As designers, we promote design thinking as the most relevant process for solving problems. We’ve worked hard to gain C-Suite support and establish design thinking throughout. It’s taken a long time, but designers are now equated to problem solvers within most companies. If there is a problem, we know how to ask the tough questions that may or may not validate it as a true problem. If the problem is validated, we know how to diverge and converge upon solutions. And if a solution is found, we’re ready to test it and observe the results gathering both quantitative and qualitative data. We’re equipped and ready to tackle any problem… except for politically charged life and death situations.
You’d think if ever there was a problem, the one resulting in possible death would be most deserving of the design thinking process when searching for a solution.
But instead, many designers throw the process out the window and post politically charged tweets about a topic very few know anything about. More gun control! Ban assault rifles! Boycott companies that support the gun laws! And they end up calling for the treatment of symptoms without exploring the root of the problem. This is exactly what we preach against in our daily activity. We’re so quick to ask the question “why” at work, but in real world situations of life and death, we don’t bother and instead jump to a solution that hasn’t been thought through. We end up falling in love with the solution, and not the problem.
So let’s take a look at the problem. Mass shootings are a sad and tragic occurrence. No sane person wants them to happen, ever. From NRA members to political leftists, we’d all agree these shootings are awful. Design thinking would dictate that we need to ask “why” these shootings occur. Why are people choosing to kill others in sporadic fits of rage and violence? Gun or not, these people still feel the way they do and are bent on inflicting large amounts of death. Taking away a gun doesn’t change someone’s heart… or mind.
Defining the problem – Asking why
Because I’m a designer who believes in Design Thinking, I’ll diverge to explore deeper into the problem.
Divergence 1 – Lack of morality
Today we live in a society that has thrown morals out the door because they “hurt people’s feelings.” We’ve removed love in place of vanity. Everything pushes me to think of myself instead of others. When the individual is the most important thing, and that individual experiences hurt in some way, there’s a desire to fix that hurt. And when not in check, fixing it could mean extreme actions that cause others to feel like they do.
Divergence 2 – Lack of IRL relationships
People today form online relationships all the time, but forsake real-life interactions with real-life people. This causes a psychological problem. People lose their value in the eyes of the individual who doesn’t realize the benefits from physical and emotional relationships IRL. People become avatars and user profiles instead of meaningful interactions that can only be acquired through real-life interactions.
Divergence 3 – Excess of psychotropic drugs
There’s plenty of evidence that suggests many of these shooters were experiencing mental issues that resulted in them taking psychotropic drugs. I can’t argue with the research that shows how many have benefited from these drugs, but the research always contains outliers. There are always people that do react differently. We need to accept that maybe this medication isn’t as innocent as Big Pharma might suggest.
Ideate – There’s a problem with today’s solution
Rather than asking the hard questions and diverging into problem explorations, many designers today are stuck on one solution — more gun control and the elimination of assault rifles. Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve any of the deeper problems outlined above. Taking away guns from law-abiding citizens doesn’t remove the guns from criminals who most likely obtain the weapons illegally anyway. It leaves the lawful without guns and gives the advantage to evil-doers.
As with any other problem, let’s examine the data behind some of these tested solutions.
Less guns != less violent crime
Take a look at England and Wales which have much more strict gun laws than the US. In these territories, handguns are prohibited along with semiautomatic rifles. But according to Politifact, their violent crime rate is double that of the US.
|Year||Country||Number of violent crimes|
|2011||USA||383 per 100,000 people|
|2012||England and Wales||775 per 100,000 people|
Did you know that the gun homicide rate in the US has declined faster than Australia’s after Australia took away all citizen-owned firearms? Obviously, fewer guns do not equate to fewer violent crime.
Lately, I’m hearing things like, “Let’s get rid of AR-15s” or “Ban all assault rifles.” But there’s just no evidence this will solve anything. For more understanding around that, let’s take a look at the last 10 years of mass shootings in the US. Over those last 10 years, there have been 51 mass shootings. What type of guns did they use? I’ve accumulated the data from the Washington Post.
