Dronation: See It, Say it, Get Ready For It!

Starting with the New Year, the US government will begin its examination of how aerial drones can be used in America. Hmmm… It’s a bit late. Consumer drones have been sold on the Internet, and presumably used, for years. Technically, it is not legal to use a flying drone, both because it uses radio frequencies to direct it (which should require a license), and because it flies through the air which requires other licensing (interference with air traffic, no-fly zones over cities, etc.). While they are technically illegal, it’s not really clear which federal, state or city agency should monitor these tiny perpetrators, or what exactly are the penalties for flying a drone.  

Decades ago, when radio controlled planes (the direct ancestors of drones) were a big thing, but relatively rare, using the controller (or a walkie-talkie, which required similar licensing) could interfere with private radios used by taxis, long haul trucking, the police, etc. Even broadcast TV and commercial radio could be interrupted. Today, however, these broadcasts are digital, making most accidental radio interference irrelevant.

As a result, drones have proliferated without the relevant authorities noticing. If the government chooses to restrict drones by enforcing the requirement for radio licensing, it’s far, far too late. The latest drones don’t use RC controllers. Instead, they have migrated to apps on smart phones.  

Running off a smart phone provides three advantages over a radio controller. First, an inexpensive RC controller might have a range of only a hundred feet or so. Even a more powerful controller might only have a range of a thousand feet, or slightly more. Even if you did have an exceptionally power controller with greater range, it would be difficult to see and direct a tiny drone at that range. When the drone is controlled by a smart phone it has an unlimited range, it will work wherever a smart phone works. It’s range is only limited by how long the battery lasts.

Next, if the drone has a video camera (and they all do these days), the drone can send these images to your phone, allowing you to guide the drone as if you were in a “pilots seat” inside of the drone.  And lastly, the drone can use the CPU of your smart phone to augment its capabilities. That means that instead of using a drone like an old RC plane, remotely guiding the drone to its destination, you could use a map and tell it where to go, and the phone would use GPS to guide it to the location… without any intervention by a human “pilot.”  

All of these capabilities not only mean that one human can control a whole fleet of drones, it means that air drones can work under conditions that RC planes never could. A big computer brain can adjust to wind and weather conditions, learn where there is turbulence (such as the winds around tall buildings) or electrical interference or any other danger and automatically avoid it.

Technological progress is turning the once dumb remote-controlled toy planes into smart drones. Soon we will be flooded by cheap, but very capable drones that will fill our skies and will eventually perform practical services. So, before anyone else does it, I hereby declare the creation of a new word for the English language… Dronation!  

OK, if you happen to follow the band… Dronation… I’m not stealing their title. And I know that a few clever writers have been talking about our turning into a nation with drones (“Drone-Nation”, dronation). No… I’ve got something new here. I’m talking about a verb, that means the conversion or augmentation of work processes so that they can be performed by drones. Just as you can automate, you can dronate. Therefore, I predict that we will soon see a massive wave of DRONATION. I don’t say that because I just created this uber-cool new word (and I did, because I created it, and it’s mine!).   No, I say this because we are going to see drones take over in the next few years. When you see it happening, now you will know what to call it!

There are already thousands, if not tens of thousands of drones in the sky today. Personal drones moved from being toys to being something more in the past few years, with amateur photographers buying and flying the best of these drones. For just a few hundred dollars, you can buy a very capable drone. However, drones are rapidly moving beyond being recreational devices, and are about to become a common sight in commerce. These devices, when coupled with an HD camera, can patrol your property, or help farmers detect diseased crops or even apply micro-doses of pesticides (rather than dousing an entire field when pests are detected). Throw in a little more lift power, and you have a prototype delivery drone. So, there’s still time to beat Amazon to market with your own personal delivery  service!

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A Little Beef With Banking!


The news is filled with the problems and issues in the banking world. It seems that every month another major bank is hit with a multi-million or even billion-dollar  penalty. Remember all the TARP money the US government gave the banks? Banks received this extraordinary generosity from the government so that they could use the money to make new loans and keep business going. But that’s not what they did. Instead, they  created new barriers to loans, ignored re-financing regulations and made it very, very difficult for individuals with mortgages and small businesses that needed loans to keep in business. We’ve all heard about these financing problems, but far fewer people have heard about the problems that farmers have had with banks. Banks have become less interested in working with America’s small farmers.  Now, farms are fighting back, using 21st century technology and crowd funding!  

Farms rely on banks to finance them through each year, allowing them to: buy seed and equipment, pay for cattle feed, repair buildings and farm equipment and of course pay to service the debt on the farm. However, small farmers are not as appealing to banks anymore.  Mega banks know how to work with Mega farms, but the smaller farm just isn’t what they want to deal with. Part of this dis-connect is due to the rising risk in farms… changing weather conditions, increase in floods AND droughts, invasions of new pests and diseases… and part is due to the changing profile of banks. According to one study of banks in farm areas , the banking landscape has changed significantly in the past two decades.” Banks now:

  • Are fewer in number (local banks have been sold to mega-banks)
  • Are less “local” (under central control, and not as responsive to local needs)
  • Maintain leaner staffing (less willing or able to spend time with individual customers or loans)
  • Less interested in areas in which they don’t specialize (mega banks do not specialize in small farms)
  • Have few loan officers with farm-lending expertise, even in farm areas

One farm, in particular that has felt this change in banking is Franklin Livestock, in North Carolina. This farm has been owned for over one hundred years by the Boone family. The third generation of farmers, in the form of the founder’s grandson Grant Boone, is ready to take over managing the farm. Grant needs to do upkeep of the farm and wants to launch a new line of business, selling beef directly to consumers around the country. By being a national “farmers market” for  beef, Franklin Livestock (the new line is “Franklin Beef”) wants to re-establish a direct connection between consumers and the farmer, and turn back the clock on the food scandals that have plagued processed meats. However, the Boone Family has been struggling to fund the upgrades to the farm, without burying the farm under debt. The answer appears to be, Crowd Funding.

In order to raise funding, the Boone family has launched a campaign on Indigogo, one of the largest Crowd Funding sites. By using a crowd funding strategy, Franklin Beef gets to bypass bans, and instead asks potential customers to support them. A crowd funding campaign typically asks for donations in return for funding a project. A big part of the campaign process is providing donors with “gifts.” Donors are usually given a “thank you” for supporting the project, plus other incentives that increase in size as the donation increases.  Franklin Beef offers selections of frozen beef, which are sent to the donors after the campaign is over. For example, campaigns for new technology (a new type of game box, cell phone, etc.) would offer that technology as a gift when it is ready, while a campaign for world good (cleaning up an environmentally damaged area, developing a more efficient stove for third-world countries) might emphasize the “thank you” rather than merely pre-selling you a product.

