Reader Hineni writes:
The idea of an independent gun safety institution is very appealing to me. As a Naval aviator, I’ve gained a strong appreciation for what a safety program can do in a professional context. It’s a fair point that the fatal mishap rate is very, very small, but it’s not zero. Every single accidental death is another opportunity for Watts and Bloomberg to cluck their tongues and call for gun restrictions, government-mandated training, and safe storage laws. Focusing a lot of money and effort on an admittedly small problem is good because we can do more to save lives while gaining good PR for the gun community.
However, Evolve’s concept misses on a few points. As soon as you go outside the scope of gun safety and INTO reduction of gun violence, you are officially political. By trying to directly engage both gun owners and non-gun owners, they aren’t really putting out anything useful to us gunnies. We’ve already got groups that do a great job with initial training, such as the NRA. A safety center’s unique contribution could be education about mishap models, such as the Swiss Cheese model, and operational risk management. These are simple tools that Naval Aviation has used to great success in reduction of mishap rates and as a basis of, not a hindrance to, operational excellence. In other words, it’s not about being a nanny, it’s about helping you manage something dangerous in the smartest way possible.
Instead, Evolve relies on shaming tactics. There are two problems with shaming. It discourages gun owners from talking about their mistakes and/or asking good questions. Sharing the things that nearly killed us with our fellow aviators is a great learning tool. We do this both formally and informally. If an event was serious, the squadron’s safety officer will write a report in which all names are removed that goes out to other squadrons. We’ll also take time to sit around and do “true confessions” with our fellow pilots about mistakes we’ve made.
These actions are a bulwark against complacency because they force each individual to think about their own habit patterns. When an actual mishap occurs, the Navy runs an investigation to find blame and a separate, independent investigation strictly for safety lessons learned. Gun owners might not share when there are legal consequences to what they did, but shaming guarantees they’ll keep it to themselves. We all miss out on a chance to learn from other’s mistakes.
The other problem with shaming tactics is the PR effect on non-gun owners. If we air our dirty laundry, calling people out makes us sound mean and callous. Non-gun owners may agree with our assessment, but come to the conclusion that they’re looking at more evidence for the need to ban guns. A more professional approach, trying to analyze what went wrong, and a conclusive lessons learned with actionable items others can take away from the event, provides a thoughtful and educated counterpoint to an act of “dumbassery” instead of a dog pile on top of it. If a homegrown safety institution gained a strong enough reputation, it might even become a strong counterpoint to arguments demanding government-mandated training for gun ownership.
Shaming tactics, lack of actual educational content, engaging in a political debate by including gun violence reduction in their mandate, directly engaging gun owners, and mischaracterizing the actual statistics regarding gun violence on their website really kill Evolve’s credibility. We can do better for an independent gun safety institution. The models already exist within the Armed Forces.