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The American Gun Problem - And How a Master Wizard of Persuasion Could Fix it. - Dilbert Blog

The American Gun Problem – And How a Master Wizard of Persuasion Could Fix it.

Caution 1: This post includes real hypnosis and it will influence some readers to a different opinion on guns. If you don’t want to be influenced, please do not read.

Caution 2: You will not like what I say on this topic. That’s another reason to skip it.

— Start —

On one side of the gun debate in America we have a bunch of idiots spouting total bullshit arguments, generously sprinkled with cherry-picked statistics that are out of context or don’t apply to America’s situation. 

On the other side of the gun debate we have exactly the same thing.

And there is a simple explanation for this absurd situation. We make the same mistake every time when it comes to domestic issues: We look at averages and pretend those averages are useful for anything but starting fights. We do the same thing with all of our social issues:

Average woman

Average man

Average Immigrant (He’s a criminal and a good citizen at the same time!)

Average African-American

Average whatever.

There’s no such thing as an average person!!!

All gun arguments are based on average people doing average things in average places. I agree that the average person should live in a world with far fewer guns because that guy is an idiot with no common sense, no gun safety training, and no gun locks. Luckily, the average person does not exist. Instead, you have some people who are smart enough to safely own guns, people who are far too dangerous or dumb to own guns, and a lot of people in the middle.

Every individual has a different risk when it comes to guns. 

So forget about average people. Let’s consider a few real people. Take me, for example. I offend people for a living. I’m doing it right now. And I weigh 150 pounds. 

I am pro-gun. 

Because …  I might someday have a good reason to shoot someone who is bigger than me or armed. If your reason for supporting gun ownership involves loyalty to a document written hundreds of years ago by slave-owners with muskets, you probably have some explaining to do. Don’t include me in that camp. I support gun rights because I think there is a good chance I might someday need to shoot a human. Period. If the Constitution prohibited personal gun ownership, I would have to consider violating that document, for my own sense of safety.

My situation is unique, but it is easy to imagine there are other citizens who believe – correctly or not – that gun ownership makes them safer.

At the same time it is obvious that too many innocent people are being killed by guns. For most people, the more guns in the environment, the less safe they will feel, and probably with good reason. How can a government create one set of gun laws that satisfies such different risk profiles? It seems logically impossible.

The starting assumption that people are somewhat average in terms of gun risks is so absurd that any discussion on the topic turns into a debate over Schroedinger’s cat – it assumes the average citizen is simultaneously safer and less safe because there are people in both risk classes. 

Am I wrong to think a gun improves my personal safety? (I have no kids in the house, by the way.) Beats me. There are no statistics that apply to my specific situation. And no study can accurately account for my psychological sense of safety. The important question is who gets to make the decision about how safe I can feel in my own home – the government or me?

By way of context, I have been robbed three times at gunpoint in my life, including twice when I was a bank teller. On another day a gang member pointed a pistol at my head and pulled the trigger just to be funny. There was no round in the chamber. All of that happened in San Francisco, years ago. I mention those incidents so you know I understand the dangers of guns.

Eventually I earned enough money to move to the suburbs where I have not been assaulted in years. But you don’t forget the experience of having guns pointed at your head. 

I realize that nothing about my situation can be generalized to anyone else, and that is my point. We are all different in terms of gun risks. It is easy for me to imagine that millions of people are less safe because guns are readily available. That was probably the case for me when I was looking up those gun barrels in San Francisco. 

So how do we balance the legitimate safety interests of citizens who find themselves in wildly different risk situations? Some need more guns to feel safe and some need fewer.

The approach least-likely to work is the one we are trying now, in which the President pushes for gun restrictions while responsible gun owners resist. I don’t see that changing, no matter how many mass killings happen. 

So here’s one suggestion, based on the rules of persuasion that I have been blogging about lately. The idea is for President Obama (or our next president) to do the following:

  1. Stop calling it a gun problem.
  2. Stop talking about gun control or even common-sense restrictions.
  3. Start calling it gun safety and personal responsibility (High ground maneuver.)
  4. Ask the NRA to propose a gun safety plan that addresses the nation’s legitimate concerns. (Ask them to take responsibility for their freedom.)
  5. Ask an independent body (The Swiss?) to score the NRA’s plan for budget impact, practicality, and impact on freedom.

  6. Keep pushing until the NRA comes up with a plan that scores well. Then implement it in one volunteer state, as a test.
  7. Put a billion-joule spotlight on the test, track results, and hold the NRA responsible for the outcome.
  8. If the plan works in one state, expand it. If not, tweak and try again.

Here are a few ideas the NRA might support, although I confess to know little about their organization. I include these for the purpose of creating mental anchors and thinking past the sale. (Those are methods of influence.) 

The NRA could propose…

1. A massive government push to provide gun locks and gun safes.

2. More gun safety training requirements.

3. Death penalty (by firing squad to be ironic) for anyone who provides a gun to a future killer without first doing a background check. Under this plan, you can still sell your gun to anyone, but you take the risk of your buyer being a nut. In this model, everyone takes responsibility for their own actions, including private gun sellers. 

4. Gun buy-back programs.

5. Better enforcement of laws already on the books. (That probably requires a budget increase.)

6. Law to require that a gun lock is included with every gun sold.

That is just a starter list, so you can see what a safety-focused effort looks like compared to standard gun control arguments. I don’t intend my list to be a good start for a plan. I am not well-informed on this topic. In this blog we take rough ideas and see if we can shape them up.

See what you can do with this one. Maybe you can save some lives.

Afterthought: A reader of this blog once commented that the safest gun strategy is to publicly announce that you support gun rights while not keeping any firearms in the house.