The size of these campaigns has grown dramatically in recent months. Just a few weeks ago, there were dozens of projects in the million-dollar  range, and the top projects raised just over $5 million, usually on Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowd funding site. In fact, just a couple of months ago there was a successful campaign for $1 million ($1.5 million raised) to launch a private satellite, to allow primary and high schools the ability to do astronomy experiments. In the last month, a campaign was launched for the Ubuntu Edge, what could be the world’s most capable cell phone. The campaign, on Indiegogo, raised nearly $13 million. Unfortunately, the campaign needed $35 million to meet the ambitious goals of the project. Because they did not meet the minimum of $35 million, all the $13 million will be returned to the donors. Not every campaign follows this “all or nothing” strategy. While every crowd funding site has different rules, most allow you to accept the donations if you fall below your financial goals (usually with some sort of financial penalty… to limit the number of overly-padded budgets).    

Crowd funding is definitely the hot trend of the moment. In a few months, when the selling of equities and other options are added to crowd funding (pending the next section of the Employment Act of 2012) it will expand even faster than it has so far ($3 billion raised in 2012) . Will Franklin Livestock lead the way for other farmers who have a Beef with Banking? Only time will tell! Take a look at this and other crowd funding campaigns, you might find that this is the way that you can fund your next project… and that’s my Niccolls worth for today!

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The 21st Century Face Of (Cyber) WAR


Rumors of War, it has almost a poetic ring to it. It’s a lot less poetic for those individuals who are caught in the war zone. Still, since the beginning of the history of war, which is also the beginning of the history of humanity, the horror of war is preceded by… something else.  This herald of war has changed it’s through the years, but it always has a definite face. More importantly, the heralds of war are an important  part of the war. By spreading fear and uncertainty before the itself arrives, further damage can be done. Today, the rumors of war include a cyber-attack. With every new international conflict, computer and Internet, attacks are becoming more central to each war, and may eventually become the entire war. As the US announces its plans to retaliate against Syria for using chemical attacks in its own war, the New York Times and  Twitter were attacked by “The Syrian Hacker Army.”  

War is not just about destruction, fear and panic matter as well. The heralds of war are designed to match the fears of the time, and spread panic. In ancient Greece, the first sign of war was a cloud of dust off in the distance and small squads of armed men ripping up grape vines and tearing down olive trees. This wasn’t mere spitefulness. While citizens fled to the relative safety of their walled city, the wealth of Greece lay in the fields outside of the city. Even if not a single citizen died, knowing that your family farm, just behind the next hill, was enough to dispirit citizens. Romans chose to take a direct road to the city, without side trips to your fields. War was now a massive army slowly dragging along the siege machines needed to dismantle your city’s defenses. It left plenty of time for local messengers to run ahead of the army and warn other villages and cities. Rumors of war now evolved into messages of war.

In more modern times, where we have mass media, the stories of impending war became a central part of the war. In World War II, we learned the term “Propaganda.” Germany became a master of the propaganda war, a separate and parallel war that started before the “shooting war,” but continued to run even after the enemy surrendered. If mass media and communication defined the 20th century,  computers and the Internet define the first decades of the 21st century. Now we can look towards our computers and web sites to find the rumors of war. Not just the endless stories about a coming war, but the signs that it is already underway.  

According to Richard A. Clarke, the author of “Cyber War,” tells us that since 1995, the US has been training soldiers to fight cyber-wars. In 2007, we launched our first combined cyber/physical attack during the Iraqi war, using cyber-attacks to silently shut down all military radar in Syria, so that  Israel could send in fighters to level a building, that may have been part of a nuclear weapons program. In the same year, Russia (unofficially) launched an attack against a former client state over, of all things, the relocation of a statue. The statue was a World War II memorial from Estonia to the people of Russia. Dismantling anything involving the pride of Russia has enormous political implications for their current government. Russia crippled Estonia’s entire Internet infrastructure, and after three days Estonia unconditionally surrendered (sort of to Russia, not exactly, since Russia never admitted to the attack.) After their “sort of surrender,” the Internet went back on line. Since then, when the US starts to talk about war or military retaliation (sometimes just economic retaliation) we have a rise in attacks, often from the country we contemplate attacking.

Now that the US is talking about military strikes against Syria, we have an attack on two (so far) major US institutions. By recent cyber-attack standards, this is a very small attack indeed. But Syria is not known for its cyber-capabilities. Even so, only a hand full of countries in the world have the military capability to reach out and attack physical targets in the US. Yet, just about ANY country has the ability to launch some sort of effective cyber-attack. Ironically, for 90% of the countries in the world, we cannot return this attack. It’s not that we lack the capability, the problem is that few of the countries that are likely to attack the US have enough infrastructure on the Internet to make a meaningful target. That’s why, in today’s world of asymmetrical warfare, the US is particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. With a higher threshold for a shooting war, many cyber-attacks may not result in retaliation (at least not that we will hear about).  

The new herald of war looks very much like a sign on your favorite web-site saying, “The liberation army of Cyberia has crashed your website, and it will remain down until our Bitcoin ransom is paid!”  In ancient days, the first soldiers to appear were often mercenaries, and today the first cyber-attacks may come from “unofficial” groups, or could even be launched (or re-directed through) other countries. The face of war sometimes looks like the face of corporate competition, a frequent reason for cyber-attacks and spying from China. War is always a messy business, and that one of the reasons why we should try every possible alternative before we escalate to war. But the new heralds of war are too easy to employ, and may be more than just an “additive” to make war more unpleasant. The ease of using cyber-attacks may be the fuse that turns a loud debate into a shooting war.

And where does that leave the rest of us? Businesses need to realize that they are the front line for attacks, because government offices usually have better defenses. If you work in a big, well known firm, your visibility may be enough put you on the front line of the next cyber war. How well defended are you? Do you use at least two ISPs, in case one is under attack? If you are using cloud services, have you really investigated the vulnerabilities of your vendors?  In cyber wars, the protection of the walled city has been replaced by the firewalled corporation. The entire world is waiting just outside your firewall to start their attacks… make sure you’re ready!

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The Business Risks of Social Media

SafetyToday’s business environment carries with it all sorts of new risks, risks that did not exist just a few years ago. Even the line where business begins and ends are no longer clear. Business no longer ends at the end of the “business day”. At the same time, we all use social media in our own time, to talk about the rest of our lives. But can we ever make public statements about our private lives that cannot impact our work lives? Has social media killed the idea of employees every being “private citizens?”

If you are a banker or a lawyer, your day job may require that you maintain strict confidentiality for client data, regardless of the time of day. When you work with confidential data, are you ever a private citizen? Are you allowed to Tweet about non-confidential items of your work life? Which updates are appropriate for Facebook, and what is the official language we use when we talk about this semi-private life? Are pictures for Instagram or Pintrest… that have no nudity, profanity, racial, or other objectionable content… always OK?

What could be wrong about posting a picture of you with friends, or perhaps a celebration of a birthday or wedding? Hmmm… but do those pictures show you drinking? What if something goes wrong with a business deal, not when you were partying with your friends, but the next day? Could a lack of sleep or even the possibility of a hangover become a point of discussion with an angry client if  something goes wrong with a deal? Suddenly, those pictures may not be so innocent!

Let’s look at a real case, one that you will be hearing a lot about… soon. Imagine a man in his 50s, who lives in Europe, who likes speed. He loves riding around as fast as he can, as often as he can. That seems perfectly innocent, after all Europe makes the fastest cars and motorcycles in the world. If guys in their 50s didn’t buy sports cars and motorcycles, these industries would tank! Les stretch our imagination a bit further, and make our speed addict a government worker! Still no smoking gun? Are government workers held to a higher standard? Well, it doesn’t take much more imagination to think he likes to talk about his speed fantasies on Facebook. What if he posted a picture of his speedometer clocking him at 200Kph (over 120mph). What if the speedometer is on the high-speed train he drives?

