March for Our Lives

First, there are sirens. Your brain registers that there are a lot of sirens and emergency vehicles; something must have happened? Minutes later, you are in the office and everyone is standing in the middle of the office, still and quiet with one guy on the phone. When he finishes his call, he reports, “my wife is ok; he shot himself, the shooter shot himself.” The Standard Gravure shooting left 8 dead and 12 injured. There was a woman in the news, paralyzed by a gunshot during the rampage, who said she was still very much in favor of guns and not putting restrictions on them. She described how she was reaching for her gun and almost took him out, before she was shot. A few days later, I was volunteering as a greeter at the mass for one of the victims, as a man visibly shaken with grief made his way towards the back for solitude and to step outside. I open the door for him, only to see news camera and reporters descend upon him. This was  the second mass shooting in the US, September 14, 1989.

There are more places to buy guns in the United States than there are Starbucks worldwide. ¹  Why 26 years later, is the problem of mass shootings greater and the debate still stalled?  In business, there are three things that usually stalls finding a solution to a problem; 1) a lingering problem lacks a sense of urgency or is not relatable, 2) there isn’t an agreement not the problem or the goal of the solution and, 3) there is not a “what’s in it for me.” When things stall, it’s often because at least one these three things are in play. Using this filter on the gun debate, highlights the issues.

Sense of Urgency; Relatable Premise

It is very easy to obtain a gun. There are 51,438 gun retailers, not a number you may remember or may be able to relate to. That number put into the context, exceeds the number of  Starbucks Worldwide (27,339) or grocery stores in the US (36,536) Federal laws allow anyone over the age of 18 to purchase a weapon with no waiting period. The federally required background check  that validates you are not on a list of people prohibited from purchasing firearms is typically completed within minutes by a phone call. State laws and regulations may vary. You may not need to undergo a background check, if you buy a gun online, through a gun show, or through some private sales.

Agreement on Problem to be Solved

The gun debate  is literally a comparison of apples and oranges  –  two items compared that cannot be practically compared are. With school shootings, one side is for restricting the availability of guns particularly semi-automatic weapons (weapons of mass casualty,)  and the other side is proposing arming teachers. Mitigation versus contingency. Mitigation reduces the probability of a risk occurring. Contingency will reduce the impact when the risk happens. From a project management perspective, you want mitigation first, followed by a strong contingency plan. So while both address shootings, like both apples and oranges are fruits, the two sides aren’t really discussing the same thing and we spiral out of control.

Not in one case in the last 30 years of 62 mass shooting, has an armed person stopped a shooter.Let that sink in for a minute. In none of the 62 mass shooting has an armed person ever been able to stop a shooter! Based on historical data, the contingency plan of armed teachers is not going to work. Remember what I said earlier, from a project management perspective, you want mitigation first, followed by a strong contingency plan. The armed teacher proposal is a contingency plan; a contingency plan that has not worked in the history of mass shootings. Yet, the counter argument is we’re going to train them specifically for this situation and the shooter will have the element of surprise. Yes, I digressed to show how the argument detours and stalls the debate. The discussion shifts to make the contingency plan more palatable rather than meet the goal of a discussion on preventing and mitigating how easy it is to obtain a weapon of mass casualty.

What’s in for me?

For those opposed to mitigation and restrictions on the purchase of mass casualty weapons (aka semi automatic weapons); what is the supporting point of view? Consider this, persons under the age of 25 are not allowed to rent cars; but according to federal laws, an 18 year old can purchase a mass casualty weapon? What is the goal of not restricting the sale and use of these weapons? For the students protesting across the US, they want to feel safe in their schools.The second amendment ratified in December of 1791 says,

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The amendment’s meaning and interpretation has been argued over and over, in the last 227 years. The present debate on gun control calls into question the availability and use of  weapons of mass casualty aka assault weapons, aka semiautomatic weapons. Maybe this is the time to stop thinking about what’s in it for me and think about what’s in it for us. Altruism.

The students (led by Emma Gonzalez, and Cameron Kasky ) of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida ignited a movement.Their sense of urgency; their friends are dead. They agree that part of the problem is the availability of  semiautomatic weapons  and advocate prevention and mitigation. What’s in for them, starts with the ability to feel safe in school. These students will travel to Washington, DC for an event they are organizing, March for Our Lives, in an effort to get Congress to address gun issues. They are making an eloquent plea for our future.


¹Kai Ryssdal; Marketplace


One comment

  1. Great post Sheila. Really lays out the issue in an easily digestible way we can all understand. I know I now have a better understanding of the pro/con, for/against after reading this!

    Liked by 1 person

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