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Posts Tagged ‘gun control’

The Graduated License: Smarter Gun Rights?

January 27, 2013 Leave a comment

A better way to award gun licenses is a “graduated form” where one begins with limited rights and gradually earns more rights through testing, education and experience. The current system awards a gun license with total rights: the newly licensed with zero experience has just as much access as the seasoned veteran. Is this the best way to award licenses?

A better way to award licenses is to begin with a basic level license. Initial rights will limit the individual to a small number of bullets and available weapons. Want more? Earn it via classes and testing. Gradually the individual can earn more rights by proving the capability to responsibly handle the additions.

Such a format would work to stop individuals whose mental states prove too unstable for high capacity weapons. And while nothing can stop illegal weapons and the desires of those who wish to harm on a massive scale, this new form would create a system of prevention that might catch unstable individuals and re-route them to the help they need.

This alternative form should appeal to both gun control advocates and detractors. In this system there is no control imposed on individuals who prove capable. Merit earns rights and the NRA should not only celebrate this format but recognize it as an incredible opportunity. The enjoyment of weapons that comes from expert use will only increase with greater education.

Advanced testing in this form could be completed with NRA guidance and perhaps experienced shooters could proctor these exams for discounts on their own classes. This allows for a community of gun owners to blossom, a group whose entire existence centers around the enjoyment of weapons and the development of skills relating to their use.

What matters less in gun control is the actual control of the guns. We need to recognize the real problem: irresponsible use by those who either don’t know or don’t acknowledge the power of their weapons. Safety stems not from taking away or limiting access. The best system is one that works for more experience and uses merit as the means of greater access. You can have your guns. Celebrate them and use them as much as you want, but show us that you’re capable of respecting what you use and fully understanding just what power you hold for both you and your community.

Image Issues: The Struggles of Varied Bases

January 27, 2011 1 comment

In an interview on Fresh Air today there was a discussion on the NRA’s evolution through history. Though largely geared towards recent events and records of activism, there was a brief mention of an “image crisis” that came up near the end of the interview. Gross posed a question of Spitzer that considered the NRA’s member base and its varied directions of activism. Spitzer reflected on the varied demographics of NRA membership and the wealth of concerns that comes from such a varied base of support. Unlike some groups which form on the basis of a common goal, the NRA is formed on the basis of a common interest and draws in members from the multitude of niches in society.

This issue of “image confusion” that comes from a varied member base made me muse on the reasons why we form groups and the features of our more successful alliances. I came to the conclusion that the key feature of group formation is a common goal. Groups are formulated when a common need exists and the formation of the group appears to be the best remedy. This “common need” varies from group to group, ranging from political to personal but always centering on a common need among the individuals in the group. The individuals come together in order to remedy the common need and formulate the group as a device of intervention.

It should be no surprise that groups created to remedy a simple problem are more popular and more successful. As with all things a clarity of focus creates an environment where individuals can gauge their interests and efficiently provide their services to the group. The fewer goals a group has the easier it is for each member to get involved. Likewise the tendency for success decreases as this focus disappears. In order for a group to accomplish its goal it must have a clear focus of intent.

These areas of focus can range from simple social provisions to political activities. A group like a bowling league has a focused goal and each member gauges interest on the basis of this need. If a potential bowler wants to socialize he or she joins the group. This focused “provision to need” is simple and involves a minor sacrifice. Groups that have these simple needs are popular, just note the number of communities have a weekly bowling league. Seek to trace the rates of animal activism in a community and you will find less interest and a more diverse collection of individuals.

Group success is largely tied to the simplicity of message. Groups that strive for large goals like the NRA and PETA face an increased challenge on the basis of their large, broad goals. When a group strives for major change it faces challenges beyond just the task it sets before itself. A group needs to consider the perspective of the “interested outsider.” What types of considerations will this outsider muse on before joining the group? Often it will be a process of seeking out common points of interest. An individual joins a group on the basis of the “remedy of a need” mentioned above. If a group presents to lofty goals, intentions that are too broad or that demand too much from members will often scare individuals away.

I feel the NRA struggles from this difficulty. Of course the NRA membership remains strong but this is largely a response to concern for second amendment rights. For the NRA the notion of “new member dissonance” mentioned above comes in the form of the outsiders who turn away. These are the non gun owners or the figures in society whose concern for constitutional rights is the stronger motivation than gun control. Many are indifferent to guns but feel incredibly passionate about protecting the constitutional rights we currently possess. I feel that many Americans hold a great fear of figures who aim to trim the Constitution and see our founding document like a bonsai tree that isn’t perfect but a highly crafted work in progress.

The NRA and groups with similarly scaled goals would be better served by recognizing the diversity of their message. A simplification of presentation (key here: not goals or direction) would bring in additional support. Communication is the key. Complicated goals and multiple directions of activism can be successful but a failure to convey a simple message to the outside world alienates would-be supporters. The NRA has a major support base whose only hesitation comes from confusion over image. Too many figures work to define the NRA and it takes just one clash to send a potential supporter away. Image control is critical; its devise is communication clarity.

In order for groups like the NRA to interact successfully with the outside world, there need to be an active consideration of public goals and message. Groups that have focused goals framed on connecting with the common notions of outsiders is critical for gaining support. This isn’t a diluting of message; instead it is a refinement of goals that communicates with the general public of common goals and features. The critical factor when interacting with the public is the clean, friendly face. The public can understand different perspectives and as long as a group’s goals are focused and rationally founded the American public will both tolerate and, in some cases, celebrate the civic activity.

Rationalizing the Irrational

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Despite our desperation, there is never a simple answer to complex situations. We see in the fallout from this weekend’s tragedy in Tucson a splinter of stories seeking to explain the event. We read stories investigating the shooter’s background, his reading lists and interests and previous history from which interpretation and explanation can be culled and applied. We see stories tracing the events of that day, brief biographies of the victims and the motivations, goals and dreams of each of the lives snuffed out by that horrible deed.

From that one event we have a multitude of stories. Popular media outlets appear to be scrambling for the correct dynamic to take. Should the background of the shooter be the main focus or should the possibility of deeper political factors be explored? Self-censorship is still in play at this stage with most reporters refusing to actually mention the linking to Sarah Palin. I do not link PalinĀ  to the events in Tucson, nor do I link any extreme rhetoric or the tea party movement. At the core of this story is one individual’s actions.

For those beyond the direct implications of the tragedy, those whose family members were not directly affected, we are left with the task of understanding the event. As the story unfolds we gradually answer the essential questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, progressing from the easiest questions of setting, time and actors and transitioning to the more difficult questions that require a greater depth of consideration. In these questions we consider the motivations of the shooter and may fall victim to judgments on the basis of conjecture or assumption.

We must avoid the mistake of distorting what we know of the shooter. We may know his background, his reading materials and a series of events in his history but none of these events can explain what occurred on that morning. This was an irrational act completed by an irrational person. The human psyche is a complicated device which under certain conditions, perhaps chemical, biological and/or psychological, can bloom to a level beyond all human understandings.

We need to avoid looking for connections to previous killers. We may never know the true motivation in this event; perhaps, there were none. What we know is this is a tragic event. The only response from this moment forward is to honor those who have been killed, preserve those who remain injured and strive to establish a system that avoids events like this in the future. Banning the tools used in this tragedy do nothing. The only real solution is a human solution and our network of social support services can prevent, protect and preserve our society and its citizens from a future act of horror.

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