Has your legal department started thinking about potential lawsuits if there is an accident or injury to a passenger? What if his high-speed train was going at twice the speed limit when the train crashes, killing 80 passengers. Which is what has just happened in Spain. Here is a government official who has publicly posted information that raise serious questions about his qualifications for ensuring public safety. This posting may not determine the innocence or guilt of the driver, but it will impact the Spanish Government’s financial liability for the case.

This case also raises questions about government responsibility for monitoring social media. Edward Snowden, Wikileaks and other media stories tell us that the US and other governments spend a phenomenal amount of money to track our national enemies, because of the potential damage they could do. But we don’t track (at least our government tells us that they don’t track) the communications of workers that have the opportunity to create massive damage or death. We know that the tools to identify these threats exist, that’s how we are able to sift the Internet to find potential military and political threats. And we know, beyond any doubt, that inappropriate social media content will be part of court trials.

Imagine if we had Facebook or Twitter during the 80s and 90s when we had all of the post office killings (although there were three post office killing sprees in 2006). What are the chances that these very unhappy workers would have posted a hint of their future intentions?     

The train driver in Spain left comments on Facebook about how much he likes to travel over the speed limit and even how he wanted to break the rules and get fined. His Facebook page is now blocked, so we can no longer see his posts, but according UK’s Guardian newspaper, he previously posted, “What a blast it would be to (trigger) the radar. Haha what a fine…”.  All written as a private citizen, in his private time.

Large corporation often have (and enforce) rules about how and when you can talk to the media. It is often a comprehensive statement that you need prior authorization before you can talk to the media about virtually anything. That might have worked 20 years ago, when there was a very defined group of people and corporations that were “the media.” And most employees did not normally speak with the media, so there was both an awareness and a certain fear about talking to the official media.

If you were a higher level worker that had access to more important data (lawyer, accountant, consultant) it was part of the job to understand issues of confidentiality. But when the issue is only partially related to work or is about an employee in a non-confidential role, it’s more difficult to make blanket statements about what can and cannot be communicated. Some communication policies that might be made in a corporation might easily be refuted by a government union lawyer. These restrictions might easily violate a worker’s constitutional rights, in the US and in many other countries.

Facebook and other social media are a form of “personal” communication, even if the communication is sent to thousands of followers. It is possible for an employer to issue a blanket rule, such as, “No employee shall interview with a newspaper or news broadcast without prior approval from the public relations department.” However, attempting to create and issue a moratorium on social media is quite another matter. In the past you could say, “Don’t talk ot the Media!” But what if you are the media? Remember, you are your own reporter on Facebook and Twitter. You have a right to free speech, at least when you are speaking on your own time. Employers that try to control the speech of their employees can expect years of lawsuits, legal actions and horrendous public press.

What is the manager to do? You can start by talking to your HR department and asking for instruction and training for this new area of management. For example, the train driver may say what he wants, but the Spanish government should be able to require prior approval for posting pictures of government property (the speedometer). More importantly, the Spanish government should have rules (and training) about train drivers who text or taking photos when they are driving at 200kph.

Workers need more than a dry recitation of rules, they need to learn new ways of thinking, and a continuous training program. New social media with new functions are constantly rolled out. Even in the largest firms lack the skills needed to develop an effective, ongoing training program for social media. Corporations need to accept that this is a special are of knowledge, and a corporate training department will never be able to keep pace work with the ongoing social and technological changes. You need to find the right consultant or outsourcing partner.

Likewise, corporations need to actively monitor social media. Corporations need reports on how your firm is discussed in social media, and which influencers affect your brand. In the past, internal advertising or marketing departments monitored major press released and articles that mentioned your firm. Do you have a similar program for tracking bloggers and social media? What types of software do you use to scan the Internet? A list of “top blogs” is of little use, since the list changes daily. Still, some blogs, videos and social media content have more followers (at least in that moment) than traditional print or broadcast media. If your firm does monitor the media in any way, how is this spend divided between traditional and social media?

It’s a new century and we all need to work differently. In the past you could tell workers to not talk to reporters and you covered everything that you needed to for the average workers. Now workers ARE the media. You don’t have the same ability to control what they say to their followers, and  there are too many points of communication for you to effectively find out what your workers are saying to the world. You need to work with competent consultants who can design a social media policy and a method of effectively monitoring employee activity. If you don’t, you can be sure that everything you miss, will be brought up in court when the next major fiasco hits your firm!

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Change Management… Under the Gun (Part III of III)



Since the last chapter in our series on change management and guns, a lot has happened. The Federal Gun Bill, energized by the massacre in Sandy Hook, was defeated by gun rights advocates, but the gun-control  camp is organizing for another try. State and local  gun control bills, were passed, but so too were pro-gun bills. In Texas, “Gun Day” saw the passing of 12 pro-gun bills, including one that allows more students to bring guns to school and another to jail any government officials that enforce federal gun controls in Texas. Gun violence was briefly eclipsed by the Boston Bombings. This even will be over by Pundits for years to come, but the story isn’t complicated.  A young man, frustrated by his own failure to achieve fame and success, vented his anger by using two bombs placed near the finish line of the Boston marathon, to kill three people and injure 264 more. Sociopathic thinking is common in mass killings, but the Boston Bombings was unique in one way. In America, bombings are rare. This was the first significant bombing in more than a decade. However, gun violence is so common that in the five days between the bombing and the shooting/capture of the bombers, 1,500 Americans were injured and 500 killed through gun violence.

We Americans have a notoriously short attention span.  The gun-control  bill in Washington narrowly, but predictably, lost. The gun-control  camp didn’t get the law they wanted, but did they learn something from this defeat? After Sandy Hook, polls showed that 90% of Americans favored gun control, yet politicians voted according to pre-Sandy Hook politics. Pro-gun and pro-control advocates relied on top-down management to drive their agenda. The pro-gun side, a portion of the that remaining 10%, is dedicated to a tight core of beliefs with strong support by powerful gun industry lobbying groups, such as the NRA.

Top-down management works well when everyone follows the same beliefs, and defines the issues the same way. However, a diverse community with loosely defined goals and different cultural beliefs, which describes the 90% who favor a general proposition for gun control, does not respond well to top-down management. When a small group of leaders only talks to themselves, they are unlikely to learn, let alone use, the words and ideas that will galvanize the 90%.

Many corporations “preach to the choir” when they want to implement a change, having “believers” discuss and agree to all of the key issues, and only later informing other of the decision  Both political camps are primarily preaching to their core supporters, and not paying attention to the majority of Americans. The majority just doesn’t fit into a neat category. It’s made up of moderate gun owners, police that want gun violence to end, non-gun owners who respect the rights and history of gun users, parents of children in violent school districts want more armed guards and a lot of Americans who don’t understand how gun control laws will improve their quality of life.

