I’ll start out with honesty. Yes, I am discouraged like so many of you, but maybe not for the same reasons. (And I promise this post won’t leave you depressed, so keep reading.)
My guess is that you are discouraged we continue to see mass shootings in our news feed on a weekly basis. Discouraged that politicians’ inflexibility has led to a stalemate. Discouraged with the lack of control you have over keeping your loved ones safe.
I feel all those things, but after 2.5 months of pouring over articles and research on gun violence, I am discouraged at a much deeper level.
The goal of Whitney/Strong is to reduce gun violence through responsible gun ownership. We will consider many solutions and champion those that are both, impactful and supported by the majority. However, as I dig deeper, it is proving to be very difficult to find the evidence necessary to conclude which solutions would be materially impactful. And as a result, discouragement starts to set in.
Quick history lesson....
While we shouldn’t blame the lack of evidence and data solely on the Dickey Amendment, it has certainly played a major role in the lack of federal research on gun violence. In case you are unfamiliar, here is a Cliff Notes version from Wikipedia:
In United States politics, the Dickey Amendment is a provision first inserted as a rider into the 1996 federal government omnibus spending bill which mandated that "none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control." In the same spending bill, Congress earmarked $2.6 million from the CDC's budget, the exact amount that had previously been allocated to the agency for firearms research the previous year, for traumatic brain injury-related research.
Many commentators have described this amendment as a "ban" on gun violence research by the CDC.
Lack of research is a massive problem. Here’s a hypothetical example to make it more digestible. Suppose the majority support a ban on the sale of assault rifles. These weapons are often tied to the deadliest mass shootings in our country’s history. But then imagine for a moment that a thorough research project was conducted by an unbiased research organization, and the study concluded that banning the sale of assault rifles would not reduce gun deaths. And why? Because the data confirms very few assault rifles used criminally are purchased legally. So while this is a hypothetical study, it helps articulate the need for robust and unbiased research so that we are not fighting blind.
All hope is not lost. First, and pulled directly from this article (https://www.rand.org/news/press/2018/05/31.html), the RAND Corporation has been selected to help oversee a philanthropic fund that will support high-quality research on issues related to gun violence. The National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research is a creation of the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), which has pledged $20 million to the effort and will seek an additional $30 million from other philanthropic groups. Over the next five years, research sponsored by the collaborative will seek data-driven answers on the causes and patterns of gun-related violence in the United States. Based on scientific evidence, the work will help policymakers craft evidence-based policies to reduce gun violence.
Second, and this is where I start to diverge from my product management roots. In business, I didn’t design products that only one person would use - it wasn’t efficient or profitable. With WhitneyStrong, any life that is saved because of the actions we take would be considered a success. Incremental change, aka baby steps, are what is needed in this hyper-partisan environment and I’m OK closing the gap slowly but surely.
So as we await the good stuff from our brilliant researcher friends over the next five years, let’s make a difference now! Let’s bootstrap whatever research and data we do have and start closing the gap.
So do not be discouraged. The quote below gave me motivation after an otherwise discouraging day. I hope it does the same for you.
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”