Zoning Out Gun Sales

While Congress spins its wheels accomplishing nothing to stem the control of gun violence in our nation, some states are taking quick action to regulate the sale and possession of guns. Since the Parkland massacre:

  • Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island to sign an executive order to establish a policy to take guns away from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.
  • Oregon’s House passed a bill making it illegal for people convicted of domestic violence or those with restraining orders against them to possess weapons, even if they are not married to, do not live with, or do not have children with their victims. The State Senate is expected to pass the bill and the Governor has promised to sign it.
  • Other states, including Florida, Vermont, Washington, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, South Dakota, and Texas are actively considering gun control legislation.

Today, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would stop selling assault style rifles and would halt all gun sales to those below age 21. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer and a major seller of firearms, announced it would stop selling the military-style semiautomatic weapons in August 2015.

Yet, given Congress’ inaction, the failure of most states to enact strong gun control laws, and purely voluntary measures by retailers, gun control advocates should also consider engaging their local communities to zone out gun sales. Indeed, that is exactly what Madison, Wisconsin has done for many years regarding handgun sales.

Madison Ordinance Chapter 28.151 applies the following zoning restrictions to handgun shops:

(b) No handgunshop shall be located within one thousand (1000) feet of any church, synagogue, temple, mosque or other place of worship; a lot in a residence district, either in the City of Madison or in a municipality adjacent to the City of Madison; a Planned Mobile Home Park District, Planned Development District with dwelling units; a public or private playground; a day care center; a public library, a youth recreation area, including little league baseball fields, soccer fields or YMCA/YWCA.

(c) No handgunshop shall be located in the same building where alcohol beverages are sold.

(d) No handgunshop shall be located in the same building where any patron thereof under the age of eighteen (18) years may enter, unless accompanied by a parent, guardian or adult spouse eighteen (18) years of age or over.

This well crafted ordinance steers clear of an outright ban on handgun shops to avoid a Second Amendment challenge, but it effectively bans them by applying reasonable zoning regulations to make it nearly impossible to locate a handgun shop in Madison. Indeed, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart do not sell handguns in Madison due to this zoning regulation.

For some perspective on the number of gun shops in the United States, consider the following data:

Since Congress members’ thoughts and prayers will fail to save a single life, and many states will fail to enact reasonable gun control legislation, gun control advocates across the nation should apply pressure to their city councils and mayors to enact and strengthen zoning ordinances to effectively control the sale of guns in their city limits. While the NRA will surely fight such efforts, requiring it to spread its efforts at federal, state and local levels will diminish the NRA’s effectiveness and finally allow gun control advocates to gain the upper hand.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

 

 

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The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference in 2000. In his book, he discusses how “ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses.” He defines the tipping point as  “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” From a systems change perspective, the concept of a tipping point is important when analyzing both how to create sufficient momentum behind a policy change to bring the change into fruition.

One of the most frustrating failures in American public policy has been the complete ineptitude of our nation’s leaders to enact reasonable reform to combat gun violence. Many gun reform advocates believed that our nation would finally overcome the opposition by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to all efforts at reasonable gun reform, after 20 children and 6 adults were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. However, as we all know, the NRA and too many politicians simply offered their thoughts and prayers, and no meaningful gun reform was enacted.

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But then came the high school students who lost 14 fellow students and 3 staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. While the NRA and Congressional leaders continued to send thoughts and prayers, and the President and many legislators would rather arm teachers than enact meaningful gun reform, on behalf of her fellow Parkland students, Emma Gonzalez called BS on these unhelpful ideas. As one of the students, Cameron Kaspy, stated quite simply, My generation won’t stand for this.”

But why might this event be different than Sandy Hook or the many other gun massacres and become a tipping point to lead to meaningful gun reform, when the other horrific incidents did not? While it is too soon to know whether the results will be different, and we truly cannot expect meaningful change until after the November mid-term elections, there are indications that a number of different dynamics are in play that did not exist before, such that we may be approaching a tipping point which could impact the November mid-term elections culminating in meaningful gun reform in the next Congress.

