Design thinking and gun control

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.

Date Location Tragedy Guns used
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
semiautomatic rifle
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
Ruger AR-556
Nov. 14, 2017 Rancho Tehama, CA Rancho Tehama Elementary School shooting handgun
semiautomatic rifle
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.

More laws?
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?

Design Thinking

  1. Empathize with the people. This includes people on all sides of the argument.
  2. Define the problem. Keep asking “why” to get to the root. Don’t just treat the symptom.
  3. Ideate. Figure out a solution that works based on research and data.
  4. Build a prototype. How will this solution look? What are the metrics we should be watching?
  5. 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.