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NRA vs. Gun Control: A Process Argument

At the core of any major political argument like gun control or abortion is power. If you believe in Argumentative Theory, these battles are less about actually doing the right thing and more about one side or the other gaining social status.

For instance, right after the Newtown event, Twitter came alive with gun control advocates calling anyone on the other side any number of unacceptable names. This behavior had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with appearing superior and using a tragic event to drive that superiority. However, just pointing this out doesn’t address the problem that guns in the U.S. aren’t safe, and unless this changes they’ll likely be broadly banned here.

Technology and a more pragmatic approach might be able to create a situation where folks could keep guns and be safer. We aren’t on that path at the moment — and unless we get there, we’ll repeat the 9/11 mistake: We spent millions making air travel significantly less pleasant and not much safer.

We’ve developed a series of analytical processes to look at business decisions to ensure they are made better. I figured I’d use a similar practice to explore this topical area and suggest that while both sides of this gun control argument are wrong, as things stand right now, the NRA will likely lose.

I’ll close with my product of the week: a book on reputation management that you may want to read while traveling over the holidays.

The NRA Problem

While it is very easy to focus on the children who were killed and use it as the primary reason to ban weapons, that isn’t the strongest argument for gun elimination by far. The strongest argument is that the first person allegedly killed was the owner of the guns.

You see the strongest argument for gun ownership isn’t the Constitution and the right to bear arms; it is self-defense. Yet with every move we’ve made to make guns safer in the home, we’ve reduced their effectiveness for self-defense. Much like a car safety technology that kills drivers, a self-defense tool that is more likely to get the owner killed probably has a limited time in market.

The current tragedy points sharply to this problem. If you have a gun and it is locked up as it should be, with a trigger guard or in a safe, there is a really good chance someone else will get to it before you can, and it will be used against you.

Burglars and kids, who typically have plenty of time, can eventually figure a way around most locks. Much of what we’ve done to make guns safer over the years has simply made them more likely to be used against you, supporting a future ban. Even if there isn’t a ban, folks will eventually come to believe that owning a gun is stupid — because today, in many ways, it is.

The Argument for Assault Weapons

Now I personally think a ban on assault weapons is stupid, largely because in their civilian form they are relatively ineffective weapons, and if someone is shooting at me I’d rather have them use an ineffective weapon than an effective one.

They are relatively ineffective for three reasons: They were designed to be an automatic because what they lose in accuracy they make up for in the number of rounds they can kick out per second — at least by design — yet that feature is disabled in civilian markets so, for a rifle, they are relatively inaccurate.

They have relatively low stopping power and low lethality — the bullets tend to pass through things. The word “assault” isn’t branding — it is tied to their design. Anyone seen carrying one is immediately branded a threat because an assault weapon has only one use: shooting people. That suggests law enforcement will be on site more quickly if someone sees a person carrying one — concealed weapons they aren’t.

Now if they are stupid as an attack weapon, they are insanely stupid as a defense weapon. Assault weapons typically use a small bullet with a high charge like a .223 round which massively overpenetrates. This means it will go through walls and hit folks you can’t see — likely family members or neighbors. It has low stopping power, which means even if you hit the burglar, you are more likely to just really piss him off than kill him.

You are also more likely to put a gun like this in the safe, which means you probably aren’t going to get to it in time — which, given the first two facts, is actually an advantage. Why buy a gun that sucks for hunting and really should be locked up, which would mean no one, including you, could actually use it?

If you want folks to stop buying assault weapons, just portray them in ads and movies as they really are. People will stop buying them because they are stupid guns. There really is nothing macho about stupid.

Fixing the Problem With Training and Technology

There are two countries the folks for gun control don’t want to you look at and one the NRA doesn’t want you to look at. The two that the gun control folks don’t want you to look at are Switzerland and Israel. Both have very high gun densities and low gun crime.

The one the NRA wants to you avoid is Australia, which instituted massive gun controls and also eliminated much of the problem.

This tells you guns alone aren’t the problem. It is the lack of training coupled with guns that creates the issue. If you instituted training, like Israel and Switzerland do, and actively turned gun owners into part of the solution, you could likely eliminate much of the exposure and have a much stronger deterrent for illegal gun use.

However, if you can’t turn gun users into a solution, then the better path is to eliminate guns entirely, because that too will solve the problem. It does amaze me that we do a better job ensuring people know how to drive cars than we do ensuring folks know how to properly use and protect the guns they own.

Finally, and this is where technology comes in, we can make guns themselves smarter, so they can’t be used against the people who buy them — or even better, can’t be used by people unauthorized to use them. If we ban any gun that isn’t so equipped, we should then be able to have guns and be safer.