Of course, the first new dynamic is the bold, energized leadership of the Parkland High School students. But since they cannot vote, high school students alone will not have sufficient impact to reach the tipping point. Ironically, the callousness of our President who appears to be devoid of empathy, combined with the energy of these high school students may be what energizes voters to impact the November mid-term elections in a meaningful way on this issue.

There are many signs that a shift in the gun reform dynamic is in play, such as:

  • Republicans who recognize that their day of reckoning on guns is here.
  • A well organized campaign targeted at politicians beholden to the gun lobby to throw them out.
  • A recognition that women could be the undoing of the President.
  • The March 24th March for Our Lives to demand that lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings.
  • Poll results showing American voters support stricter gun laws 66 – 31 percent, the highest level of support ever, including 50 – 44 percent support among gun owners.
    Support for universal background checks is almost universal, 97 – 2 percent, including 97 – 3 percent among gun owners. Support is also at its highest level with:

    • 67 percent favoring a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons;
    • 83 percent favoring a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases and
    • 75 percent believe Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence.

Of course, tipping points are reached by many actions, and as Gladwell pointed out, many of those actions are small actions taken by individuals. So, if you want to be part of the change that leads to a tipping point to achieve meaningful gun reform, here are some things you can do.

  • Investigate how your members of Congress vote on gun reform bills. You can check their votes here.
  • Check to see whether your members of Congress receive contributions from the NRA, and if so, how much they receive, here.
  • Tell your state legislators to support a law that exists in five states that allows guns to be seized from those whom a judge deems a threat to themselves or others.
  • Tell your members of Congress to support laws that evidence demonstrates will save lives including:
    • Requiring permits to purchase all guns by eliminating the exemption for private sales;
    • Banning individuals convicted of any violent crime from gun purchase;
    • Making all serious domestic violence offenders surrender firearms;
    • Banning active alcohol abusers from firearms; and
    • Banning assault weapons.
  • Join and/or contribute to an organization that is working on these issues such as Everytown for Gun Safety or Moms Demand Action  for Gun Sense in America.

Finally, the tipping point will not be reached if politicians believe that NRA support will preserve their power in office. Since the vast majority of Americans support meaningful gun reform, they must translate this into votes that change the calculation of politicians and make them realize that NRA support will become a liability instead of an asset. The only way to make that happen is for gun reform advocates to support gun reform candidates and to vote for them. As Justin Dart, considered as the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), said so eloquently in a way that gun reform advocates must take to heart:

Vote as if your life depended on it, because it does.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

 

Active Shooter

Last week, I attended an active shooter training put on by the Madison police department. The training was sponsored by First Unitarian Society, which also houses my synagogue, Shaarei Shamayim, and a child care center, so they invited staff and board leaders to this training. It is truly sickening that we now live in a world active shooter events have become almost daily occurrences. The school shooting on January 23rd in Kentucky, killing 2 and wounding 18 was the 11th school shooting of the year.

Meanwhile, our federal government does nothing to put an end to this madness and most states have actually made it easier to carry guns, rather than harder. While Americans who are as sickened as I am with the lock grip that the NRA has on our legislators should continue to exercise their political power to change this dynamic, I chose to take this training because I realized that if I was at an active shooter training, I would have absolutely no idea what to do.

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Sandy Hook Elementary School Lobby (Connecticut Dept. of Justice)

It is important to keep in mind, that despite the increasing frequency of active shooter events, the chances of actually being involved in one are about the same as getting struck by lightning. Fortunately, that means that most of us will never have to experience the horror of such an event. However, just like we have all learned some basic lessons of what to avoid when a lightning strike takes place, it also makes sense to learn some basic and potentially life saving responses that we can all take if we are in an active shooter situation.

The training was gut wrenching. We listened to the Columbine High School librarian’s 911 call, which included sounds of gunfire, and sadly, a librarian who was not following the instructions of the dispatcher because she was in such a state of panic. While she survived, 11 students in that library were murdered.