The goal of this series is to provide the information and proposals that can appeal to the “middle ground.” Gun violence covers so many different ideas and issues, that even those who are completely dedicated to gun control may not agree with every gun-control  proposal. By breaking down the very complex concept of “gun violence” into much more specific and actionable ideas and proposal, gun-control advocates can build and maintain specific communities of support for the policies that they most passionately believe in.

In earlier attempts to control gun violence, laws were passed to ban assault weapons, but we learned that laws can be amended and banned weapons can be modified, until they are exempt from regulations. The banned M-16 assault rifle was modified as  the new AR-15. This history will undoubtedly repeat itself. Corporations put project management offices, change management groups and reporting functions in place to implement and track a change. Gun control requires a strong and long-term coalition with an infrastructure to monitor events and mobilize supporters when changes are proposed to gun control’s legislation or administrative changes threaten to weaken gun regulations or enforcement. Politicians who are used to being rewarded by the NRA for a pro-gun position and punished by gun owners for allowing gun regulation will be slow to be influenced by  gun-control advocates, until they offer similar resources to support their careers.

The facts supporting controls on gun violence are very compelling. Every year, 100,000 Americans are injured by guns and 35,000 are killed. Even the most ardent gun-rights supporters don’t propose that these deaths are justified, they just don’t see a way to curb the violence AND to maintain their rights.  So, we have the leadership rights and the control groups butting heads and not winning over the middle ground. The Change Management solution is to narrow our focus to very specific issues, and to offer proposals that are actionable and measurable.  Each proposal may have specific “middle grounders” who are already organized, but need to be convinced to support gun control.  Because of the power of research, gun industry lobbyists, such as the NRA, have been effective in de-funding or limiting funding on critical gun violence issues. We need more research to refine these proposals, but there is sufficient data to develop the following proposals:

GUN EDUCATION: Every year there are 600 deaths from accidental shootings and 1,500 youth killings from gun injuries. Almost all of these deaths result from the child or the parent, or both, failing to understand how to use a gun or allowing a child to have access to a gun that should have been safely locked away. Parents believe that small children do not even know they have a gun, let alone know where it is or how to get access. Studies show that children over 8 know where your guns are, and too often they also know the combination or the location of the key to gain access. We also know that 50% of parents fail to lock up their guns. The NRA has said that their extensive gun training programs have dramatically reduced accidental gun shootings, and we should believe them. In fact, we should encourage even greater training, no just when a gun is purchased, but throughout the live of the weapon.

A gun can work for one hundred years or more, and be handed down from father to son, or even grandson. That’s even part of the cannon of gun culture. But during the life of that weapon, the owner can go from a young man to a husband and later a father.  During each stage in the owner’s life, there are different safety rules that need to be remembered and followed. When the bachelor’s home becomes a place where children live and play, there are new risks that may be forgotten until it is too late.  When the father becomes a grandfather, and vision and hearing are weaker, a family member might be mistaken for an intruder, and new training might avoid a tragic killing. We need research to explain how accidental killings occur, with a special emphasis on youth killings.

In addition to training gun users, we need to think about gun violence as another form of preventable death. In 14 “gun” states, more people were killed by gun violence than by car accidents. When you buy cold medicine, the package contains instructions not to drive or operate heavy machinery. We need to include that statement in medicine, and we need more research on how many killings involve the use of over the counter and prescription medicine. While a gun registry is not politically feasible any time soon, perhaps doctors should be trained to ask if their patient has a gun before they prescribe medicines that can result in hallucinations or otherwise contribute to an accidental shooting. Everywhere we include a warning for driving, there should be a warning for gun use. Educate gun owners and include guns in any instructions that warn you about operating a vehicle, and we will be able to impact accidental shootings, and possibly other gun violence metrics.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: In just the state of Michigan alone, there are 95,000 reports of domestic abuse every year. Across America, between 1,500 and 2,000 women are killed annually by guns used by violent partners. These numbers are only part of the story. Domestic killings are usually caused by a man, and against a woman. Frequently, the killer then commits suicide, perhaps after killing his in-laws, parents, children, other relatives, friends and neighbors.

These killings may be spread out across multiple cities and suburbs, preventing local police forces from recognizing this as a single killing spree. Before the murders occur, it is not uncommon for the future shooter to announce (sometimes in front of police officers) that they have a gun and intend to kill their partner.  Even when the victim has an order of protection, this confession of future murder is not sufficient to take away a gun. Unfortunately, the NRA has had great success in lobbying states and cities to pass laws against gun confiscation. The NRAs position is that the 2nd Amendment protects the future shooter until he is proven to have committed a criminal act. Meaning that the shooter must first attempt to kill their partner with a gun before it can be confiscated.

In situations where a threat of murder or injury by gun occurs, we need to separate the gun owner from his guns, and ensure that no new guns are purchased for a period of time. We need research to give us parameters for this regulation. In an existing case of domestic violence, the chances are high that additional violence will occur. But how high is this threat, and how long does it last? Should guns be held for 30 days, 90 days or longer? Research can help us answer these questions. And that research should be used to gain support for state and federal legislation for gun confiscation. Especially by women who are middle-grounders. In 2012, the Presidential election of 2012 was largely determined by women’s votes, which outnumbered those of men for the first time ever. If women adopted domestic violence as a political issue with the tenacity that men have adopted gun rights, hundreds or thousands of lives could be saved.

SUICIDE: Guns account for nearly 20,000 suicides every year. Misreported “accidents” and unreported suicide attempts would show this as an even larger problem. While there are more than twice as many suicides than homicides, these numbers are often ignored. However, many of these suicides are preventable. All sides of the gun issue agree that mental health issues are linked to mass killings and other gun deaths, but disagree on remedies. We also know that suicides among young Americans have risen dramatically, and are three times higher than in the 50s, and continue to rise. We know that more women attempt suicide, but men die in far greater numbers Why? Because men use guns to kill themselves. If the number of suicide attempts was unchanged, but guns were not available, suicide rates would drop dramatically. We know from the research literature that states where guns are more available have higher suicide rates. We also know that 50% of gun owners fail to lock away weapons and ammunition, and that 85% of suicides under 18  used a gun owned by someone else in their home.

Just under 1,000 young adults (18-25) commit suicide every year with a gun, with a similar number under 18. If we want to impact this number, we need to cut off access to weapons. People commit suicide for complex, and often irrational reasons. As previously stated, 6%  of the population has a personality disorder. Over a lifetime, any individual has a 46% chance of having a mental health issue. Even if you never have a mental health issue, you may still be affected by a life circumstance (death, loss of a job, a terminal disease) that overwhelm you and causes suicidal thinking.

That’s why gun owners, just like car owners, need to be periodically retrained or recertified. Good eye-sight and mental acuity are needed to continue driving, at least the same standard should be used to state that you are competent to use a gun. If you own guns, you must be responsible for guns and ammunition in your possession. If you have children and do not own a safe or gun locks, it should be dealt with under state laws as child abuse. If weapons were not stored with reasonable care, and a member of the family uses a gun to commit suicide, the gun owner should be charged with negligent homicide, or at least have their weapons removed. Support for saving the lives of children can be found in police, para-medics, school teachers and the general medical community.