Biometrics could work well here, but I’ve seen magnetic rings, a far cheaper technology, work nearly as well. Finally, guns for home protection likely should be vastly different than guns used for hunting or in the military, suggesting major redesigns that focus on their intended use.

However, both sides in the gun debate have to accept that the problem can be solved without either side having to lose.

Putting Gun Companies Out of Business

This doesn’t have to end with gun companies, many of which are strong employers and taxpayers in the U.S., going out of business — but that is clearly the path we are on.

Given how many guns are in market and how many are sold illegally today — and how understaffed law enforcement is — I doubt that strong gun controls initially will do anything but make the criminals who have guns safer. Unlike Australia, we aren’t surrounded by water.

Through a process of mandatory training, technology and common sense, we should be able not only to make this industry safer, but also turn it from the liability it is into the asset it could be.

Unless the NRA stops stonewalling and becomes part of the solution, it — and the industry it protects — will be done. The only win-win here is if guns can be turned into an asset. Anything short of that eventually will put an end to guns as a legal industry in the U.S.

Wrapping Up: Avoiding the Zero Sum

Now this was a process exercise; note how I broke apart both sides’ arguments without losing track of the real goal, which isn’t winning either side’s argument but making people safer while retaining most of the privileges.

In effect, my goal was to showcase how to turn a liability into an asset. If you can realize what the core problem is while setting aside the need for a zero-sum solution that requires the other side to lose absolutely, then you can generally find an approach that will work. That’s something to noodle on when you argue about this topic over the holidays.

Special thanks to Bill Clinton who spoke to me about the problem of zero-sum games and the need to find creative win-win solutions for problems like this one.

Product of the Week: Digital Assassination – Protecting Your Reputation, Brand, or Business Against OnLine Attacks

Product of the Week

This recently released book focuses on the digital world we live in and how unsafe it is. At any time, almost anyone can take your digital reputation and trash it so badly that you become unemployable.


We actually saw this happen during the Newtown event, when some poor sap with the same name as the shooter had his Social Security Number broadcast and his reputation trashed.

The book goes into some detail on the nature of the problem, recounts actual cases of people who were badly damaged, and then walks through practices you can take to recover your reputation.

Increasingly, your reputation will be your greatest personal asset in a digital world. If you don’t learn how to protect it, then you may lose that reputation, and with it much of your career potential.

This week, my themes are safety and problem solving. Because the book Digital Assassination, by Richard Torrenzano and Mark Davis, is on topic in the world I mostly live in — the digital world — it is my product of the week.

Rob Enderle

Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.


  • The problem is uneducated media that has no clue what they are talking about. Besides the rediculous comment that just because it’s semi auto it’s not a good hunting rifle I won’t even bother with, do a little more research before you spout off that which you do not know. In my research coming from military, police officers, etc.. semi auto rifles of the .223 caliber actually pose the lowest risk of over penetration. The projectile is small and is known to tuble in the first object it hits. Handguns actually have the greatest chance at over penetration and don’t have the stopping power of a rifle. Why do you think that police use these rifles when they have the time to get a better weapon??? They only carry pistols because they are easy to transport on their person. 2ndly, the stopping power of a .223 round is much greater than a pistol round. It has 2-3 times the power of a pistol round. Do some research on velocities and ft/lbs and talk to some people with actuall experience in shooting people. Just look at the recent case of the woman in GA that shot the intruder in the face and neck 5 times with a .38 revolver and he still maded it out to his car. My point is, if you are going to be a journalist, learn how to do some research before you add to the real problem of ignorance and have no clue what your talking about.

    • Wow, interesting lack of reading comprehension:

      "Israel first – everyone is trained, because everyone is presumed to be "in their military". There is no "private" ownership of guns, there is just, "You will serve, unless you can’t for some reason, and therefor we will issue a gun, and make damn sure you a trained not to shoot yourself in the foot with it." […]

      Now, Switzerland – Hmm. Lets see.. Tight, vastly tighter, regulation that the US has ***ever*** had, mandatory training, mandatory registration…"

      If you actually bothered to read the article, you’d see that the author is NOT using these two countries to argue that the status of guns in the US is okay. He’s arguing EXACTLY what you are: that the US ought to learn from these two countries and institute similar systems in order to make guns less of a liability and more of an asset.

      • Exactly right. This goes to the core of the real problem. Folks on both sides are so biased they aren’t even reading what I said, the voice in their heads is louder. Thanks for stepping in!

        • Not true really, I pick the topic and feel strongly that this one was more important this week than any other I could come up with. Feel very strongly in protecting both children and freedoms. Also feel strongly that both sides efforts will currently hurt more children and remove more freedom. It is interesting to note that you are actively avoiding looking at the details yet plan to make an informed choice. If you don’t do the former you can’t do the latter.