However, the training also made me feel safer because I now feel that I have tools that I can use in such an emergency that I never would have thought of before. While some may seem obvious, most of us in the training did not know these basic principles known as A.D.D. (Avoid, Deny, Defend), before the training. While this is no substitute for going through the 2 1/2 hour training, the basic idea is:

Avoid

  • Always be aware of escape routes, even if it means breaking open a window.
  • Leaving the area is the first priority.
  • Playing dead, hiding and hoping are not successful strategies as they leave you without options if they do not work.

Deny

  • Move into a room and lock the door.
  • Barricade access points.
  • Turn off lights and silence phones.
  • Remain quiet and out of sight.
  • Once barricaded, remain in place until rescued.

Defend

  • If Avoid and Deny have failed, you must defend yourself.
  • Use improvised weapons (e.g., a sharpie or scissors to the attacker’s eyes) and remember there is strength in numbers to overpower the shooter.
  • Consider attacking at the doorway. The change in lighting and obstacles place in the way may be the best window of opportunity to attack the shooter.

At the end of the training, I realized that it was insufficient for our congregation  that only one board member and I had gone through this training. Fortunately, the Madison Police Department offers these trainings for free and they will return to our synagogue and we will invite all our members in March. In setting up the training with Officer Matthew Magolan, I noticed the following quote at the bottom of his e-mail.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”                                                                                                                           -Theodore Roosevelt “Citizenship In A Republic” speech delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

That quote made me realize that while I may not be able to save myself or anyone else if I am confronted with an active shooter, I now have tools that will at least allow me to try to save my own life and the life of others. While I have been given no comfort from our feckless government which stands idly by with thoughts and prayers instead of real action to stop these mass shootings, I do take some comfort in knowing that I now believe I will try my best to save myself and others, and even if I fail, I will die knowing that I tried my best.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.

Picking Asparagus across the Political Divide

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center Survey, we are now living in the first time that majorities of both parties have very unfavorable views of the other party. Worse yet,

More than half of Democrats (55%) say the Republican Party makes them “afraid,” while 49% of Republicans say the same about the Democratic Party. Among those highly engaged in politics – those who say they vote regularly and either volunteer for or donate to campaigns – fully 70% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans say they are afraid of the other party.

These fears of each other are leading to greater social polarization and distrust, making interactions across the political divide increasingly difficult. No wonder that Congress and state legislatures find it so challenging to forge a consensus on difficult political issues.

Every year, as my wife and I drive through Wisconsin’s countryside, we pass by a local small farm where the farmer sells delicious fresh asparagus. We have bought dozens of pounds (maybe hundreds!) over the past 20 years and enjoyed it thoroughly. Last year, however, we noticed that the asparagus farmer, who has always been very friendly to us, wore an NRA hat. As the Presidential election heated up, we also noticed that he posted a Trump/Pence sign in his yard.

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Readers of my blog should not be surprised that I abhor the policies of the NRA and the Trump/Pence administration. Indeed, I spend a great deal of time and energy working to combat the destructive policies supported by both of them. So, when asparagus season arrived, my wife and I had to ask ourselves whether we still felt comfortable buying asparagus from a supporter of politicians and a lobby organization whom we both abhor.

While we have not yet talked politics or gun rights with the asparagus farmer, we realized that our best chance of understanding where he comes from and possibly coming to a common understanding was to continue to buy asparagus from him. So, we continue to do so.

Please do not misunderstand. I have no problem with people who choose to boycott large corporate entities who take abhorrent political positions, treat their workers unfairly or do other destructive things. In fact, I participate in many of those boycotts. However, I see those corporate boycotts as vastly different from a person to person interaction of buying fresh asparagus from a small farmer. I am quite confident that if we stopped buying asparagus from him, he would not change his political views in any way. In fact, if we specifically told him that we would no longer buy asparagus  from him due to his political views, it would probably make him angry and embolden and harden his political positions.

