deficiency of shamelessness and the excess of shyness.  And about anger/outrage, he located patience/good temper between irascible excess and lack-of-feeling deficiency.

Yet what if any Senate compromise is too moderate or temperate to deter gun violence?  Our patience has been worn thin in the wake of the carnage; being good tempered defies all reason.

In short, the extreme situation in which Republicans have put us doesn’t call for a moderate Aristotelian response, yet outrage will fade nonetheless.  What to do?

Note that Aristotle’s advocacy of moderation between vicious extremes doesn’t demand numerical averages. Rather, virtuous responses depend on the specifics of situations. Thus the magnitude of the situation should determine the magnitude of the response.

Philosopher Richard Kraut explained how strong feelings could garner praise within Aristotle’s ethics: “Sometimes … circumstances call for great anger. The right amount … is proportionate to the seriousness of the situation.”  


While mass-shooter-enabling Republicans stick to their guns, the rest of us must remain determined to stop the carnage.  This doesn’t require remaining in a chronic state of blood-pressure-raising outrage or engaging in our own shameless acts.  Instead, we must channel our outrage into action proportionate to the situation. “Do something,” we cry to our leaders – an action, but hardly sufficient.

Though some suggest publicizing the bodies of murdered children to shock the shameless into submission, I doubt they’re shockable.  As the  New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb explained, context determines our response to gut-wrenching images.  And the context for many Republican lawmakers is the power of their extreme-right base to determine their political futures, which motivates them to avert their gaze as much as any professed “devotion” to the 2nd Amendment.

We must keep the pressure on our lawmakers at all levels to keep this issue front and center every day from now till November. We can’t allow time to erode the sense of urgency that motivates votes against the shamelessness that grips many Republican leaders and is killing us.

With 70 percent of Americans prioritizing gun control over gun ownership, we can succeed in ways proportionate to the magnitude of the horror. In November, fire lawmakers who shun gun safety.  Our very lives have been compromised long enough.

— Special to the Telegram

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