There's a famous thought experiment about ethics. In that experiment, an out of control trolley is hurtling along a railway track, and is certain to kill the five railway workers ahead unless something is done to affect things. People are asked whether it would be right to push a person off a bridge in front of the trolley, killing that person but stopping it from killing the five workers.
If you've not encountered this before, perhaps you're considering the ethics of it right now.
On a pragmatic, utilitarian level, it makes sense to push the person off the bridge, killing the one to save the five. But few people are comfortable with this. And this is a human truth that persists regardless of culture. When asked the same question, using canoes and crocodiles, Amazonian tribespeople give the same answers. Another variation is that of a surgeon, who needs five organs to save five people's lives. A healthy person happens to come into the hospital, and it is realised that he is a match. Should the surgeon kill the healthy person, take his organs, and save the five sick people's lives? Again, you're almost certainly going to say no, despite it being in one sense, the greater good.
And so, once again to guns.
Let's just suppose that as chance would have it, there is a spate of spree killings. In two weeks, no fewer than six different gunmen go on the rampage, and in each case, kill between 20 and 30 young children in various schools across the length and breadth of America.
The outrage is immense. The extremist rantings of the gun lobby count for nothing against the demand that Something is Done, and finally, strict controls are brought in against the ownership of certain kinds of weapon.
And because of this, the massacres almost completely stop happening. (You, dear right wing reader, may choose to argue otherwise, but this is a thought experiment, remember)
Over ten years, thousands of children who would otherwise have been shot dead, survive unscathed.
So the obvious question is "should we in some way hope for or encourage such a spate of school shootings, so that such positive change occurs?"
Or is it better that these massacres occur over a couple of years, rather than a couple of weeks, but then keep happening?
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