Other Approaches to the US Gun Death Epidemic

It is interesting that all sides in the gun death issue seem to want to fight it as a matter of huge irreconcilable principle and get nowhere.

And then when you suggest: oh let’s look at the UK with one of the lowest gun death rates in the world: people say you can’t compare etc.  And my favorite argument, not: “criminals will use guns illegally so no point in having laws on guns.” I never hear the gundamentalist GOP use that argument about abortions: “no point in making them illegal as people will have them anyway.”

Well, guns being hard to get legally in the UK largely seems to keep criminals from having guns, and if they get caught even carrying a gun illegally, or using a gun in a crime the law hits them very hard. We could at least make a violent felon having a gun a serious crime. Ditto someone who commits domestic violence that kills 1200 a year. Having the UK gun laws and thus the UK gun death rate would save about 28,000 American lives a year.

Now in reality that isn’t going to happen, but it is like food poisoning: saying some will happen anyway so why bother with hygiene precautions. The US states with the toughest gun laws have lower gun deaths. So we should go with what works. Keeping guns out of the hands of lunatics, gang members (and there are successful ways to do that in some cities) and also having a major drive on gun suicide prevention would save far more lives than the billions of $ we spend on securing us from foreign terrorism. This is a minute threat in comparison with 33,000 gun deaths a year, two thirds suicides. Statistically we should be far more afraid of guns than terrorists.

Contrast this lack of a good US approach on guns, not with the British approach to gun deaths as they have never had many nor have many guns, but to their approach to road deaths.

Basically the UK had something like the US road death rate per 100,000 and reduced it by 75%. They started by looking at the data big time and at other countries to see what worked. And then they went after DUI, motorcycle helmets, re-engineering any road stretch with a bad accident record, driver education, speed limits heavily enforced by cameras, and one I know about personally as a friend of mine invented it, a driving test that assesses how good drivers are at spotting risk using a video clip and they have to press a button at each hazard included in the clip.

Applying this to US roads would save 24,000 lives; applying it to US gun deaths maybe the same. But hey it’s much more fun to have the two sides club each other. And of course the Rights of Guns side have blocked most attempts by CDC and others to do the research needed to drive the solutions.

The approach of salami silencing: breaking a problem down into solvable parts is also helped by the Nate Silver stats here: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/mass-shootings-are-a-bad-way-to-understand-gun-violence/

PS Anyone want to do any real work on this issue: this is the PWC account of the UK approach to reducing road deaths: the UK now has the second lowest road fatality rate in the world: 2.9 deaths per 100,000 compared to 10.9 in the US and 17.4 world average…The Brits must be doing something right: https://www.pwc.com/…/pwc-guide-on-reducing-road…

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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