Opinion | When It Comes to Discussing Gun Violence, Can We Stop Deflecting?

By: | December 11, 2019

Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

I wrote a column in the September 2019 edition of Risk & Insurance® magazine titled “Smoking Out the Guns.” In the column, I shared ideas on how we can try to discourage the purchase of more guns and the continued financing of the ever-growing toll of gun violence.

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Before I wrote the piece, I reminded myself that this magazine is designed for risk and insurance professionals. Surely, this would be a perfect platform to encourage a dialogue on the risks of gun violence in America.

I thought, as a risk management community, we could have an impartial, dispassionate and unbiased discourse around this risk and share ideas around what we can do about it. Is this not what we do everyday anyway? Risk management?

I was warned. If I write about guns, I will get many letters from readers. Slightly skeptical, naive maybe, I wrote the column anyway.

Those who warned me were right. I got a lot of letters. I read each one. I thank you all for sending them. Let the dialogue begin.

I was admittedly surprised at the polarized opinions. Interestingly, most reader comments came from gun owners. Half praised me for writing the column, and the other half emphasized my “ignorance” around guns and gun control.

What I found most curious however was the “Whataboutery” laced throughout many of the letters.

For example, I wrote: “Guns will likely kill 30 children in schools this year.” This is a statement about a specific risk.

Here are some of the responses: “What about child deaths due to drownings in swimming pools, or the overconsumption of sugar, or stabbings from shards made from chicken bones and candy canes, or abortions? They will kill a far greater number of children every year.”

Not that I checked, but all those claims may very well be true. But plainly put: So what?

Introducing unrelated statistics only shifts the focus off the real issue being discussed. It only can serve to redirect attention versus directly addressing the issue.

Whatabouttism is not, in any shape or form, an effective risk management tool. At best, it is a diversionary tactic. A red herring. Please let us stop deflecting.

One reader suggested we perform a Root Cause Analysis in an effort to determine the actual cause of gun deaths and all the contributory factors that led up to it.  I wholeheartedly agree. Let us do that.

But nowhere in such an analysis should we allow the throwing in of irrelevant statistics intended to make us stray away from the original objective of the analysis. Agreed?

Irrespective of the risk being examined, the risk assessment process does not change.

With every risk assessment, we first ask: What do we want to protect? Earnings goals? Public health goals? Gun death reduction?

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Then we ask… what situations, things or events could potentially thwart or threaten those goals we want to achieve? Here, we try to be as comprehensive and relevant as possible, identifying those things that could threaten us.

To the best of our ability, we should look to root causes as  we can perceive and understand them. The better we understand the root causes and drivers, the better we can design a solution for that risk.

Let us stop distracting ourselves and not only focus on who causes gun violence, but instead we should also ask what causes it. All public health goals involve creating a world where it’s hard for humans to make mistakes, and if they do, nobody should die. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]