While I do not at this time agree with Peter Stockland’s assumed belief in gun control, his article on where its realities ought to be shaped is compelling.

He begins by citing David Cole’s observations that the NRA has done well in lobbying its case through organized democratic action, (debate, dialogue, lobbying, and electioneering). This is as opposed to the by-passing of such public forums, and moving straight to “threats of insurrection”, or other vigilante strong-arming techniques. (Think “occupy” movements…) David Cole believes that those who wish to fight in favor of gun control, ought to use the same means the NRA has used, (rather than say, seeking Presidential “executive orders”…). And here is where Stockland disagrees, stating that such hot-topics as gun-control, euthanasia, and abortion, cannot and should not simply be shaped by “the democratic process”. We must dig deeper than policy.

Instead of mere organized and civil political action, Stockland believes that first “the hearts of individual citizens must come together in cultural response”. This is to say, that when we seek to change the world, not only is rouge political strong-arming a method which skips steps to the ultimate detriment of whatever is achieved by it, so too is the reality of “the democratic process” if it is not preceded by “cultural response”.

One would think that implicit within the democratic process would be the unity of a culture in its beliefs/desires, but this is not always so. And when it is not so, our “wins” achieved through the “democratic process” becomes essentially the effect of strong-arming by a group of people, rather than a few individuals. Because you’ve not won the people’s hearts, they will forever seek ways to circumvent your “policy” decisions. The difference is, you will now fight actions done covertly, rather than overtly, which is far more difficult to address. At best, you’ve created a Pharisee culture, requiring that the outside of all cups be cleaned, while unable to enforce the cleaning of the inside of cups…
This problem is visible in America in our attempt to solve racial tensions through political strong-arming. We now have “laws” against racial discrimination, which has amounted to racists becoming secretive in their beliefs and surreptitious their practices. How are we ever to guard against their actions, much less convert their hearts, if they have hidden themselves?

Surely there is a point at which “cultural response” can no longer be given a chance, and an artificial and forceful intervention must occur. We’ve been trying to “reach” the Middle East “culturally” for some time now, and yet terrorist violence is only increasing. As a result, we’ve had to go beyond governmental strong-arming, and have moved to the even harsher countermeasure of outright warfare. But surely even in these circumstances, we cannot forsake the need for cultural engagement. Without the changing of hearts, you will always be at war. Surely Vietnam taught us this?

Returning then to the issue of gun-control, what then should we do? How should communities “come together in cultural response”? This remains to be seen, and Peter Stockland does not provide an adequate answer in the short space of his Cardus article. Nonetheless, it ought to be seen by both those against and in favor of gun rights, that those actions committed through the “democratic process” ought to be the fruits of cultural response- not the other way around. As Stockland title so adequately states: “right trumps rights”. We have to culturally convince people of what is right, before we seek to exercise our rights.