Holding owners of guns responsible for the negligent management of a deadly weapon is a new concept. When a family member dies, we sympathize with the remaining members of the family. Pursuing criminal charges seems cruel. And it would be, if the purpose is merely to punish a suffering family. But if it can prevent additional deaths, it needs to be pursued. First, though, we need research. We need to know if negligent gun owners, those that fail to secure their weapons, are responsible for multiple gun injuries and deaths. We also need to know if criminal charges for negligence can prevent future negligence. 

Consider the case mentioned earlier of the five-year-old boy who killed his sister with a Crickett (a gun designed for use by children). This is called an accident. But the combination of a five-year-old having a gun, the gun being left loaded, and the gun (safely?) stored ”in the corner” of the boy’s trailer home, are a combination of factors that resulted in the death of a 2 year old girl looks more like unintentional homicide than an accident. Clearly, many gun-rights advocates would disagree. Some, especially some middle grounders, would see more than an unpreventable accident. Each of these incidents requires a mandatory independent investigation (perhaps by the ATF), and if  the evidence justifies it, prosecution.

BACKGROUND CHECKS:  The NRA believes that the government should keep guns out of the hands of criminals and individuals with mental illnesses. Because gun ownership can last a lifetime, background checks need to happen more than once in a gun owner’s life. If you buy a gun when you are 20, but commit a serious crime a year later, should you be banned from buying new guns but keep guns you already own? According to the latest medical information, 6% of Americans suffer from a serious medical disorder. However, that’s a 6% chance in any one year. Over a lifetime there is nearly a 50/50 chance of a mental isorder. Mood disorders, which played a role in numerous mass killings, typically don’t manifest until after age 30. What about weapons purchased before that? Even individuals without a specific mental disorder can, at a certain point in their life, be overwhelmed and commit a crime of passion. In the 80s several high stress events led to a series of mass killings in post offices across the US.    

We need background checks when guns are purchased, but we also need checks throughout the lifetime of a gun owner. However, background checks have not been uniform, with gun shows and private sales following different rules. Also, databases on the mentally ill are still missing data from several states, including many conservative and gun rights states. We need to fund more research to allow us to produce better background checks and better profiles of potential killers. Combined with more frequent training and the ability to confiscate weapons when threats and other “gateway” acts of violence identify high-risk  individuals.

GUN SALES: According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, there were 467,321 victims of crimes committed with a firearm in 2011 (including the threat that a gun would be used). FBI data shows that firearms were used in 68 percent of murders, 41 percent of robberies and 21 percent of aggravated assaults. Gun rights advocates tell us that gun laws don’t stop criminals, because criminals do not obey the law. Perhaps. But how do criminals get their guns? Rather than some shadowy underground network, research from the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) tells us that they get them from licensed gun dealers; only 10-15% of guns used in crimes are stolen. Criminals are impatient, and prefer a quick sale from a licensed gun dealer. The ATF study showed that 57% of guns recovered in criminal investigations came from just 122 dealers, less than 1% of the population. These dealers are as responsible for crime and murder in America as any criminal organization.  

America has 130,000 gun dealers, far outnumbering McDonald’s restaurants (14,000) or grocery stores (36,000). For as little as a $150 fee you can sell guns. By comparison, obtaining a liquor license in New York City costs $27,000 with an additional $20,000 bond, and an extensive background check. The low bar set for licensing gun dealers partially explains why just 122 gun dealers are selling 11,000 weapons every year that are used in crimes. According to ABC news, these gun dealers violated many of the laws and procedures for selling guns, yet are not prosecuted. ATF official Joe Vince stated , “they [gun dealers] are just keeping their eyes closed to what is going on and letting guns get to the criminals, it is rare that they are prosecuted.”

Once these criminally negligent dealers sell weapons to criminals, tracing gun ownership is a difficult  and manual process. We either need to hire many more agents to trace weapons and prosecute gun dealers (which would be expensive), or we need more efficient databases for tracing guns (which would be resisted by gun rights advocates). Whatever the methodology, the cost needs to be borne by the gun dealer network. It can be in the form of higher licensing fees, a tax on bullets or a gun tax. Gun dealers, or some segment of gun dealers, also need to post significant bonds to offset potential fines if they are found guilty of violating the law. A fair and reasonable way of getting the gun community to pay for its own policing is a reasonable proposal could attract many middle-ground  supporters.      

SURVIVABILITY: Each of the 100,000 Americans who are shot every year has a unique injury. The severity of the injury, the health of the victim and the availability of medical aid all determine if the victim lives or dies.  A small change in any of these events and an injury could have been a death. In fact, some of the survivable shootings today, would have resulted in death a few years ago. Trauma and emergency centers in America use medical technology developed on the battlefield to save civilian lives. Since the Vietnam war, the quality of that technology has improved significantly.  In Vietnam 84% of injured soldiers survived, vs. 90% today. When comparing gun-related  deaths in America today with the 70s, the same 100,000 injuries would have resulted in as many as 6,000 more deaths, if not for the advances in medicine. However, not all advancements are saving lives.

As deadlier  weapons are developed, such as the AR-15 modified assault rifle, and as more lethal ammunition is used, including hollow point and armor piercing bullets, injuries are more likely to translate into deaths.  A number of police departments broke with their once unanimous support of the NRA, over their support for ammunition that can shoot through the bullet-proof armor police use. Ammunition sellers rarely advertise hollow point bullets as being better at killing Americans, but do advertise their “stopping power” and ability to take down bigger game. Should the same ammunition used for big-game hunting be used for personal protection? In the 19th century, it was agreed, in the Hague Convention, that in a war, the use of hollow point bullets (against a soldier or civilian) is a war crime. There are no reliable statistics on how many bullets used  gun violence are armor piercing, hollow point or of other types. We need to capture this data, control the ammunition sold in America and outlaw the use of  the deadliest ammunition.

New classes of weapons also affect survivability. Every gun bill mentions the AR-15, a civilian version of the M-16 rifle, modified to circumvent the 1994 assault weapons ban. The AR-15 is intended to be an intimidating weapon; intimidation is part of its marketing. In reality, few rifles… of any kind… are used in gun killings. Last year, less  than 200 gun homicides were caused by rifles, compared to at least 7,000 caused by handguns. Instead of the AR-15, we should consider banning the Crickett. This a gun designed for children. A 5-year-old boy in Kentucky recently killed his two-year-old sister with a Crickett. This is clearly the market the Crickett was designed for, since their website shows pictures and comments from small children. Outside of the gun community, a gun designed for a child is seen as dangerous, just as power tools or a food processor designed for a child would be dangerous.

This blind-spot in parental responsibility is exacerbated by the 2005 “Protection of lawful Commerce Act,” that prevents gun shooting victims from suing gun makers. This law must either be repealed or revised. Products like the Crickett need to be objectively reviewed to determine if they can be used safely. A decade ago, it was decided that another American Culture product, tobacco, could not be used safely, and its use has been slowly restricted. Guns for children need to follow the same critique. The government banned plastic guns through the 1988 “Undetectable Firearms Act,” because they can evade metal detectors. This law, which will expire in 2013, needs to be renewed. The impact of hollow point, armor piercing and other high lethality ammunition on death rates must be researched. Based on that research, arrests and convictions for gun-related  crimes and injuries must take the choice of  ammunition into account.

