How Gun Control Illustrates a Clash of Paradigms

Posted on January 9, 2013 by


Differing paradigms (or presuppositional frameworks) cause people on different sides of an issue to not only disagree, but to think in such terms that they cannot understand how the other side thinks, which tends to make debate futile and unending. This is true in political matters as much as in theological matters. The current debate on gun control illustrates this very well. While I am not interested in debating gun control here, I think it can be helpful to analyze the differences in the way both sides of that issue think, and the communication problems that result.

Gun rights advocates and gun control advocates have very different views of the public and of morality. The former are more foundational and absolutist in their thinking, while the latter are more relativistic. This results in gun rights advocates viewing the public as a polarized body consisting of a stable subset of responsible, law-abiding citizens as well as a subset of irresponsible, scoff-laws and would-be criminals. The more relativistic view of the gun control advocates results in their view of the public as a morally homogeneous group of which every individual is a potential criminal and violent perpetrator. Therefore, while the gun rights advocate sees the need for protection from the criminal element, the gun control advocate sees the need for protection from every member of the public. The former objects that if guns are made illegal, then only law-abiding citizens will be denied access to them, leaving everyone unprotected from those who are the real threat; while the latter sees the main threat coming not from some criminal element but from those very citizens who are ordinarily law-abiding.

Such a vast philosophical difference in how the two sides think and view the world precludes any real progress on the issue. This is the same kind of difference in thinking that frustrates such theological debates as that between Arminians and Calvinists.

Ken Hamrick, 2013