Gun Control or Virtues and Vice Control?
All three. Unfortunately, we are not hearing much, if anything, about the latter two. Instead, we see and hear one side vehemently promulgating their anti-gun agenda, and the other side steadfastly defending the 2nd Amendment. Regardless of which side of the gun control debate you are on, it's clear we cannot focus solely on gun control because guns, on their own, do not kill people. As well as improving gun control, we must also address the role “virtues” and “vices” play in evil acts of murder, such as the recent Parkland, Las Vegas, and Sutherland Springs mass shootings.
The murderers of these tragedies share different common denominators, such as the absence of fathers, but none are more significant than the lack of virtues. If these individuals were raised in virtue-inculcating environments and lived virtue-centered lives, the chances of them committing their evil acts would’ve been infinitesimal. Until we as a society, “inculcate virtues” into our own lives, we will continue to see more and more of these tragedies. By increasing in virtues, we decrease in vices that lead to mortal sin – the door opener to evil. When society realizes and embraces this, we will begin to experience far fewer heinous acts of murder.
A Mixed Bag of Virtues
The meaning of virtue has undergone different interpretations throughout the years. Leftism’s constant removal of God from society has replaced true virtue with various secular interpretations. Today, many no longer associate it with the teachings of the early Church Fathers, such as St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas. Instead, the common person associates it with some vague form of goodness. For many, it doesn’t take much to be virtuous. Possessing good character traits such as honesty or politeness can deem one virtuous. One can also be deemed virtuous without demonstrating any real virtue at all. All they have to do is publicly stand for a particular ideology, such as the case with today’s virtue signaling phenomenon. In this case, people can simply publicly claim things like “I’m not racist,” “I support LGBT causes,” or “I’m for the environment,” and voila – they are virtuous (at least in the Leftist world of social media). Generally speaking, the vagueness of virtue has led to a society that simply believes if you’re good, you’re virtuous.
Unfortunately, “good people” lacking in virtue often do bad things. Sometimes they do really bad things. In addition, they sometimes “don’t” do good when they should. Take for instance a good person, who is an armed law enforcement officer, not intervening in a mass shooting because he or she lacks fortitude or other virtues. This could have been the case with the Parkland, FL shooting where the Broward County deputies did not enter the school while the shooter was actively shooting people. Whether or not that was the case, the tragic outcome of such a scenario is why we cannot continue ignoring the importance of virtue throughout the discourse of such evil events. Ultimately, guns are not the problem. People severely lacking in virtues are the problem.
Early Church Fathers made it clear that virtues are essential for living a good moral life and fighting our spiritual battles because they are “good habits.” "Virtue", says Augustine, "is a good habit consonant with our nature." From Saint Thomas's entire Question on the essence of virtue may be gathered his brief but complete definition of virtue: "habitus operativus bonus", an operative habit essentially good, as distinguished from vice, an operative habit essentially evil.
Up until the 1960s, Catholics were extensively taught about virtues and their role in the salvation of our souls. As Leftism entered the Church through modernism, the knowledge and practice of virtues declined. The level of decline is so bad that you will find more Catholics today more concerned with social justice and the environment than actually living a Catholic virtue-centered life. In fact, it would surprise most Catholics to learn there are sixty-four Catholic virtues.
This really needs to change because virtues – among other things - play a key significant role in our overall mental health. Imagine if the murderers of the aforementioned tragedies habitually practiced virtues like charity, prudence, magnanimity, religion, and honestia, to name a few. Again, if they lived a virtue-centered life, the chances of them committing their evil acts would’ve been infinitesimal. This is why exorcist and theologian, Fr. Chad Ripperger, devotes a large portion of his book, Introduction to the Science of Mental Health, on virtue and related topics. Ripperger argues in his book that modern psychology has made little real progress in helping the mentally ill because it has no true understanding of the immaterial, spiritual dimension of man’s nature. He makes it clear that our mental health and our ability to combat evil are largely dependent on virtues.
As Catholics, we can help make a significant difference in lessening these evil acts of murder by promoting virtues and their inculcation into society. First, we need to begin on the individual level by developing good habits/virtues. This will require us to learn our Catholic virtues and the vices contrary to them. By increasing in virtues on an individual level, we can make a positive impact on a family level. When families become virtuous, the possibilities of a better society become more realistic than ever. This hierarchical approach is something the media and gun control activists miss altogether.
They politicize this issue and focus on legislation and government solutions, while ignoring the important roles virtuous individuals and families have in the hierarchy of society. It would be easy for them to dismiss this article’s promotion of virtuous individuals affecting the greater whole because I write from a Catholic perspective, but even non-Catholic and secular people of reason can find truth in this. Take for instance, Jordan Peterson, a bestselling author and clinical psychologist who happens to be agnostic.
In an interview with Alexander Blum, he sheds great light on this when he said:
“A highly functional integrated society has to be a hierarchy of boxes. There has to be functional individuals inside functional families inside functional local communities, then states, then countries. . . The state can’t take over the function of the family. We know that; those experiments have been run.”
Although he uses the word “functional,” we can substitute it with “virtuous” and apply the same reasoning. The outcome will be the same, if not better since virtue surpasses functionality. Ultimately, the combining of virtues inculcated into society with improved gun control that still respects the 2nd Amendment, will have unparalleled results than any gun control legislation alone.
 The Oxford Dictionary defines “virtue signaling” as: “The action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one's good character or the moral correctness of one's position on a particular issue.”
 The Catholic Encyclopedia
 Charity: The virtue by which one loves God and one’s neighbor for the sake of God.
 Prudence: The application of right reason to action and right reason of action.
 Magnanimity: The virtue by which one seeks excellence in all things but especially great things.
 Religion: The virtue by which we render to God what is due to Him.
 Honestia: The habit of always seeking to do what is virtuous in each situation (may also be called integrity).
 Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, Foreward of “Introduction to the Science of Mental Health by Fr. Chad Ripperger.”
 Fr. Chad Ripperger has a wealth of material about virtue, which includes his book “Introduction to Science of Mental Health.”Also available is his list of virtues, and virtue-related conferences via Youtube, which are compiled here.
 This was in response to a question regarding globalization. Even though it is his antidote to collectivism, identity politics, and gigantism; I find it relevant.