|Feb. 7, 2008||Kirkwood, MO||City council shooting||.40 caliber Smith & Wesson pistol
.44 magnum Smith & Wesson model 29 revolver
|Feb. 14, 2008||Dekalb, IL||Northern Illinois University shooting||9mm Kurz Sig Sauer P232 pistol
9mm Glock 19 pistol
12-gauge Remington Sportsman 48 sawed-off shotgun
Hi-Point CF380 pistol
|Mar. 18, 2008||Santa Maria, CA||Black Road Auto shooting||semiautomatic pistol|
|Jun. 25, 2008||Henderson, KY||Atlantis Plastics shooting||.45 caliber Hi-Point pistol|
|Sep. 2, 2008||Alger, WA||Skagit County shooting||lever-action Winchester rifle
|Mar. 29, 2008||Carthage, NC||Pinelake Health and Rehab Center shooting||.357 magnum revolver
Winchester 1300 pump-action shotgun
|Apr. 3, 2009||Binghamton, NY||Immigration Services Center shooting||9mm Beretta pistol
.45 caliber Springfield pistol
|Nov. 5, 2009||Fort Hood, TX||Army Processing Center shooting||FN Five-seven pistol|
|Nov. 29, 2009||Parkland, WA||Pierce County coffee shop shooting||.38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver
9mm Glock 17 pistol
|Apr. 3, 2010||Los Angeles, CA||Hot Spot Cafe shooting||pistol|
|Jun. 6, 2010||Hialeah, FL||Yoyito Cafe-Restaurant shooting||.45 caliber Glock pistol|
|Aug. 3, 2010||Manchester, CT||Hartford Beer Distributors shooting||9mm Ruger SR9 pistol|
|Aug. 14, 2010||Buffalo, NY||City Grill shooting||9mm pistol|
|Jan. 8, 2011||Tucson, AZ||Safeway parking lot shooting||9mm Glock 19 pistol|
|Jul. 23, 2011||Grand Prairie, TX||Forum Roller World shooting||pistol|
|Sep. 6, 2011||Carson City, NV||IHOP shooting||semiautomatic rifle|
|Oct. 12, 2011||Seal Beach, CA||Salon Meritage shooting||.44 magnum Smith & Wesson revolver
.45 caliber Heckler & Koch pistol
9mm Springfield pistol
|Feb. 1, 2012||Norcross, GA||Su Jung Health Sauna shooting||.45 caliber pistol|
|Apr. 2, 2012||Oakland, CA||Oikos University shooting||.45 caliber pistol|
|May. 20, 2012||Seattle, WA||Cafe Racer shooting||.45 caliber pistol|
|Jul. 20, 2012||Aurora, CO||Century 16 movie theater shooting||.40 caliber Glock pistol
12-gauge pump-action Remington 870 shotgun
.223 caliber Smith & Wesson M&P15 semiautomatic rifle
|Aug. 5, 2012||Oak Creek, WI||Sikh temple shooting||9mm Springfield Armory XDM pistol|
|Sep. 27, 2012||Minneapolis, MN||Accent Signage Systems shooting||9mm Glock pistol|
|Dec. 14, 2012||Newtown, CT||Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting||10mm Glock pistol
9mm Sig Sauer P226 pistol
.223 Bushmaster XM15-E2S semiautomatic rifle
|Mar. 13, 2013||Herkimer, NY||Mohawk Valley shooting||pistol|
|Apr. 21, 2013||Federal Way, WA||Pinewood Village Apartments shooting||.40 caliber pistol
pistol grip shotgun
|Jun. 7, 2013||Santa Monica, CA||Santa Monica College shooting||.44 caliber Black Powder pistol
.223 caliber semiautomatic rifle
|Jul. 26, 2013||Hialeah, FL||Todel Apartments shooting||Glock 17 pistol|
|Sep. 16, 2013||Washington DC||Navy Yard shooting||Beretta pistol
Remington 870 Express 12-guage shotgun
|Feb. 20, 2014||Alturas, CA||Cedarville Rancheria Tribal Office shooting||pistol|
|May. 23, 2014||Isla Vista, CA||Santa Barbara County shooting||Sig Sauer P226s pistol
Glock 34 pistol
|Oct. 24, 2014||Marysville, WA||Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting||40 caliber Beretta pistol|
|Jun. 17, 2015||Charleston, SC||Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting||.45 caliber Glock 41 pistol|
|Jul. 16, 2015||Chattanooga, TN||Recruiting and Naval Reserve centers shooting||9mm pistol
|Oct. 1, 2015||Roseburg, OR||Umpqua Community College shooting||pistol
|Nov. 15, 2015||Anderson County, TX||Tennessee Colony Campsite shooting||pistol|
|Dec. 2, 2015||San Bernardino, CA||Inland Regional Center shooting||Smith & Wesson 9mm semiautomatic pistol
Llama 9mm semiautomatic pistol
Smith & Wesson M&P rifle
DPMS semiautomatic rifle
|Feb. 20, 2016||Kalamagoo, MI||Cracker Barrel shooting||Walther P-99 9mm pistol|
|Jun. 12, 2016||Orlando, FL||Pulse Nightclub shooting||9mm Glock 17 pistol
.223 caliber Sig Sauer MCX semiautomatic rifle
|Jul. 7, 2016||Dallas, TX||Police Protest March shooting||semiautomatic rifle|
|Sep. 23, 2016||Burlington, WA||Cascades Mall Macy’s shooting||.22 caliber Ruger rifle|
|Jan. 6, 2017||Fort Lauderdale, FL||Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting||9mm pistol|
|Feb. 6, 2017||Yazoo City, MI||Club 66 shooting||unspecified firearm|
|Mar. 22, 2017||Rothschild, WI||Marathon Savings Bank shooting||handgun
|Jun. 5, 2017||Orlando, FL||Fiamma Office shooting||handgun|
|Jun. 15, 2017||Abiquiu, NM||Taos and Rio Arriba counties shooting||.38 caliber revolver|
|Oct. 1, 2017||Las Vegas, NV||Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting||Daniel Defense M4A1 .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
Colt M4 Carbine .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
POF USA .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
FNH .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
Daniel Defense .308 caliber AR-10
FNH FM15 .308 caliber AR-10
LWRC .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
