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Monday, April 16, 2007

Well at least guns don't kill people

Tech1_4Horrific and senseless are about all I can come up with for the massacre at Virginia Tech. There aren't enough prayers but let's keep saying them. Unconscionable seems to fit the bill, too. Now obviously we've learned that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." But as soon as I found out about this tragedy I wondered what, if anything, the NRA had to say. Here's their response:

"The National Rifle Association joins the entire country in expressing our deepest condolences to the families of Virginia Tech University and everyone else affected by this horrible tragedy.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

We will not have further comment until all the facts are known."

Andrew Arulanandam
Director of Public Affairs
National Rifle Association

Here's a question, marketers:  Can the NRA, should the NRA, say something once "all the facts are known"? Notice the careful wording, kids...because the "facts" won't be known for at least a year, maybe six months.

Politics and personal leanings aside, I'm (really) asking from a business standpoint: Should they be saying or publicly doing anything? What would you advise the NRA if this were your client or employer? I can only imagine the 'round the clock meetings brimming with lobbyists and consultants they're holding to prepare for damage control.

I understand we're to be objective when it comes to business. That was very clearly communicated to me in all my business school classes. But I'm just not sure how we can be objective when the business or organization itself supports the very weapons that those people--the ones who kill other people--use against one another.

Sorry to be a bit frank but I'm still confounded that many think we need to spend less time on gun control than, say, regulating adult porn. I guess there are things I'll just never understand. Fortunately I'll never work for such organizations so I'll never have to face such decisions...or have to give them marketing advice. Yeah, in addition to many prayers, my support will be to identify a good organization or effort promoting change. One that works to make it A LOT harder to get guns (or at least bullets).

P.S.: Btw, was it a group like the NRA that came up with the famed "people kill people" saying? If so that was a darn good messaging strategy. Sigh.


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You ask "from a business standpoint: Should they be saying or publicly doing anything? What would you advise the NRA if this were your client or employer?"

I would not be advising the NRA as a client or as an employer, because I would never NEVER do anything to support their cause. I don't care how much they might dangle in front of my nose, I wouldn't give them any of my time or intelligence.

That's integrity. Money can buy me, but not for everything. No guns, no tobacco. Not me.

I am not and cannot be objective as a businessperson when it comes to guns.

"Guns DO kill people by enabling people to kill people."


DR: I can't either. I'm just not "that" person. Might never get rich but rich in the right ways. I wonder if a group of us don't offer to help the organization pushing better control. That's one way we could really help, ya know? They’re going to need strategy and PR programs. I would feel we could at least make a little difference then. Besides donating to a victims' fund...maybe we could really help?

From the Houston Chronicle

A White House spokesman said President Bush was horrified by the rampage and offered his prayers to the victims and the people of Virginia. "The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," spokeswoman Dana Perino said

Hey Rick: Thanks for reading and pointing me to this link (and excerpting the messaging). I should have included that quote earlier. I also need to contact a few lobbyist colleagues.

Maybe they'll follow their Columbine strategy and throw a gun rally there 10 days later...


Paul: Actually, you've got a good point. Interesting how Marilyn Manson took the blame for that one. Great diversion strategy on their part.

The flipside is, 'If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns'.

Mack: If you outlaw (or at the very least better control 'em) then the ones on the black market go for a mighty pretty penny...most kids can't afford those rates. Right now it's been verified the type of gun that was used and the price. Couple hundred bucks (bullets extra).

So they can just steal them then, or use something besides a gun. The sad fact of life is that if people want to do bad things to other people, they will find a way to do so. Outlawing guns won't eliminate shooting incidents such as today.

Point taken Mack and it won't eliminate per se...but IMO, we owe it to people to make it as tough as possible to access them.

We had a horrific incident here some years ago. While it is clear that people are the problem, so too is easy access to firearms.

We took national action on this and initiated a federal gun buyback scheme. Thousands and thousands of guns were removed from the community. You can, under license, still own a firearm. But certainly not military style assault weapons.

Has it stopped killings? Perhaps not ... but it HAS stopped massacres. It is a shame that the lessons of Columbine continue to go unanswered.

I am a total americanophile and having lived in your country on a number of occassions in many locations, I do not believe that there are per capita more "bad" people there than in other countries. But strangely there appear to be more people doing bad things to others in a country where gun ownership is prevalent. Coincidence?

I knew this subject would come up. It always does.

The NRA didn't kill anyone, so they aren't obligated to say anything about what every sociopath on this planet does with a gun, just as the clouds don't have to answer to anyone for producing rain, which gives us the water that about 3,000 people in the U.S. drown in every year. Notably, they normally don't blame the pool man.

The reason they did at all is because they're a big and visible advocate for the right to bear arms, guaranteed in the second amendment as a safeguard against tyranny, and they knew people would come and try to blame the availability of guns on those who would advocate the protection of that necessary right.

If they said anything else, or had they said nothing at all, their opponents would have painted them as insensitive to the plight of the victims, just as they did after Columbine, when they had their significantly-scaled-back BUT REQUIRED-BY-CHARTER meeting.