SCHOOLS: The massacre at Sandy Hook was a rallying point for this round of gun-control debates. However, this was only the latest in many mass shootings, started off by the Columbine killings in 1999. As each new killing unfolds, it seems more horrifying than the last. Yet, these killings are responsible for less than 1% of the gun deaths in the US. Even so, that means a new school mass killing almost every month. Far more school gun shootings are individual killings at violent schools. In the most violent of these schools, these individual shootings add up to more than a Sandy Hook massacre every year.

Schools with a history of violence, and the parents with children in these schools, my eagerly accept the offer from the NRA to train and pay for armed guards in schools. In schools without a history of violence, where the possibility of a random assault is unlikely, might not want to add weapons to their children’s environment. It is not clear where the NRA intends to offer guards, but gun-control advocates need to put aside preconceptions about the NRA and let them help, where their help is needed and accepted.  If the NRA, and the NRA members who are assigned to these schools, are given exposure to these violent environments they may develop a new understanding of how gun culture affects the youngest Americans, and the limits of armed force. Both sides of the argument are only going to understand each other when they work together, and this is unexpected opportunity for both camps to work side by side.

CONCLUSION: We’ve covered a lot of ground and a lot of controversy. There is no single path to reducing gun violence. There is no single “gun culture.” Americans live in cities, rural areas, high crime districts, and safe neighborhoods. Some families have guns handed down guns from their grandfathers, others are first-time gun buyers and still others are families that never want a gun in their home. More Americans live in cities, and gun culture areas are losing population with each generation. We have the lowest crime rates in 100 years, but the gun culture feels endangered, yet they cannot articulate the reasons for their rage. The  condensing of gun culture communities makes them more radical and inflexible. Gun-control advocates have little common ground with the most radical of gun-rights advocates, but there is a large middle-ground where gun owners and gun control groups can stand together. Gun owners can keep much of their culture, but hey will also need to accept that there is mismanagement and abuse of weapons in their community, and the gun community needs to take financial and legal responsibility to bring  gun ownership into the 21st century.

This list of seven actionable proposals is just a starting point, but it follows the basic rules of Change Management. Identify proposals that support winnable battles, forge alliances and provide opportunities that provide opponents with reasons to supporting your position, provide research that supports your position, and avoid proposals that sound good but are not supported by facts no matter how “obvious” they appear to be when you discuss it with similarly-minded supporters. Change Management is not about a single event, and the reduction of gun violence will not be about the passing of a single law. Even if a gun control law had the most sweeping provisions imaginable, enforcing those provisions and maintaining the effectiveness of the law requires decades of continuing support, and active review to ensure that laws are producing the desired changes. With as many as 300,000,000 guns and 100,000 gun shootings every year, America is facing a monumental problem. But it is a problem that we can overcome, if we really want to and if we fully apply the rules of change management.

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Change Management… Under the Gun (Part II of III)


In our last article, we discussed gun culture and history, trying to understand how the gun became such a powerful symbol of America. Today, we will look beyond the numbers behind gun violence, to identify specific opportunities to lower gun violence. Rather than going after the most popular symbols of gun violence, we only want to focus on proposals that can measurably lower gun related deaths. Extreme gun rights groups have tried to make changes or expansion in gun control laws difficult or impossible to implement. However, gun owners are just like any other group, with a small core of highly vocal members and a larger number of more moderate members.  Even non-gun owning Americans have a strong respect for gun rights, or at least  concerns over a government that is too strong. Reasonable supporters of both  gun rights and gun control need to get together to jointly form a new view on guns in America. Just as the Republican party is being forced to re-think it’s policies, this is the time for us to rethink how guns fit into America’s culture, and how the tools of Change Management will help us get there.

The strongest gun advocates have often been personally touched by gun violence. Not surprisingly, they are deeply offended by the vitriolic rhetoric, and lack of compassion,  from gun extremists. However, not all gun rights supporters are extremists. The “silent majority” of gun owners are fairly moderate, and becoming more so over the years. Gun owners may have first used a gun in the military. Others started (or continued) their interests in guns in the police force, as prison guards, as sheriffs and deputies or as other public protectors. These men, and they are almost entirely men, believe they need guns to protect their family. For many gun rights advocates, the role of the “protector” is part of their personality. The vast majority of gun owners could not imagine going on  a killing spree, or hurting children with weapons, and believe that as gun owners they play a role in preventing this from happening. When killers are found, gun owners advocate the most severe and immediate punishment. When gun owners are in any way associated with killer who use guns, they are deeply offended and want to strike back at gun-control advocates and the media. They feel that the media and gun control groups paint them as friends of the villains, merely because they want to continue to protect their families.  

We each need to understand the other side’s motivations. And we need common ground.  If we seek common ground, we will find unexpected allies. For example, a survey from Pew Research shows that households without guns are more supportive of gun controls than households with guns. Which isn’t surprising. If we look a little closer, we see that individual members of households with guns, have different opinions. The gun owner has the strongest gun rights opinions, but other members of the household have more moderate opinions. Asked if gun control will lead to the government taking away guns: gun owners strongly believe this (51%), non-gun owing households believe it less (45%) and other members of a gun-owning household believe it least of all (41%). The best allies for gun control may well be the other members of the gun-owning household! The public discussion is filled with partial facts, fear, and policy proposals that lack specific, measurable goals. We need to be guided (not ruled, but guided) by real data, and we need to understand why gun control is so strongly opposed.

GOALS: It’s time to focus on specific and measurable changes. To do that, we need facts about gun violence today and goals for reducing gun violence tomorrow.

  • Guns: There are 300,000,000 guns (100,000,000 are handguns) in America. Gallop research tells us that more than 40% of households own one or more guns, and the gun owner is predominantly a man. Rural areas have high gun ownership than cities. With 80% of Americans living in cities, gun ownership seems to be dropping. Crime in America has dropped by more than 50% since the 1990s (major crimes are down as much as 95% in New York City), but “protection of the home” is still the most frequently cited reason for owning a gun. Despite lower crime, gun owners have been on a buying spree for years.

Assault rifles have are often part of the debate on gun violence, but rifles are rarely a cause of death in America. The notorious AR-15 has been used in Columbine style mass killings, but in 2012, only 323 people were killed by a rifle of any kind, compared to 6,220 killed by handguns. Handguns are 60 times more likely to be used in a homicide than a rifle (including every AR-15). There are good reasons to ban assault weapons, but is this a top priority? With so many guns in circulation, and no gun-control  proposals to take away existing weapons, merely banning future weapon sales will take decades to have any impact on the current level of violence.    

Handguns role in gun violence deserves a closer look. They are more portable, and can be taken to more locations than rifles. By being more available, handguns are available when tempers flare and when violence erupts. Handguns are like lighter fluid. They don’t start the fire, but they make it easier for the fire to start, and they make the fire burn hotter. Because handguns are so portable, they seem to spend more time “at hand” rather than locked away. Portability makes the very weapon that is supposed to protect you and your family, your greatest threat. All guns, but especially handguns, INCREASE the chance that you will kill a member of your own family. As we can see in the next section.

