By Rebecca Bond
When an incident like the shooting of a mother by her 2-year-old child in an Idaho Walmart occurs, it’s amazing how quickly the conversation shifts from safety to politics. Politics triggers pre-programmed emotions. It generates conversation and, let’s face it, amps the theater of media and 140-character tweets. But when politics distracts us from focusing on concrete issues that can potentially save lives – by preventing unsafe behaviors in the future – it hurts us all. Why did the unfortunate mother carry her firearm off-body? We know that she was using a zippered pouch, but does anyone seriously believe that was a wise choice with a nimble and curious toddler? Safety isn’t just about prescribed rules, it’s also taking time to consider situational context . . .
When these incidents happen, shock and blame seem to trump more pragmatic dialogue. Or as Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet said: Just the facts, ma’am. Shouldn’t we dig deep enough to find the remedy as well as the cause of the tragedy? The ‘anti-gun’ side trumpets the tragedy, but the gun owner’s side disregard much of what they say because of their own political orientation. The gun side often behaves as if making too much of these incidents creates political risk and harm, and so takes a dissonant stance in response to an avoidable tragedy. Gun owner’s shy away from the political outrage of the ‘gun control’ people. This is a big problem. Take politics and culture out of the issues of responsibility and safety that should inform intelligent conversation and messaging. The leaders of the gun community and control advocates can both own this. They both can exhibit the level of leadership common in other segments of society in order for progress to be made.
However, if that leadership is not on the immediate horizon, gun owners are the ones that can actually take immediate concrete steps to reduce avoidable tragedies. They should not shy away from embracing a safety code that respects the rights of their neighbors and protects innocent lives. The airline industry, and even individual pilots are fine describing a crash as ‘pilot error’, and more importantly, using the ‘learning’ to avoid future disasters. We find no issue in placing responsibility for the majority of fatal auto crashes on the driver. It is usually NOT the machine, but the operator of the machine who is at fault. As they say in the military, there is no such thing as ‘accidental discharge.’
If we continue to make safety a political ‘third rail’ – or the province of Twitter and media – we have less chance to gain the focus needed to create behavioral changes, and these incidents will continue to happen over and over again. No one in the gun industry we have spoken to says they are not committed to making safety paramount. Everyone acknowledges the many opportunities for human error (whether through lax safety choices or just being uniformed). Many want to do more to promote safety.
But the lack of support for coming up with more innovative ways to promote smart safety campaigns is glaring. No one wants to read another article about an avoidable shooting. Taking this on is something that is aspirational and heroic. An industry that has been referred to as a ‘cottage industry’, but now generates national conversations every day, should at least consider other ways to promote non-political safety messages that talk to new and unschooled consumers of firearms. Along with reminding those who have grown up around guns. No one gets hurt with an extra reminder or two about safety. No one.
Our organization has launched two national safety PSAs. The most recent, ‘Playthings‘, has been viewed by almost 7 million people; the most viewed gun safety spot in history. The Blaze’s Dana Loesch, was one of the first to say she liked the campaign and the use of humor to promote safety. Getting more people and industry folks behind campaigns like ours – by trying new approaches – will save lives and amplify a non-political message we can all agree on. Thank you.
Rebecca Bond is the founder of Evolve.