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Welcome to our long-delayed newsletter. It's been a busy summer. I had an article all ready to roll out for this issue, but recent events have persuaded me to insert my opinion on a relatively controversial topic. I have been waiting for the right moment over the years to address this issue, and I was cautioned even now that this "may not be the right time." But then I thought about the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he, from his jail cell, addressed concerns that it was not the right time to address the civil rights issue: "If not now, when?"
 
Marc McElhaney, Ph.D.
Critical Response Associates


"If Not Now, When?"


In the area of public safety, the guiding principle is that we cannot always prevent adverse human behaviors from occurring, but we can manage the consequences of it. In other words, we cannot always prevent people from becoming angry, delusional, evil, etc., but we can manage the consequences when that happens. This principle is widely practiced within a variety of safety-related issues - but with the unique exception of gun violence in America.
 
Over all of the years in which I have been involved in this line of work, I have purposely avoided this topic in newsletters and in most of my presentations. This is primarily because even bringing up the subject of gun control on American soil is often met with a degree of emotional reactivity and long-hardened positions, the result being not much different than if I had challenged someone's religion. And these discussions rarely end with a reasonable exchange of ideas.
 
When I travel to other free and civilized countries, virtually everyone is horrified and expresses utter disbelief when confronted with the unique American notion that more guns in more places somehow equals more safety. Some countries are beginning to issue advisories to their citizens who travel to the U.S. Our murder rate is 25 times higher than similar developed countries, and FBI stats show that "active shooter" incidents have been steadily rising. The only real consistent difference is gun ownership. With 5% of the world's population, we own 50% of the guns that are in private hands.
 
I am not from an anti-gun background; many days of my childhood were spent wandering the Alabama woods near my grandfather's farm with a rifle or shotgun on my shoulder. My grandfather, a very important person in my life, had an extensive gun collection. And I have been around long enough to have heard all of the arguments and slogans ("only outlaws will have guns..", etc.); I know them all by heart. I have good friends who have never shot a person in their life, but somehow believe that they will be uniquely successful in selectively picking off the "bad guys" in a firefight in a crowded theater - as part of some kind of a romantic (and grandiose) Wild West notion straight out of a John Wayne movie.
 
Financially of course, guns are good business for CRA. Much of the work that we do is driven by our clients' simple (and realistic) fear that they may be imminently at risk of being shot. We would not be able to do the amount of work that we do and at this frequency in most other countries in the world - countries that otherwise have the same freedoms that we do.  There are many models and examples worldwide on how to significantly reduce this kind of violence. While it would be naïve to think that there is just one cause behind a complex social issue such as this, no solution to gun violence in America will work if we take gun control off the table.
 
Most professionals like myself believe that mass shootings, such as what just occurred in Las Vegas, will continue to rise, and probably with an increase in the number of casualties per incident. Packing a gun - or strapping one onto our children as we send them off to school or a concert - will certainly fulfill a romanticized American notion of self-defense, but until we all deal with this elephant in the room, it will not work.
 

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