So, last weekend we picked 9 pounds of delicious asparagus and had a lovely chat with the asparagus farmer and his son about how his crop was doing and his decision to start allowing customers to pick their own asparagus for half the price of the pre-picked asparagus. We will continue to pick and buy his asparagus and perhaps one day, at the right moment, we will have an opportunity to have an honest political conversation that does not degrade into hate and fear. These conversations need to be borne in trust and we can only gain that trust by engaging with people who disagree with us.

I will be sure to let my readers know how the conversation goes if and when we have that political conversation with the asparagus farmer. In the mean time, we will continue to build trust with someone whom we know disagrees with our views.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.

Getting to Yes in the 21st Century

In their seminal book, Getting to Yes, originally published in 1981, Roger Fisher and William Ury’s subtitle, Negotiating Agreement without Giving In, only begins to describe how this fairly short 200 page book, gives valuable lessons on the art of negotiating Win-Win solutions, instead the more commonly experienced Win-Lose, or worse yet, Lose-Lose solutions.  These lessons are needed today more than ever before.

As I previously described in, The Great Dysfunction or Lessons in how Not to Govern, our political environment is poisoned by politicians and their funders who believe that their sole goal is to obtain or retain the political majority.  Sadly, the recent failure of the U.S. Senate to pass the mildest of gun control reforms when it allowed a minority of Senators to block the background checks that roughly 90% of Americans want, demonstrated that the desire to obtain a Win-Win solution was unable to carry the day in the face of the NRA’s desire to “win” at all costs.

While there are numerous other examples of the failure of our political leaders to obtain palatable outcomes on the important issues of our day, rather than point fingers and accuse one side or the other of their responsibility for this miserable failure of leadership, the lessons taught so well in Getting to Yes need revisiting in order to change the unfortunate dynamic we are currently experiencing.

Fisher and Ury explain that we all negotiate on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not.  We negotiate with our families, our co-workers, those with whom we do business, as well as in the legal and political arenas.  While it may feel good to “win” when one negotiates, the long term outcome of having someone you deal with on a regular basis “lose” the negotiation, may not be worth it in the end.

I regularly explain this to parents of children with disabilities, whom I represent, when they want to “win” their legal claim against a wrongdoing school district, but may end up destroying relationships with the very educators whom they need to provide a quality education to their children.  Thus, I regularly remind them to “keep their eye on the prize,” which is the quality education they seek for their children, and not the pound of flesh which their anger may cause them to desire.

Many people who are in the midst of a dispute assume that there will always be a winner and a loser when the dispute is resolved.  This assumption is patently false, as there are two other possible outcomes:

  1. Neither side wins because the dispute remains unresolved (e.g., Israel and Palestine); and
  2. Both sides lose because though the dispute is resolved, neither side is happy with the outcome (e.g., a lawsuit results in a Pyrrhic victory for one side because that side obtains a fraction of what it sought and spent more money on attorneys than it gained through the resolved dispute).

So, how do Fisher & Ury suggest obtaining Win-Win solutions?  They do so by focusing on five key elements of principled negotiations:

  • “Separate the people from the problem.”  In other words,  the goal in negotiating should not be beating the other side.  It should be solving the problem at hand. Successful negotiation should not be considered the equivalent of a competitive sport if the parties are truly interested in solving the problem.
  • “Focus on interests, not positions.”  In the special education advocacy example mentioned earlier, the parents’ interest is in getting their children a quality education, not in having a judge rule in their favor to prove to the school district that they were right.
  • “Invent options for mutual gain.”  This is where win-win negotiating really becomes an art form.  Creative negotiators seek opportunities where both sides can gain from the outcome.  For example, when a school is dealing with a difficult behavioral situation, the win-lose situation is the child either stays in school with continued misbehavior, or the child is expelled, relieving the school from having to deal with the child, but putting the child on the Schools to Prison Pipeline.  The win-win solution involves bringing in a behavioral expert to observe the child in school and to provide sound suggestions to educators on how to improve teaching techniques and behavioral interventions to teach the child appropriate behaviors.
  • “Insist on using objective criteria.”  All too often, negotiation takes place on emotional terms or even outright falsehoods.  We saw this in the recent background check debate where the opponents to background checks simply lied about the bill before the Senate by raising false fears that the bill would prevent sales between family members.  No problems are successfully resolved by relying on falsehoods or emotions alone.
  • “Know your BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement)”  On a regular basis, I must counsel clients on what the likely outcome is if they fail to come to a negotiated agreement.  Without knowing this, the client (or politician) cannot truly make an informed decision as to whether to accept the offer presented.