  • So far, all the discussion has been directed at the facilitaion and results.

    Not the real cause of these mass shootings…mental illness!

    A gun is, after all, a mass of metal that has been arranged and fabricated to perform a specific function…push a lead pellet down a rifled tube with the intent of hitting what it was pointed at. soul was built into the gun. No rational thinking. No moral judgement.

    Those are left to the most fallible part of the whole equation…PEOPLE.

    If a gun is broken, it simply won’t work. (It can be used as a club, though.)

    If a person is broken, there is no telling what they will do. They will kill if that is what their malfunctioning brain tells them to do.

    If they can get a gun, so much the easier. If not, then their diseased mind will work out another method. (In gun-controlled England swords and crossbows have gained popularity.)

    Killers kill. What they use is ultimately irrelevent, since dead is dead!

    Regulate all the law-abiding folks you want. Nothing will change. Continue to try the same thing over and over (passing laws) and see how that works for ya! (Isn’t that the definition of something?)

    So here’s abumper sticker I’d like to see:

    "Save lives. Register the mentally ill!"

  • Let’s let the dead rest in peace.

    To be honest i was pretty annoyed when i first read this. I’ve given it a 2nd read and though that the points were OK. But I had to ask myself why was I annoyed. The answer, on reflection is simple. I don’t come to a tech website to read about gun violence. I’m not saying responsible discussion should not take place, but their is a time and a place. I’ve not learned the murderers name and I’ve avoided reading about too much of the details(why do i need to know?). I have taken the time to make a donation to help the victims and should the time come where as a citizen, I need to vote on a gun law or for a politician who will put those laws in place, I will continue to educate myself to the extent that i will make a wise and informed choice.

    I cannot help but feel that the only reason this article was posted (in a website were it is very oddly out of place ) is to help keep TechNewsWorld trending in google searches in a time where far to many people are interested in using the victims of this massacre for political cannon fodder.

  • Wow.. Interesting mix of misinformation:

    "The two that the gun control folks don’t want you to look at are Switzerland and Israel. Both have very high gun densities and low gun crime."

    Yes, lets look at this countries:

    Israel first – everyone is trained, because everyone is presumed to be "in their military". There is no "private" ownership of guns, there is just, "You will serve, unless you can’t for some reason, and therefor we will issue a gun, and make damn sure you a trained not to shoot yourself in the foot with it." Also, unless you missed it, they have a more or less constant war going on, so if someone decides to shoot at someone, or blame someone for their problems, they just need to look across the borders.

    Now, Switzerland – Hmm. Lets see.. Tight, vastly tighter, regulation that the US has ***ever*** had, mandatory training, mandatory registration, you can’t so much as give away, never mind buy, a gun, ever, in any situation, without someone in the government knowing it traded hands, and verifying that the person who its going to has been trained in it, and, oh yeah… there is an increased rise in new laws, which mandate that such guns be stored in armories, for use only at target ranges, or for military use, should a war break out, and ***not*** kept in your own house.

    Finally, your assuming, without good cause that this woman’s guns where locked away, had trigger guards, etc. Most of the states don’t a) require that, or b) have any damn way to enforce it. And, beyond that, it still wouldn’t matter, because even if you had one lying around on every surface, someone that knows where your guns are, could still get to them before you could. So, short of everyone having a conceal carry permit, and wearing one 24-7, then.. well, no, that still doesn’t work, because it assumes you will react faster than they do, since they would have one too, and every single case like this becomes nothing more than a movie western shootout, with the one that draws faster being the winner. But, heh, self defense lawyers would have a lot of simple cases, "They shot first, I was defending myself.", would be true 100% of the time, regardless of who the intended murderer, and victim, was.

    No, the simple truth is, your, "These are the best examples of places with high gun ownership.", examples are **nothing** like the US, in any way shape or form, and what they do, is apposed by the very people holding them up as examples. Worse, all evidence suggests that trying to protect yourself with one, unless you, somehow, can get to it first, and no one else knows where it is, or can guess, isn’t just stupid due to the steps taken to make them safer, it is just plain stupid **period**.

    Seriously.. Do people like the author of this article, or the NRA for that matter, actually think we are all just going to take their word on what is going on, without checking to see if their poster nations for "gun ownership" actually a) do what all the stupid shit we do in the US, with respect to ownership, purchase, trade, and what we often laughably call "training", or b) actually allow the same sort of, often unregistered, ownership, at all?

    For that matter, do the people claiming that these are great examples of why nothing is wrong with the insane mess we have in the US bother to look either?

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