Shooting down morality: a picnic for the gun industry. Part 1.


SIGONELLA, Sicily (July 24, 2008) Wes Doss, an adjunct instructor for the National Rifle Association, teaches Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8 how to handle a pistol with just one hand.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian A. Goyak/Released

In his new book, Moral Disengagement: How people do harm and live with themselves, psychologist Albert Bandura does a masterful job of showing how, for example, the National Rifle Association (NRA) promotes moral disengagement to promote arms sales at all costs.

For example, leaders of the NRA have offered moral justifications (or at least pseudo-moral justifications) for unlimited arms sales, asserting, for example, that if the German people had been armed during the Holocaust, “we wouldn’t have had the tragedy we had there.”

NRA spokespeople also make generous use of euphemistic labeling to sanitize the activities of the gun industry—essentially equating guns with free speech, and portraying gun laws as a form of governmental gag order.

The NRA leadership also make ample use of the moral disengagement process of advantageous comparison, suggesting that if it was not immoral for people at Honeywell to make nuclear weapons components, then there certainly can’t be anything wrong with making and selling guns. Charlton Heston, former president of the NRA, invoked the Nazi persecution of Jews as a rationale for buying arms.

Another  moral disengagement mechanism that Bandura identifies in the NRA arsenal is diffusion and displacement of responsibility. How could it be the fault of the gun industry, NRA proponents ask,  if guns fall into the wrong hands and good people don’t have the guns they need to protect themselves from the bad guys?

In our next post, we will consider additional mechanisms of moral disengagement used by the arms industry to get people to arm to kill, and ways to combat their tactics.

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

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2 Responses to Shooting down morality: a picnic for the gun industry. Part 1.

  1. Gold Dust Twin says:

    HOW CAN THE MEMBERS OF THE NRA LIVE WITH THEMSELVES??? Excuse my shouting, but it is shocking beyond belief that gun sales advocates can come up with such lame rationalizations for their dangerous practices. All too often those guns fall into the wrong hands, as in a case in the news a few weeks ago. A father showed his 6-year-old son the gun, explaining that it was only to be used by adults. In a game of cops and robbers, the older son fatally shot his little brother in the head. Following the tragedy, Santiago confessed he had purchased the weapon illegally from a gang member, believing he needed it for protection. The need for protection is a frequent argument of NRA proponents, and that argument would have been just as faulty, and the killing of the little boy just as tragic if the weapon had been bought legally at a gun show.

  2. Pingback: Shooting down morality: a picnic for the gun industry. Part 2. | Engaging Peace

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