  • Gun Storage: One of the most useful services that the NRA offers, is safety training. The NRA advises gun owners to always lock up ammunition and guns, and to not load a gun until it is ready to be used. Failing to follow these rules leads to death and murder. Consider the “blade runner,” Oscar Pistorius. It happened in South Africa, but the story is universal. Oscar was afraid of being assaulted or kidnapped, and kept his guns loaded, a machine gun in his bedroom, and a handgun by his bed. He woke up “sensing” there was an intruder in his house. In the dark, he investigates and shoots an “intruder,” who he finds is actually his girlfriend. If there was more time between waking and shooting, he might have acted differently. Yet in story after story, the shooter believes that quick access to a gun is imperative, and outweighs the dangers of using loaded weapons in the dark or making life-and-death  decision when you’re not fully awake. Also consider the much less publicized case of Rondell Smith, who bought a gun after an attempted break-in at home. No one was hurt in the break in, but two weeks after he bought a gun, his two-year-old  son shot himself and died.

If all guns in America were safely stored and locked, according to NRA training, gun violence would be dramatically reduced. Small children would not kill themselves. Older children, perhaps those who were given a gun but are too young to use it unsupervised, might still be alive. Even the growing number of teens who use a parent’s gun to commit suicide, might be alive. In 2010, 6,740 young adults were killed because they got access to a gun or were killed by a member of the family. A significant number of these deaths would not have happened if the owners of these guns, kept them unloaded, and locked away.

  • Bullets: In 2010, US citizens bought more than 12 billion bullets, up from the “normal” 9-10 billion, to stockpile ammunition in case gun-control laws are passed. The global production of bullets is estimated at 9 billion bullets annually; the growth in sales has depleted world supplies of ammunition. What is America doing with all this ammunition? America has one million police, sheriffs, deputies, prison guards and other government security officials. There are another million private security guards. Let’s assume that every security worker needs 1,000 bullets per year (2 billion total) for practice. Another 2 billion bullets went into stockpiles. There are also one million Native American’s living in or around reservations, who participate in some traditional hunting. Let’s give each of them 1,000 bullets per year. That leaves 7,000,000,000 bullets. The  number of bullets used to shoot human being is minuscule, around 250,000 annually. Too few to count in an ocean of ammunition.

That means that the vast majority of bullets are used for, recreation: hunting, target practice, shooting competitions, historical recreations, demonstrations, etc. Gun owners may earnestly buy a gun for protection, but the overwhelming USE (i.e. actually firing the gun) is recreation. There’s nothing wrong with recreation, but the argument changes when we’re weighing the lives of American’s against constitution rights or against entertainment alternatives. It’s also important because different types of ammunition are used for different purposes. Hunters use hollow-point bullets because they do far more damage, quickly killing the animal. However, hollow bullets are considered “inhumane” under the Hague Conventions, and banned in war. Outside of hunting, gun enthusiasts extol the hollow-point for its “stopping power” when used for self-defense. The types of bullets we use, are a major factor in gun injuries becoming gun deaths. We need to reduce the number of bullets in circulation, and we also need to decide we should allow “recreational” ammunition should be used against human beings.

  • Homicide: The gun discussion is focused on homicide, specifically killing sprees… in schools, shopping malls, and public places. These events are horrifying, but are they common? 2012, 29 students were shot at Harper High School in Chicago individual gun shootings, and eight died. This was not a spree. It was a series of individual killings over the course of a year, and these individual deaths were largely ignored by the media. Six times as many children died in in the last 100 days, as died at Sandy Hook. Since 1982 there have been 62 mass killings, claiming just over 500 lives. Compared to the 300,000 gun-related homicides and 3,000,000 gun shootings during this time, mass killings are lost in the numbers. Every year there are 9,000 gun-related homicides. Every year 1,500 to 2,000 American women killed by domestic violence. Every year,  500 to 1,000 Americans… more than 20 years of killing sprees… die in “unintentional” shootings.
  • Suicide: More American gun-related deaths are from suicide than homicide, but suicide has largely been ignored in the current discussion. Of 35,000 suicides annually, 20,000 are by firearms. Men predominantly use guns to commit suicide, and are far more successful than women in killing themselves. Suicide is normally practiced by the very old, but in America suicides by 75 to 84 year olds has dropped from 31.1 (for every 100,000) in 1950, to just 15.7 in 2010. At the same time, suicide rates for teens and young Americans have doubled or tripled. Life has improved for the elderly, reducing the attraction of suicide. But why is being young so terrible that so many want to end their lives? And the lives of others?

Spree killings might be better described as elaborate suicides. The postal worker who kills co-workers and then himself. The boyfriend or husband who kills his partner (it is almost always the man who does the killing) and then commits suicide, perhaps also killing parents, children, relatives or friends. Deaths at multiple locations may not be immediately connected, and these events may not be identified as spree killings. Consistent background checks could keep weapons out of the hands of mentally disturbed individuals, reduce homicides and suicides. A gun purchase can last a lifetime, but we may not be mentally healthy for all of our lives. A moment of depression, the loss of a loved one, a divorce, or even a bad mix of medications can lead to suicide, homicide or another Sandy Hook.  We may be mentally healthy when we buy a gun, but what about our mental health over the coming years or decades? In order to drive a car you need to periodically renew your license, have your eyes checked, prove you can still drive a car. Gun-related  killings are now outpacing driving related deaths. Shouldn’t gun owners be as capable of operating a gun as they are of operating a car?

  • Gun Injuries: The numbers that we have talked about so far are stunning, but they are only part of the picture. In addition to the more than 30,000 Americans killed by guns, another 75,000 are injured, but survive. A small “improvement” in gun design or the lethality of ammunition, and thousands of injuries turn into deaths.  Alternatively, some of these injuries are failed suicides, accidents due to poor gun management, and domestic violence. These injuries may be the last clue we have about a pending homicide or suicide. Under pressure from the NRA and gun rights lobbyists, funding for research on how to identify and prevent future gun killings has been blocked. If we start funding this research again, we may be able to  save the lives of thousands of Americans.

The numbers are staggering… 100,000 American’s shot every year, and 30,000 killed. Now that we know these numbers, and we more about what they mean, we will develop recommendations to address gun violence. In a period of massive change, most of us lack the basic change management skills the 21st century demands. By using the process in this series… learning the history of the issue, understanding stakeholder motivation, analyzing the hard data, and developing measurable goals… we can address some of the most intractable problems in our country, and in our corporations.

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Change Management… Under the Gun (Part I of III)


We live in a time of unprecedented change. The balance of world power has changed, shifting from a singular superpower to a group of rising economies, with China in the lead.  Domestic demographics are changing, with political power rapidly abandoning the traditional older, white, male power center. The Republican party must change, either adopting new values that alienate its aging leadership and many of its members, or abandoning all hope of winning national elections by maintaining the policies they adopted in the mid-20th century. Weaker countries seeking global power, such as South Korea, are learning how to use cyber war and other asymmetrical warfare tactics to counter America’s massive conventional military advantage. One of America’s most immediate and tragic changes is the increase in gun violence. While this issue has received immense attention in the media, few policy makers grasp why we have gun violence, and offer few effective proposals.  If America wants to stop gun violence in America, we need to introduce real change management, not just a few ineffective laws.

