By Shoham Adizes

Guns – Sorting through the B.S.

In the wake of the Parkland School massacre in Florida, the United States’ inability to address this recurring issue is being called into question. Student survivors are calling out this inability as “B.S.” (Bull Shit) Let’s see if we can sort through the B.S. to gain some level of clarity over the situation.

The first step in dealing with any conflict is defining what it is we are talking about.

For example, what is an arm? What do we mean when we say arms?  Are we talking about muskets? handguns? shot guns? automatic rifles? heavy artillery? nuclear weapons? What did the authors of the second amendment mean by arms? What do we mean when we say arms?

Also in need of defining is the “where.”  Where are we guaranteed to carry arms?  Can we only carry them while part of a militia? While hunting in the outdoors? Or can we carry them everywhere we go? What did the authors of the second amendment have in mind?  How do we understand it?

Additionally we need to define “gun control.” What is “gun control?”  Is it taking away all guns from all people or just some guns from some people?

Different people have different definitions so when there is a conflict the first step is to define the terms so we are clear on what we are talking about.

The second step is looking at the conflict from the perspective of perceptions. This is the conflict that exists between what we WANT to be, what SHOULD be and what IS. We call this the conflict of “Perceptions of Reality.”

For example, in a perfect (“WANT”) world, only responsible, sane people would own guns;

and one would (“SHOULD”) only use a gun for self-defense;

but in reality (“IS”) not everyone is a responsible gun owner — innocents are killed.

Another example of an IS, WANT, SHOULD conflict:

Some argue that we “WANT” armed citizens everywhere because those armed citizens “SHOULD” neutralize any threats;

But in reality (“IS’)  those who are armed and trained may not actually engage that threat as was the case of Deputy Scott Peterson1 in the recent Florida Parkland School massacre.

It’s important to understand that what we “WANT”, what “SHOULD” be and what “IS” are not always the same.

Step three is evaluating the conflict from a Roles of Management2  or what is “best for society,” perspective.  This is the conflict that exists between short and long term goals and efficiency and effectiveness goals.

An example of a conflict originating from the Roles of Management is the freedom argument.  The freedom argument proposes that allowing the populace to be  heavily armed almost guarantees that no foreign power, or even evil domestic power subjugates the American people.  Individual Americans are willing, able and often eager to fight for their freedom. Remaining armed is what allows that to happen.  While this is true, it is also true that an armed populace undermines the very fabric of our nation which are the bonds between us.  This is the old conflict from the French revolution between liberté and fraternité, (liberty and fraternity.)  What guarantees our freedom divides us.

Would the police wrongfully kill so many people if they had not feared they were armed?

Case in points like the February 12, 2018 shooting of Scott Beary3 of Missouri, who was killed in a bar over an argument on the weight of a dog abound.

Clearly while having an armed populace helps guarantee individual freedom it also destroys the bonds between us.

Another example of this type of conflict has to do with the role of guns in stopping crime.  In Mexico, where they have strict gun control, criminals, who illegally carry weapons, can assume victims will be unarmed.  This emboldens them.  While in the US, criminals must think twice about mugging an old lady on the street.  She may be armed.

Case in point was a Feb 1, 2016 incident where a 5’1”, 71 year old lady, Janet Willis4 of Buckhead Georgia, stopped an armed robbery using her handgun.

In the U.S., on the other hand, with nearly everyone armed, we have entered into a “keeping up with the Joneses” style arms race, where many feel that they need an AR-15 and a bump stock to feel safe. With the proliferation of ever higher powered arms additional innocent victims are killed when those weapons are misused.

What is good in the short run, arming old ladies, is bad in the long run, as many seek bigger arms to feel safe.  This creates greater consequences when those arms are misused.

Once definitions, perceptions of reality and roles of management conflicts have been clarified we can finally look at interests.  Clearly there are many powerful interests mixed into this conflict.

What we find is people, and especially politicians, hide their self-interests by using ambiguous definitions and by altering the perception of reality to serve their needs. This creates a cloud of B.S. big enough to stop any meaningful conversation about what is “best for society,“ from taking place. This B.S. cloud is manufactured to force a black and white argument between the “for guns” or “against guns” or “for the second amendment” or “against the second amendment” sides. This black and white approach, hides the true solution, because that solution is not black and white and it can not be drawn with such a broad paintbrush of “for” or “against.”  Rather, the solution will need to be drawn with  the sharp pencil of clearly defined terms and by making a distinction between the different perceptions of reality.

Again, we need to analyze what is “best”  for society with a sharp pencil because there is no “best” solution.  What is good for the short term is not necessarily good for the long term.  What is good for liberté is not necessarily good for fraternité, and vise versa.  Getting rid of all guns is not the answer, neither is allowing everyone and anyone to buy guns. Good governance is finding a balance between opposing forces.  It is not about finding the “best”, it is about finding the “better.” And what is “better” today will change tomorrow as the environment changes.  Additionally, what the right balance is in the highly populated areas of New York and Chicago will be different from what the right balance is in rural Texas.

By framing this argument as black and white, we present it as requiring a one-size-fits-all solution.  It divides us between “for guns” and “against guns” sides and stops any real meaningful discussion from taking place.

Organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA), are the main propagators of the B.S. cloud.  Their singular stance could be paraphrased as “just say no to gun control” and “protect the second amendment.”   They do not define “guns” or “control.”  They do not define the second amendment, which was written in 1791 and whose 27 words5 can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

They alternate their arguments between different Perceptions of Reality to further confuse the situation.  

But this is not a black and white argument.  For example I can be both for guns and for gun control at the same time.  I can be for the second amendment and against allowing emotionally unstable children to buy assault rifles.  I am sure many others, including NRA members, feel the same way.  I believe an open and transparent conversation, if one were allowed to take place, would show that the “for gun” and “against gun” people have a lot of common ground.

What is broken here is our leadership process.  The leadership process defines how we go about identifying and addressing our problems and opportunities.  A good process assures that conflict is dissected in the correct sequence so that any B.S. clouds can be cleared. By doing this, arguments and as a result self interests become transparent. This allow for a common sense solution to emerge. Our leadership process was defined over 229 years ago when the United States was a totally different place.  Our country has moved on but our leadership process has become terribly outdated.  But that will be the subject of a different insight.

Keep thinking

Citations:: (1) Scott Peterson (2) Adizes Roles of Management (3) Scott Beary (4) Janet Willis  (5) 27 Words