Let's not get waylaid by emotion over facts

Kamloops Daily News
February 18, 2013 01:00 AM

Several days ago a Kamloops Daily News reader opined that 158 deaths in Canada (by guns) was 158 too many. I agree. But the writer's inference thatby making guns illegalwe would reduce that number is sophomoric. Itmisses entirely thebasis for resolving all issues, which are firstly,"define the problem." If you don't take this initial step you will almost certainly wind up with meaningless conclusions.

For example, teenagers in Seattle are four times more likely to commit suicide with handguns than those living in Vancouver, a city with similar demographics,which since 1935 has had much stricter controls on handguns.

Superficial thinkers would immediately posit that Seattle could reduce teen suicides byemulating Vancouver's restrictions on guns, butin so doing they would have completely missed the point and solved nothing! Rational thinkers would dig further and discover that teen suicides per 100,000 in the two cities are virtually identical, and that in fact, more often than not Vancouver's rate has been the higher of the two.

Superficial thinkers would then jump to the conclusionthat it is in fact Vancouver, and not Seattle,that should legislate new laws, including:

* ban the sale of rope to teenagers,

* forbid the use of natural gas in residences withteenagers,

* forbid teens to use the walkways on city bridges,

* forbid the parents of teens to use prescription drugs,

* forbid the installation of bathtubs andcutting utensils sharper thanbutterknives inhomes with teens, etc.

Rational thinkers would diligentlyreview these dataand likelyidentifythe needto redefine the problem as being: 'Why do teens commit suicide and what can we do to prevent it?'

In point of factteachers have already takenthe lead here,emphasizing for example that the mere mention of suicide is a red flag - many teens expresstheir blackest thoughts by understatement. Andyes,from a teen's perspective,a boil on the tip of his or hernose on grad night is probablyvery daunting, absent the counselling of a caring adult.

As I recall the writer did acknowledge that morepeople are killed or maimed byknives than are killed by guns, but attributed this to the fact thatknives are more prevalent - does it really matter? Hijacked airplanes, suicide bombs, alcohol, road rage, and arson, (in addition to knives and guns),have all been used bysick individuals forwhom murder is seenas being an option.

Also, likeguns, all of the above havecaused accidental deaths. But banning gasoline, aircraft, dynamite, and suchisn't the answer.

The real problem is more likely, "How do we stop terrorism, domestic violence, drug wars, bar fights, turfwars,mercilessdictatorships,booze, drugs, and plain old stupidity?"

These issues beg the disciplined four-step process of:

1) define the problem

2) consider and document all of the alternatives

3) consider and document the likely consequences of every alternative

4) select and implement the most progressive and/or least harmful approach

It won't be easy, and most of us won't live to see the day it comes about, but we can and should get serious, (and not emotional), about resolving these issues. It's time to start!

And let's not get waylaid by emotion over facts.For example it is a fact thatNew York City epitomizes the fruitlessness of gun control - a 14 year-old kid in the Bronx canbuild a .22 calibre gun with a ball point pen,a rubber band and two inches of heavy gauge wire.The price goes up if you want the real thing, but the black market doesn't do background checks, give receipts,pay taxes or id suppliers. And from the kid in the Bronx or Harlem to the five families of Mafiosi, New Yorkers do not lack firearms - unless of course one includes honest and rational law-abiding citizens.



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