It always works to some degree... largely because we're a world of dupes... easily persuaded by our flighty whims and fearful hearts without the burden of the context surrounding the existence and maintenance of liberty. I think it's pretty clear that most of the history of mankind backs me up on that one.

So this statement doesn't surprise me. It's as predictable as an atomic clock after something like this. Shooting occurs, someone blames the NRA, the NRA expresses sympathy for the victims, and life for the rest of us goes on.

What happened yesterday wasn't a just a gun control problem. It was a self-control problem on the part of the assailant.

"[L]iberty requires for its continuance the voluntary restraint of our sinful natures..[T]his Constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." - John Adams

The rest of the facts the NRA - and the rest of us - are waiting on probably probably involves confirmation of the shooter's identity and his place of residence (which is purportedly on-campus where guns are strictly forbidden by law). Since law-abiding citizens had no guns, they had no means to protect themselves.

Of course, were guns simply allowed, there would probably be many more thefts of those guns, which causes other problems.

There are no easy answers, just an age-old admonition that "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

He has a horrific incident occur here last September, when a gunman went a shooting spree at one of our colleges. One person died, twenty others were wounded.

Police reaction was fast, they shot the guy and he turned the gun on himself after he was wounded. The incident in Virginia yesterday reopened a lot of fresh wounds here in our community.

And I'm with Mack here on this one. You can start campaigns, organize protests and do all the right things. We can even call them "all the necessary things". But, the sad truth is, all it takes is one person, a little perseverance and a sick mind to pull off something like this.

We'll never know when or where, but something like this will happen again. It's already happened twice in in what is otherwise a beautiful, diverse city.


I'm with Mack on this. People intent on harming others will use whatever means available.

Hi Guys: Sorry I'm late to responding but I've had the joy of 7,000 e-mails due to some spammers spoofing my email address this morning. Indeed spammers never take a day off. Ugh.

I think guns should be much harder to access than they presently are (both through legal means and, in an ideal world, through the black market). I agree that bad people will find a way but it was interesting to see Gavin's comment (and his country's experience) as well as the information on CNN last night regarding England's experience with stricter gun control (stabbings went up to people's point of "bad people doing bad things" but massacres went down--there's no question that guns can kill a lot of people in record time).

Cam (thanks so much as always), I know the NRA is not to "blame"...but I believe we owe it to our citizens to make it as tough as possible to access guns. I find orgs such as the NRA work against that. Per your comment of "this argument always comes up"--perhaps there is a reason this argument continues on. I don't always think this argument is to lay blame but to improve a faulty system.

John: Thanks for reading and commenting. I do not find this to be a coincidence and I appreciate your raising it!

Mark: My heart goes out to your city, too as this must re-open the hurt. People will do bad things, yes. But (and I'm repeating myself) we can make it a lot tougher for them to get automatic weapons.

Mario: Yep, people will use whatever means "available"...I'd like to see guns (seems these are the weapons of mass destruction after all) made far less available.

CK - To borrow terms from Chip and Dan Heath, the reason the issue keeps coming up is because the amount of time that has passed between now and the last time this nation was subjected to true tyranny, and the ease by which those who live here have come by their liberty, pales in comparison to the concreteness of an event like this. By contrast, a history lesson is abstract, dull, and forgettable.

In other words, it does not come up because it it is correct to make guns harder to buy, but because we've become complacent in our security and access afforded by our system of government. Consequently, a large number of people are willing to discard the rights their forefathers fought so hard to secure.

I'm not so willing. An armed populace is necessary to the preservation of freedom. There has been no government in the history of mankind that would lead me to believe the institution trustworthy enough to hold all the reins of power for itself.

I believe it was Stalin who was (apocryphally?) credited with stating that "One dead person is a tragedy. 100,000 dead people is a statistic."

Whether or not he said it, he would certainly know.

Cam - excepting 9-11 for the purpose of this discussion, could you explain when you consider your country was last subjected to true tyranny?

As for statistics, 30,000 dead people annually as a result of gunshot is shocking to non-americans (and in case you didn't see my previous comment I'm a total americophile).

John - Second question first... The 30,000 number doesn't shock me. I am completely aware of the statistics. Would it shock you to know the number of crimes prevented when a firearm was brandished (no shots fired, necessarily) exceeds that number? They are powerful equalizers.

Also, the number of people who die as a direct result of medical malpractice far exceeds 30,000 (Undoubtedly the people who cite such statistics use loose definitions for "malpractice" and "cause", but the number is still pretty high to discount entirely). Yet no one is suggesting we ban hospitals or doctors.

The tyranny definition is tricky. Even the founders considered what they had to deal with "absolute despotism," yet their taxes and forced subjugation were far less severe than ours. Were they to only see the amount we pay in taxes, the manner in which we're forced to pay them, and the way we are subjected to the whims of an unelected oligarchy, they would likely not be pleased with the results of their experiment... but upon examining other nations' governments, they'd could possibly recognize that we've still got some good things going for us, based on the foundation they laid for us.

I'd be glad to take the discussion to email if you'd like, but there's no clear definition that is going to be acceptable to everyone. Let it suffice to say that it's too long a conversation to complete in the comments section of a marketing blog.


