By Dave Crisp
It seems incomprehensible to many Canadians that the United States won’t regulate guns much more strictly after the horrible cases of 2012. As a sometime visitor to the U.S., this engages more of my attention than it used to when it was just "somebody else’s problem."
But we have to recognize the flow of guns across the border increasingly exposes us much more directly to "second-hand gunfire" than it used to, and this isn’t the only way to look at the second-hand issue.
You don’t have to look far in Canada for gun freedom lobbyists and politicians who mimic the U.S. I get so sick of hearing "guns don’t kill people" that I almost tune out until something that can’t be ignored occurs. Guns certainly make spur of the moment insanity a whole lot more deadly.
I really liked the arguments in this article by Pulitzer Prize commentator Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times. As he points out, we have pages of health and safety requirements regulating ladders — which involve death rarely — while saying nothing to regulate guns, which kill every day.
Even more requirements regulate auto ownership and use, a sometimes deadly tool that almost everyone needs to use to make a living — unlike any need for guns. Might I be so bold as to point out that ladders and automobiles don’t kill people... and, by the way, we don’t actually regulate them. But we regulate what people do with them, just as would be the case with guns. The process for approved use of automotive vehicles is complicated and lengthy as befits any implement which can so easily kill. So why is regulating ownership and use of firearms so objectionable. Yes, people use them for hunting, just as farmers have always had a slightly different view of driving vehicles in the country. But when guns enter urban environments to a far greater extent, it makes sense that we might have more rules.
If we don’t think there’s an organization strategy at stake, just recall the lobbies in the U.S. to allow guns to be kept in trunks of cars in organizations’ parking lots and the astronomical rise in carry permits. I dealt with one such situation in Toronto when staff reported a fellow worker making a threat to get his gun and then leaving the premises. We called the police and, sure enough, they found a shotgun in the trunk of his car a few minutes later. At least they responded quickly enough to forestall a possible incident. I have to wonder how fast they’d have been able to turn up if these calls were common every day.
Even a relative once related feeling badly for saying to a bank call center worker on the phone in frustration, “I could shoot you.” Odd how someone who never owned a gun nevertheless made such a comment. Another once wrote to a weapons manufacturer accused of aiding seal hunters: “Your weapons should be used on you.”
Although both were women, this one turned ugly with police involvement, but better safe than sorry.
For some reason, we humans tend to leap to extreme solutions in our heads much more often than we would ever carry them out, but easy access, familiarity, practice with weapons and a touch of mental illness clearly stimulates actual use of firearms quite readily.
Hardly a week goes by without a report from the U.S. of multiple shooting at workplaces — hence the term "going postal." Clearly there are instances here and in many other countries, but there are many more in the U.S. due entirely to the easy availability of guns. The other old saw about "if owning guns were criminal, only criminals would have guns" is dopey. Lots of people legally own and operate both guns and cars, but some still operate them illegally and hopefully the laws help limit that even though it cannot eradicate it entirely.
In the U.S., many now feel the answer is to allow everyone to keep arms handy to retaliate. One city even looked at an ordinance requiring every adult to be armed. But incidents of anyone successfully preventing violence or stifling it this way are virtually non-existent. They are "man bites dog" stories. Yet, the National Rifle Association (NRA), which was slow off the mark after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton, Conn., first promised serious suggestions to reduce the problems, but now says the answer is to put armed guards in schools, claiming "the only solution to bad guys with guns is good guys with guns." No fear for bystanders?
So what’s driving all this? It’s like guns have become the last bastion of "you can’t tell me what to do" or, in common juvenile vernacular, "you’re not the boss of me."
It is driven, especially in the U.S., by a well-organized gun lobby. I also get tired of hearing about the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Those mentioning the right to bear arms today fail to mention the preceding text: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state," which for 100 years or more saw the Supreme Court limiting the "right" to state militias... until the NRA got into the game.
Doesn’t this sound like the second-hand smoke story? First a few articles that smoking causes cancer, then a concerted lobby group driving steadily for labels, warnings and increasingly interventionist bans in all sorts of locations over many years. Now a service truck driver can be fined for smoking in his workplace — the truck — where the likelihood of second-hand smoke affecting anyone else is laughably remote.
The good news is if a lobby can work against restrictions, it can also work toward them as the anti-smoking lobby proved — even to the point of being ridiculous in either direction. At some point, we have to hope a counter-lobby grows in the U.S. and the ridiculousness of the pro-gun lobby doesn’t spill over even more here, but watch out.
Because as strong as the reaction has been to the horrors of the last few months, so much stronger is and will be the reaction of pro-gun lobbyists and that can very definitely, and almost certainly already has, spilled over here to the potential long-term harm to all of us in cost, danger and threat to proper management. As it was, I would routinely think about whether an employee to be fired was mentally unstable or inclined to retaliate, but at least I knew the likelihood they would return with a gun was remote.
If we thought it was wise to lobby against second-hand smoke, how much more is it to lobby against second-hand gunfire? Need we point out that the vast majority of victims of mass shootings are second-hand victims who had nothing whatsoever to do with the score the gunmen were attempting to settle? If we evolved to restrict one, why not the other? Do you have an opinion on one, but not the other? When will we act on those opinions?
Dave Crisp is a Toronto-based writer and thought leader for Strategic Capability Network with a wealth of experience, including 14 years leading HR at Hudson Bay Co. where he took the 70,000-employee retailer to “best company to work for” status. For more information, visit www.balance-and-results.com.