The disaster life-cycle and gun violence

I can’t believe the NRA’s video statement.  It really wasn’t a press conference; they didn’t engage or interact with the reporters.  The NRA leadership just spoke.  Twitter was rolling during the conference with immediate feedback on the conference.  The general sense of the comments made the NRA seem out of touch.  Their crisis communication team did such a poor job, they should all be fired.

A comment I heard later made some sense of it.  The NRA wasn’t talking to the general public.  They were talking to their core membership.  While I think the selection of the medium was incorrect, the message delivered should have resonated with the intended audience.  The broad reach of their selected medium had the consequence of broadening the divide in the debate instead of bringing the sides closer together.  Strategic forethought or unexpected consequence has yet to be determined.

The news today reported that two fire fighters were shot and killed responding to a house fire.  Horrific.  People responding to help others, yet shot for no reason.  I’m sure the NRA’s reaction is to suggest arming the fire fighters with guns when responding to a house fire.  Any normal person will realize that ammo and fire do not mix.

I had a realization.  The NRA’s push for more guns in qualified and trained hands isn’t consistent with the disaster cycle.  If we draw a parallel and consider the full spectrum of fire prevention, there are actions to take in each of the disaster phases.  Fire safety education, code enforcement and other efforts overlap to build a culture of prevention.

Imagine for a minute if our response to fires was to make more fire fighters.  More apparatus.  More fire extinguishers.  More wet stuff on the red stuff.  No building codes.  No children education.  No mitigation actions.  Hard to imagine, isn’t it?  The culture of fire prevention is so engrained in our society that it seems natural.  Despite how obvious it seems, we still beat the drum for fire prevention in our communities because we know it is the safest most cost effective method and we’re not 100% fire safe.

Fire prevention occurs throughout the entire disaster life cycle.

The NRA’s response seems to be stuck in the response phase.  The phrase: the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.  That is so short sighted.  The NRA is not looking at preparedness or mitigation actions that would have prevented the ‘bad guy with a gun’ in the first place.  That’s like saying: the only thing that stops a bad fire is a good guy with water.  It just isn’t true.  We could take action to stop the fire from starting in the first place.

A culture shift to reduce violence, particularly violence with weapons, will take a lot of work.  Emergency managers need to look at it with the perspective of the entire disaster life cycle.  Our experience with mitigation, preparedness and prevention is a vital perspective to include in this national debate.  Yet it is only one valid input.  There are so many other ideas that need to be brought to bear on the problem.

Let us hope that sensible solutions are not caught up in politics.

Let me add I am a gun owner and I used to be an NRA member for their educational services.  I believe that reasonable people can make a reasonable decision once the extremes viewpoints on both sides are called for what they are.