He had come to speak at our Toastmaster’s meeting as a guest speaker. When I realized what his topic was, my stomach clenched. He was going to talk about gun violence. Inwardly, I rolled my eyes.
I am a gun owner–a proponent of gun ownership–that people need to own guns to protect themselves–that only the armed have the means to defend themselves.
My view reflects the rural influences around me. Those influences differ vastly from a view often seen in the city–that guns are the tools of those who deal in drugs and crime.
I thought my view was one of only two ways of seeing the issue of gun violence.
But he came to our meeting from a city about an hour away, a city that doesn’t quite have daily murders, but sometimes sees shootings weekly or at least monthly.
My job was to evaluate his speech–hence, the clench in my stomach. I thought he would roll out the only other perspective–the old idea of eliminating guns.
I thought there could be no third way of seeing the problem.
But there is a third way. And the third way works.
Here’s the plan that is already reducing violence, already transforming some places in America (from a news report).
1. Detect and interrupt [retaliation after an act of violence has already occurred].
A. Work to prevent
retaliations: If a shooting occurs, teams of trained workers go into the community – even a hospital where a gunshot victim is being treated – to work with anyone impacted and help “cool down” emotions.
B. Mediate ongoing conflicts: Identify ongoing conflicts by talking to key people in the community about ongoing disputes, recent arrests or prison releases, using mediation techniques to resolve them peacefully.
C. Follow up with conflicts as long as necessary.
2. Identify/treat the highest risk – Trained, culturally appropriate outreach workers work with the highest risk to commit violence – often people they hang out with – to make them less likely to act violently. Provide them with support to help high-risk individuals instead find drug treatment or jobs and lure them away from street gangs.
3. Mobilize communities to change norms – Engage leaders in the community as well as community residents, local business owners, faith leaders, service providers, and “high-risk” individuals, conveying the message that residents, groups, and the community do not support the use of violence.
Here’s a program that’s working. It’s a fresh way of looking at an issue that’s divided our country–among many other issues that divide us today.
There will be places this third way won’t work because enough people won’t step up and do what they have to do to become part of this solution.
The solution requires people to involve themselves–to immerse themselves in people and problems that are difficult.
The solution requires us to think outside the box, to find the third way. And to invest ourselves in putting the third way into practice.