Happy to do that - CK has my email. But the point is not how many homicides might have been prevented, the comparison has to be between countries with guns and those without - currently in the UK a country of 60 million (far more densely populated than the US and thus arguably prone to irritations) people are anxious about spates of illegal guncrime here - but the annual total homicide rate will be less than 700.

John - Yet the crime rate is still off the charts, correct?

from a european perspective, the simple idea to buy a gun in a shop with your driving licence is pure madness.
as a renowned italian journalist said yesterday: if you get mad and own a gun you make a massacre; if you own a knife you may kill one or two.
i mean bad people is all around the world, there is a way to get a machine gun or whatever if you want almost everywhere, but having the chance to buy at your grocery may increase the rate of this kind of events.

Officially crime rates are falling (though we can all be sceptical about that) but regardless of that there is no comparison between the throughflow in our respective ERs and morgues.

Thank you everyone...I really appreciate your feedback.

Cam: You always give me such thoughtful feedback. Many times you change my mind, even ;-).

John: I'm so glad we got to "meet" through this.

G: I hear you. We need to do better. We owe it to our citizens to, at the very least, improve and enforce the process of accessing handguns and the laws behind them. Bad things will happen but let's do our part to make them less bad. If that makes sense.

Coming from a country in which guns are outlawed and government still changes every 4 years, not to say a lot of people speak up for their rights without having to own guns, I am really disappointed in views of some people that posted above.
In our country outlaws still own guns and they use it mostly between themselves, so I'm not too worried by that. Although we have had our share of people getting killed by firearms (most prominent a leader of a starting political party), we never had a massacre. And to be honest, with about 17 million people living on less than 34000 square kilometers of land (which puts us at a 12th place of countries with highest density) that isnt that bad. Especially when you keep in mind that our country has the most liberal approach to drugs anywhere in the western world.
Anyway, if you want to own guns in order to be able to rise up against your government, you expect ever to do that? Currently, I heart, more than 50% of the US population doesnt agree with the government, so well you could rise up now which leads to anarchy of course.
In colombia people can also own guns, well in their case it's more like the only way to stay alive, you want to head that way?
Do you really feel that much safer knowing anyone can walk around carrying a gun??? What's your argument there, if I get killed, at least the gunner gets killed too? Actually I cant see the reason why some terrorist organisation wants to go against you with planes. Just have like 20 people become citizens of the US and let them buy weapons, you can kill plenty with those. Shame only is that they cant be identified as terrorists as it could as easily be actions from US citizens themselves.

I know my language/ arguments are pretty harsh, especially if you are for owning guns, but I really think you should govern the owning of guns. To be frankly honest it seems that the US is so fixated on money and guns... The US does spent more than double the percentage The Netherlands spents on the department of defence (and I think if you ask me... the department is not properly named). The percentage is the percentage of the total countries budget. Not to mention the lobbying done by companies doing business in guns.

Well my view would just be to set up shooting ranges where you can go inside and shoot a few rounds and go out. As long as the gun stays in there (especially automatic guns). That way you can still rise up when needed as guns are still quite easily obtained, you can use them once in a while to keep in practice and no massacres are going to be done by crazy people.

Dont know if anyone ever said it, but one crazy guy is a problem, one crazy guy with a weapon is where accidents happen, but one crazy guy with a gun is where massacres happen. In every country there are crazy people, they just cant get to a gun everywhere.

Lol long post. About the statement of the NRA, yes it is probably best to put focus on the person doing it not on the thing he is doing it with. Especially when you want to stay in business, anything else/more will hurt the companies in the sector.

Just wanted to remind everyone that Gandhi was able to overthrow the tyranny of the British Empire WITHOUT a gun in sight.

Automobiles kill 40,000+ plus people every year. That's 115 people every day. Should the AAA feel compelled to make a statement every time some maniac in a car decides to run some people down?

Yea car accidents is one of the major reasons people die in western society. But well, they are accidents, not many people will step in a car and say: "I'm gonna kill a bunch of people today." And if he did, one car is not easily turned into a mass murder weapon.
The NRA doesnt come with a statement everyday either, while 30000 people means also at least one a day.

Still my excuses for the maybe too harsh words in my earlier post. I do think the US has a problem with guns though, but if the people living in the US dont care, who am I to disagree, just as long as it doesnt become policy in Europe.

Katie: Well said. Very well said. (thank you).

Fritz: A gun has one objective: to destroy. Be it to destroy a deer, a beer can (never got why shooting cans was fun) or a person. Even in a "defensive" situation where one is protecting themselves the intent is still to destroy. The NRA supports that which destroys. As for cars? There are groups and laws for drunk driving and drowsy driving. But a car's intent is to transport. Many are blaming the mental health system's inadequacies for this slaying and I would think the killer's parents. The fact is, we make it all too easy for these nutjobs to vent their frustration with the ramifications of mass murder. Is it on the NRA's hands? Nope. But they're the major group behind less gun control so they were the focus of this post.

Andre: Thanks for your good words. I agree with you and find it particularly helpful hearing from other countries.

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