We can have both access to firearms, and low crime rates. Some countries have relaxed gun laws and little violent crime. Other countries banned guns and are left at the mercy of cartels.
But we need to navigate along the correct route, not try to take shortcuts.
I love Systems Thinking.
I love the way it helps us to analyse and synthesise a problem. I like the way it helps us to consider causes and effects that we would otherwise miss. But, even as I am busy drawing the little loops of levels and flows, I become aware that I may be wrong. Small changes in the flows can totally change the final outcome. And we simply can't predict these accurately enough. Fortunately, Peter Senge reminds us that it may not be necessary.
Sometimes, the knottiest dilemmas, when seen from the systems point of view, aren’t dilemmas at all. They are artefacts of “snapshot” rather than “process” thinking and appear in a whole new light once you think consciously of change over time. For years, for example, American manufacturers thought they had to choose between low cost and high quality. What they didn’t consider was how basic improvements in work processes could eliminate rework, eliminate quality inspectors, reduce customer complaints, lower warranty costs, increase customer loyalty, and reduce advertising and sales promotion costs. They didn’t realize that they could have both goals if they were willing to wait for one while they focused on the other." Peter Senge - The Fifth Discipline
The best example I know of this also comes from our beloved sport. Shooters often debate the balance of speed versus time, but the top shooters are both very fast and very accurate. At their level, they still trade one for the other, but at a much higher level than ours. But we can't just try to replicate their trade-off. We have to consider the (long) road they took to get there.
"In South Africa, 8.8% per 100 000 (sic) of women were killed by their intimate partner. In the United States, which was considered to be a violent country, 1.6% per 100 000 (sic) were killed and in Canada 1.26% per 100 000 (sic) were killed."
Medical Research Council Briefing 20 May 2005
It seems to me that, once we get to 1.6 or 1.26, South Africa can start discussing tradeoffs, but in the meantime, we need to keep current realities in mind. There is no shortcut. Before we start to talk about changing the law, we first need to see that the police has done everything to work within the current law. And all indications are that they have only been looking for shortcuts. Instead of critically asking how problem cases slip through the competency process, they seem to measure the total amount of licenses only.
This is a simple service delivery problem. Yes, guns is a controversial topic worldwide, but in South Africa, we already have very stringent legislation in place. The problem is with the administration thereof.
Nowhere is this more conspicuous than with the very system the Central Firearm Registry uses. The original legislation called for electronic connectivity to the Registry to be finalised on 1 July 2004. Fifteen years later, the Dealers Association had to resort to the High Court to force commencement with this implementation. Almost two years on, court order in hand, the timelines keep moving out.
The solution is the same as with any other service delivery issue:
While the anti-gun and pro-gun lobbies are shouting at each other, there is a vast majority of people in the middle, trying to make sense of the arguments. And we should not lose sight of the fact that they are our real focus. And most of them don't have guns.
And everybody thinks differently.
This series represents my way of thinking. In the first part of the series, I'm just trying to see the big picture. Where could the different roads lead? I don't even pretend to be objective, but I'll accept it if the arguments are less than convincing for somebody who doesn't own a gun herself. She is left between a rock and a hard place.
But, if I say so myself, I like the way the latter part of the series cuts through the nonsense. Why force people to choose between the rock and the hard place if you haven't tried making your current place work? And they patently didn't.