There is an old Russian saying, “If all you have is a hammer, you treat the world like a nail.” Politicians see problems  in terms of laws, rather than long-term programs. Reducing gun-related  deaths in America will require new laws, but it requires much more, starting with an understanding of the effectiveness of existing laws.  We need better collection and research of gun violence statistics. We need real, measurable goals and a process to track the results of the actions we take. American citizens own an estimated 300,000,000 guns, and since 2010 have bought 12,000,000,000 or more bullets annually. Significantly reducing violence will take decades, and requires supporters who will maintain their support for decades. Programs that don’t work must be defunded, and effective programs must be replicated. We need the freedom to experiment, without every effort by gun-control advocates being opposed by the most vocal gun rights advocates. It requires both sides of the argument to agree on the most reasonable way to preserve the rights of gun owners and save the lives of Americans.

A top-down  solution, a comprehensive national gun control law, will fail. There is not enough political consensus to pass and maintain such a law. Even if it could pass, the proposed bills have yet to focus on real, measurable changes. In order to work, we must turn to the discipline of change management. The five key elements of change management that need to be a part of any plan to reduce gun violence are:

  • History: Understand why America developed it’s unique relationship with guns.
  • Diagnosis: How does America’s gun culture create gun violence?
  • Goals: Specifically, what do we hope to accomplish?
  • Initiatives: Which changes need to happen, and how do we track progress?
  • Measurement: Did we create the meaningful changes that lowered violence?

Let’s dive right in and start with…

HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN GUN: America was created by European settlers who needed to control natives, and later slaves. Early settlers wrote of their fears that natives would rise up and kill us. Gun ownership became not just a right, but an obligation to your families and your community to defend the lives of settlers. Had America been settled by Europe a few hundred years earlier, perhaps we would be talking about the sword rather than the gun. But it was the gun that defined America when hunting provided the meat needed to feed your family.  Americans predominantly fought honor duels with guns, killing other citizens who dishonored their good name. Most importantly, it was the citizen with a gun that allowed America to fight the British in the 13 colonies, fight Indian wars throughout America, and eventually fight other Americans in the Civil war. When America became a nation, it was a small country with powerful enemies in Europe, and with competing European controlled governments to the north and south. At a time when only the mightiest of nations could afford a standing army of any size, America chose to rely on a militia for defense. Which bring us to…

  • The 2ND amendment: Strong gun rights advocates point to the 2nd Amendment their primary justification for unrestricted gun ownership, going so far as saying that the founding fathers wanted to arm so that we could overthrow the government, if it overstepped its authority. The 2nd Amendment states, “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.” Guns advocates fixate on,  “shall not be infringed,” while having ignoring, “A well regulated militia.” No other amendment uses the word “regulated”, to say nothing of “well regulated.” The 2nd amendment, plus the “Mlitia Acts” that followed a few months later, defined how our national defense operates, and did not say anything about other gun rights. In fact, the Supreme Court repeatedly found (in: United States v. Cruikshank, 1875; United States v. Miller, 1939;  District of Columbia v. Heller, 2008; McDonald v. Chicago, 2010) that the 2nd amendment is about maintaining a militia, not personal defense.
  • Militias: The Bill of Right became law in 1791. In 1792, the Militia Acts were passed, defining a militia (as a semi-professional military, controlled by the state, and called up at the request of the President). Every white adult male was to serve, and each state was responsible for training and inspecting their troops twice a year. The Militia Acts stated that the militia was to protect us from any, “foreign nation or Indian tribe,” and lays out required equipment: a musket with 24 bullets and 1/4 pound of gunpowder, a knapsack, etc. In 1903 a subsequent Militia Act abolished all state militias, replacing them with the National Guard. The second amendment was never repealed, but it should be clear that a National Guard, plus the development of a standing military (now the largest in the world), eliminated the primary reason for this amendment.
  • Rebellion Against Tyrants: The need for unlimited gun rights are often justified because citizens need to follow the plan of the founding fathers, and be ready to overthrow the government, should it overstep its authority. The recent debate between Alex Jones and Piers Morgan repeatedly references this old argument. If Jones appears disturbingly agitated, he also appears to be genuine in his conviction. As do other gun rights advocates who see themselves as protectors of the Republic. This has become a pillar of belief for gun advocates; unfortunately, it is not true. In 1792, citizens in Pennsylvania refused to pay a tax on whiskey. Citing the Boston Tea Party (making them the first and original Tea Party), they claimed the right to armed rebellion against the government. By 1794, the Whiskey Rebellion escalated to 500 men laying siege to a tax collector’s home. How did the founding fathers react? President George Washington called out the state militias, raised an army of 14,000 soldiers and put down the rebellion by force. The next significant rebellion (including a lot of talk about tyranny) turned into the Civil War. It ended badly for the rebels. Native Americans also had “armed rebellions,” which ended very badly. From the founding fathers to today, America has been very consistent, and very efficient, in dealing with armed rebels.
  • Gun Control Laws: Gun advocates argue that the 2nd amendment comprehensively protects their right to any number type or number of guns, with any legislative restraint. This is the exact opposite of US legal history. Citizens who once dueled on city streets, were pushed to the outskirts of town and by the 1880s (through a series of state laws) were forbidden to duel. Likewise, states known for strong gun support today, once passed laws to take guns away from citizens. At least, from black citizens. These laws, were still in effect until the early 20th century, explicitly or implicitly using race to determine gun ownership. Later, the rise of organized crime (and the Tommy Gun) led to the National Firearms Act of 1934, which limited sales of military-style  weapons, high-capacity  magazines, and silencers (collectively called “weapon of assassination”).

Gun Culture: The founding fathers wrote the 2nd Amendment for very specific reasons, with national defense as the main reason. The time of militias has long since passed. The history of gun restrictions is long, and a few more regulations won’t change it much. And yet, it doesn’t really matter. While both sides are arguing law, this is about culture. Gun-control advocates are trying to change American culture, and gun rights advocates are trying to preserve a culture that no longer exists. If it ever existed at all.  At a time of culture wars, primary roles have changed. Liberal Democrats back their proposals with hard statistics and research on violence. Behind the bluster, the normally undemonstrative Republicans, are making an emotional appeal that we leave them their role as protectors of their own home. Tales of the Alamo, images of the Old West and the homesteader firmly planted in from of a log cabin with gun in hand, ready to protect the family, are vital images of American history, but they are not very relevant in a country where 80% of the citizens live in cities, and rural life is disappearing.

We need to balance the importance of our culture and history against the need to protect American citizens. History needs to be part of the equation, but prejudices and preconceptions about guns need to be forgotten. We need to be guided, but not ruled, by the facts. We need a bottom-up approach that provides specific programs with specific actionable results that save the lives of Americans. The programs that both gun owners and gun-control advocates can agree are effective, without changing the world of the gun owner.  That’s quite a goal.  That’s why we will only succeed if we follow a formal change management process.

Now that we have some understanding of gun history and culture, the next part of this series will dig into the research and identify targeted programs to reduce violence in America.

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