Smith & Wesson 342 AirLite Ti .38 caliber revolver
Colt Competition .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
Christensen Arms .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
POF USA P-308 AR-10
LWRC M61C .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
Noveske N4 .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
Ruger American .308 caliber bolt-action rifle
Sig Sauer .308 caliber AR-10
LMT Def. 2000 .223 caliber AR-15 with bump fire stock
Ruger .308 caliber AR-10
|Nov. 5, 2017||Sutherland Springs, TX||First Baptist Church shooting||.22 caliber Ruger pistol
9mm Glock pistol
|Nov. 14, 2017||Rancho Tehama, CA||Rancho Tehama Elementary School shooting||handgun
|Jan. 28, 2018||Melcroft, PA||Ed’s Car Wash shooting||9mm handgun
.223 caliber AR-15 semiautomatic rifle
|Feb. 14, 2018||Parkland, FL||Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting||.223 caliber AR-15 semiautomatic rifle|
|Total mass shootings per weapon||Handguns: 47 (92%)||Semiautomatic rifles: 14 (27%)||Shotguns: 5 (9%)|
Obviously, after looking through the data, AR-15s and semiautomatic rifles are rarely used in these shootings, and when they are used they’re mostly used in conjunction with handguns. Only 14 out of the 51 shootings used a semiautomatic rifle. Banning these weapons won’t make much of a difference in the overall picture. These statements about semiautomatic rifles appear to be a rallying cry that’s purely political and not practical. If we want to have real gun reform conversations, then let’s be honest and base our conversations on data, not our feelings.
Do we need more laws? Not necessarily. Many laws already exist. In 1986, all fully automatic guns were outlawed. These were deemed “assault rifles” of that time. But yet now there’s a call to ban more assault weapons because well, they “look” scary. An assault weapon doesn’t mean much except that it looks a certain way. And so now AR-15s are targeted because they have that “assault” look, yet they’re not the most dangerous legal weapons out there. Take a look at the Ruger mini 30 below which is legal and shoots a larger caliber.
Believe it or not, both guns in this picture are the SAME GUN. The bottom would be considered an assault weapon because it looks scarier than the top one. But they’re the same, fire the same, carry the same ammo, etc. The point of this tangent is to show that legislation against weapons because of their “look” is not justified. Again, there are laws in place already and we’ll do so much better as a society if they’re enforced properly.
For example, the recent Parkland shooting occurred because the FBI failed to do its job… twice. The FBI was warned about the shooter two different times, and it ignored the warnings. This isn’t rare. We know that law enforcement failed in the South Carolina black church massacre; we know it failed in the Texas church massacre; we know it failed in San Bernardino. We know that, as of 2013, out of 48,321 cases against straw buyers (people who buy guns for others), just 44 had been prosecuted. Giving the government more legal power to confiscate weaponry or prosecute those who are dangerous means nothing if the government blows every available opportunity.
Are there other solutions?
David French at National Review suggests Gun-Violence Restraining Orders (GRVOs). These would allow family members to apply for an order enabling law enforcement agencies to temporarily remove guns from those who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Furthermore, we should ensure more transparency in the background-check system with regard to mental health records, and we should look to ease the regulations on involuntary commitment of the dangerously mentally ill.
We could also increase security in schools. Every student who attends school can be checked in by security; the schools can have barriers on every side, and armed security guards that attend the campus. It’s the school’s job to ensure the safety of students, so why isn’t this happening?
- Empathize with the people. This includes people on all sides of the argument.
- Define the problem. Keep asking “why” to get to the root. Don’t just treat the symptom.
- Ideate. Figure out a solution that works based on research and data.
- Build a prototype. How will this solution look? What are the metrics we should be watching?
- Test and iterate. It’s hard to do when we’re talking about enacting new laws, so this is why that shouldn’t be our first solution. Let’s use our creative minds to find alternative solutions that can be tested and iterated.
The biggest problem with the gun control debate has been its failure to boil down slogans to proposals. People aren’t using the Design Thinking method and exploring real ways that can help this situation. Instead, we hop on the band-wagon and spout politically charged rhetoric. Let’s explore solutions, and not pit ourselves against one another because of a difference of thought. Once we have some solutions that make sense and can be justified by data, let’s test them and enforce them.