This is not to suggest that Getting to Yes is easy.  In fact, it takes hard work, checking egos at the door, and regular reminders of what you are really seeking in the midst of your negotiation.  For nearly 28 years, I have had the professional privilege of assisting clients, non-profits and policymakers negotiate Win-Win solutions with the assistance of Getting to Yes principles.  Perhaps it is time for our political leaders to read and follow the rules of this invaluable book.


For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change e-mail Jeff Spitzer-Resnick or visit Systems Change Consulting.

Violence Begets Violence–Time to Repeal the 2nd Amendment

Like most Americans, ever since the massacre at Sandy Hook, the issue of the place of guns in American society has been ever present in my mind.  President Obama declared that we must change, but he has yet to offer concrete changes.  Sen. Feinstein has introduced a bill to outlaw assault weapons prospectively, which would do nothing to get those weapons off our streets.  The NRA says it will propose concrete actions, but has yet to offer any particulars.

While politicians and pundits discuss ways to regulate lethal weapons, at Systems Change Consulting, our purpose is to change systems so that we do not have the same tired conversations again and again, resulting in remaining mired in an unsatisfactory status quo.  It would be nice to think that legislation would be sufficient to  end the violence which guns have wrought on American society.  Yes, we do have more gun related deaths than any country in the world, other than Mexico, with nearly 10,000 homicides committed in the US in the most recent reporting year.

Our Supreme Court has completely distorted this simple amendment which reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Not only is this Amendment an antiquated artifact directly resulting from the Colonial revolution against the British, but the Supreme Court ruled in its 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, that the militia clause has nothing to do with the right of the people to bear arms.  In that case, the Supreme Court found that the District of Columbia’s handgun and trigger lock ban violated the 2nd Amendment.

The Supreme Court then expanded that misguided logic in 2010, in its McDonald v. Chicago decision applying the 2nd Amendment to state and local governments, declaring the City of Chicago’s handgun ban unconstitutional.

With Supreme Court decisions like these, and the never ending onslaught of violence  and death caused by guns, it is time for this nation to repeal the 2nd Amendment.

Some may declare that such a proposal is unrealistic.  That may be true, given the strength of the NRA and the inherent difficulties of amending our Constitution, as any amendment must be passed by 2/3 of the members of both Houses of Congress, and then approved by 3/4 of the states.  This is, indeed, challenging.

However, if Sandy Hook is the wake up call that our nation needs to get out of our cycle of violence begetting more violence, then now is probably the best time to repeal the 2nd Amendment.  Even if the amendment is not ultimately ratified, it will put the NRA on the defensive and allow ever stronger gun control legislation to pass and may even cause the Supreme Court to re-think its most recent decisions which make most sensible gun control legislation virtually impossible.

Since amending the Constitution is necessarily a long and difficult process, let me suggest one other piece of legislation that has yet to be raised and should raise no Constitutional concerns.  While the 2nd Amendment arguably allows citizens to own weapons, there is no Constitutional right to manufacture lethal weapons.  So, let’s start by banning the manufacture and importation of assault weapons.  It is too easy to buy these weapons.  You can even do it on-line from Tactical Arms Manufacturer, which brags on its web site that its assault weapons, the same ones used by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook, are Made in the USA.

So, let’s get serious about stopping the cycle of violence.  Let’s repeal the 2nd Amendment and in the mean time ban the manufacture and importation of assault weapons in the USA.

Or, we could just follow this simple 12 step program.

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For more information e-mail Jeff Spitzer-Resnick or visit Systems Change Consulting.