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GUN MANUFACTURERS: Can Gun Manufacturers Advocate Their Narrow Economic Interests?

Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013

The defeat of new gun control legislation, despite polls that indicated the vast majority of the American people supported it, has focused renewed attention on the political lobbying of corporations, in this case gun manufacturers. If, as critics charge, the National Rifle Association is primarily funded by gun manufacturers, is there anything ethically wrong with this arrangement? Is it wrong for a company to spend significant amounts of money lobbying for laws and regulations that serve its economic interests? Is there any obligation to consider the social or human effects of the political position advocated? Is there any obligation to respect the will of a substantial majority of the American people?

  Kirk: We want to protect the political rights of all individuals and institutions. Where we hesitate are cases where companies seem to frustrate the “popular will” and inflict damage to individuals or the environment solely to serve their economic interests. We respect those companies that understand their dual obligation to represent their shareholders AND the good of society. In my view, the gun manufacturers are way over the line in this case, promoting their own profits regardless of the continued carnage from unregulated guns. The NRA, their chosen instrument, has demonstrated a disdain for the truth, for the popular will, and for the victims of gun violence.

  Patrick: Companies are expected, if not obligated, to attempt to influence policy in the interest of their shareholders. The NRA and gun manufacturers are by no means exempt from moral transgressions, but this problem goes above single actors: it's a political problem. Current campaign contribution practice and regulation yield too much power to special interest groups and will inevitably lead to similar circumstances for a number of other industries. Sure, we can hold the NRA in contempt for leveraging their clout to influence policy, but can we blame them?

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Comments Comments

Joe Schmid said on Apr 28, 2013
Are the actions of gun manufacturers or associations the ethical issue, really? National leadership quickly framed the debate around an argument that comes on and off the shelf cyclically concerning the intrinsic nature of guns; the fact they are designed for the sole purpose of killing. Isn?t the matter that should be addressed a System Ethics' issue? Political leadership and Fourth Estate avoided in engaging in a national soul searching addressing the current ?popular? valuing of human life; and the linkage to horrific acts of violence enabled. The weapon or its maker is not the ethical issue. A gun, a knife (as in the recent Lone Star College episode of violence), a machete or club in third world countries, or a surgical scissors (as in the case against Dr. Gosnell, it?s what?s behind the use of weapons to inflict such harm. Is a debate over removing the rights of some (whether gun owners or mentally challenged) even the right debate induced by the politically molded ?popular will?? Values are the driver of behavior and at the root of ethical thinking and action. The conversation needs to be reframed, different questions polled. You?re addressing the headline, not the story. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Patrick said on Apr 29, 2013
I agree with you Joe that the gun control debate stems from issues that transcend the individual decisions of manufacturers and lobbyists. Nonetheless, I think it would be unwise to write off all the decisions of those groups, just because they are not the source of the problem. It seems to me that part of ethics is making decisions within the context of social, political, and cultural trends and norms; in a perfect world there'd be no need for ethics. - Like
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