US gun violence is a problem. Approximately 12,000 Americans are murdered each year with a firearm. This per capita homicide rate is 4x that of England and 6x that of Germany.
In the 14 days after the sad day in Newton, CT, there have been 242 reported fire arm homicides in the US. All Americans can probably agree that too many people are dying.
It’s a complex problem. Gun violence in the US has many root causes. We Americans get a bit excited when we talk about guns, gun control, and violence. Unfortunately, the discussion is often scattered. Too-quick to place blame, and too-quick to offer solutions. Often times, the conversation looks something like this word soup.
Unstructured conversation is just brain storming. When the conversation is this unstructured, it is difficult to make heads or tails. Some ideas seem good, but upon reflection you aren’t sure. The same type of confusion happens in companies all the time. Lots of good ideas are circulated, but they are often unstructured, and inadequately thought through. As a result, a lot of good ideas are actually ignored.
Break the problem down. Consultants like to “bucket” problems into root causes or at least categories. While there are probably dozens of institutional factors, at a high-level it looks like there are 3 major ones that deserve consideration:
- People: How responsible are the people who buy or obtain guns?
- Weapon: How dangerous are the weapons available to the public?
- Use: What is legal use, and how to prevent people from using them illegally?
People: Every responsible person should have the privilege of owning a rifle to hunt / skeet, or a handgun to protect themselves.
Challenge #1: Not everyone is as responsible, trained, mature, or thoughtful as you. As George Carlin not-so-delicately put it, “Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!”
Weapon: There is a lot of talk about the type of guns, bullets, and magazines that are available to the public. In my mind, it comes down to what is civilian-use and military-use. The public has to decide that.
Use: The public needs to decide what is legal and what is not.
Challenge #2: There is a law that says people should have a background check prior to buying a gun. That makes common sense, but about 40% of guns are not purchased through licensed gun dealers. Apparently, there is a gun show loop-hole that allows for sale of guns between private parties without a background check in most states.
Challenge #3: The US approach to gun control affects other countries. In a recent study, approximately a large number of the guns confiscated by the Mexican authorities that are used for criminal activity can be traced by the United States.
Excellent note from commenter: 1) the 87% number was for weapons submitted by the Mexican government that can be traced 2) a large number of guns were legally sold to the Mexican military, that then fell into the arsenal of criminals.
With approximately 60,000 deaths due to the drug war Mexico over the last 6 years, it is a sad moment for all Americans and Mexicans.
America is different. We are not the UK. The British decided to essentially ban private ownership of handguns in 1997. That will not happen in the US. There are 300 million fire arms currently in the United States and the demand for guns continues to grow.
Similar situation in China. None dead. To me, the biggest reality check was that a similar attack of school children happened in China on the exact same day – December 14. A mentally ill man stormed into a school and attacked children. He did not have a gun. He had a knife. Many children were hurt, some critically, but none died.
There are studies that show a correlation between the number of guns and murders. It is correlation, not causality – but intuitively it makes some sense because we are all human. Emotions get the better of us. Words turn into punches. Punches turn into knives and guns. As George Carlin aptly described us 20 years ago, we can all be a little bit stupid.
800 US Mayors. There is a coalition of US mayors that are asking for the US President and Congress to come up with a plan. One of the most vocal proponents is Michael Bloomberg – who always struck me as a no-nonsense leader of NYC. Lots of Hollywood stars lend their voice to this promotional video. If you want to see how divided the country is on this topic, take a look at the number of up / down votes the video has.
Post-script: Harvard Business Review article on creating a $100 billion gun safety industry