Guns don’t kill people. People don’t kill people either. Bullets kill people.

Our best chance at preventing shootings is by ignoring guns entirely and focussing on what is really killing people. Bullets.

I value non violent communication (NVC), an empathetic process for interacting with people that removes all judgment and bias and focuses on fact. I believe if everyone practiced NVC their would be less shootings in the word. But this is not 1984 and NVC does not attempt to control that which we do not have the power to control, instead it asks us to understand the other person and alter only that which we can control: own actions and mindset.

Let’s look at a hypothetical shooting through the lens of the media. A news station reports “A deranged gunman shot 6 children today and 1 unarmed teacher.” Most would consider it safe to say that anyone who shoots a child is deranged but NVC requires we make no judgments. It might also be “safe” to say the teacher was unarmed but can we be certain of this fact? And is it possible that one of the children was accidentally shot by a policeman’s bullet?

The same event stripped of assumptions would sound different, it would read “A man entered a classroom, shot his gun repeatedly and 6 children plus a teacher dies after bullets entered their bodies.” No respected journalist would write this headline because it’s unduly cumbersome and not very clickable. But it is true.

What killed these hypothetical children? Not the person. Not the gun. Bullets killed the children.

We have looked at one shooting through the eyes of a nonviolent communications guru, now let’s look at our best method for preventing shootings; gun control. It is true that other countries have reduced the number of gun related incidents by outlawing firearms but this is America. We are different. That is not to say we are better or worse than other countries, that would be a very non-NVC way to view ourself. Just different.

Fact: There are more guns in America than people (including guns owned by government and corporations).

Fact: American law and tradition support the rights of ownership.

Fact: America’s second amendment protects gun ownership.

Fact: America’s second amendment does not contain the word “bullet”.

Non Violent Communication methods asks you to focus on the thoughts and actions you can control, not the thoughts and actions of other people. According to NVC, the most violent word in the english language is the word “should” and it is a word often used by gun control advocates. You “should” give up your guns… you “should not” purchase new ones… you “should” be willing to compromise for the safety of children. Are these statements far removed from ones like; you “should” believe the bible is truth or… you “should not” marry people of the sam sex. The word should is violent because it attempts to control the thoughts and behavior of others and people do not like to be controlled.

Rather than asking to control gun owners, what if we looked for another tactic… one that does not attempt to find, regulate and remove the millions of firearms already in existence. One that doesn’t pry the guns out of any hands; cold, dead or otherwise. What if we let gun enthusiasts keep their guns and allow powerful gun manufacturers to produce more? What if we stop trying to control guns and focus instead on bullets?

Here’s a secret about shooting weapons…. it’s very hard to hit the target. There remains one community of Americans in which tight gun control measures can be enforced. The police. Communities can lobby local police departments to restrict the types and calibers of guns their officers carry and many have tried to limit police to revolvers with a maximum of six bullets but, in this case, common sense prevails and restrictions that limit clip sizes are rarely published. Why? Because it is very difficult to hit a target with a single, or even six individual, bullets.

Two things are required to effectively kill people with firearms: training and bullets. Most criminals have very little training and FBI shootout statistics agree that a low percentage of bullets fired hit there marks. In the infamous North Hollywood shootout two gunmen fired approximately 1,100 rounds but only hit 18 people and managed to kill no one. Children are easier to kill than trained police but the statistics are still revealing. At Columbine 188 bullets were fired including 37 shotgun shells (shotgun shells contain multiple lead fragments). Well over 188 projectiles were fired yet “only” 13 people were killed.

On Combat by David Grossman, the seminal book for police and military personnel, repeatedly mentions this fact throughout the book and contains staggering statistics on the ratio of bullets to deaths and discusses at length that only highly effective training reduces the kill to bullet ratio in shootings. Few school shooters are highly trained but many carry multiple clips of ammunition.

Think about it this way. Guns are light and concealable, ammunition is heavy and bulky. Guns are difficult to obtain and simple to trace. Bullets are difficult to trace but simple to obtain. There are limits to the amount of guns you can purchase, there are very few laws limiting the amount of ammunition you may purchase. Only one gun is needed to kill 10 people but at least 10 bullets are need to kill 10 people… more if your name is not Chris Kyle.

And very few shootings ended because shooters ran out of guns but many ended because shooters ran out of bullets.

Bullets kill people. Yes but this is not the most important reason why we should restrict ammunition sales. The best reason is that America is very good at taxing and restricting small consumer items but has been incapable of outright bans on guns. Requiring serial numbers be printed on each bullet would drive up the costs, beurocratic paperwork and procedures limit the amount of medication sold to cancer patients and taxing packs of cigarettes worked to restrict smoking as taxing boxes of bullets. would limit the number of deaths at school shootings.

I say let gun owners keep their guns but focus on making it difficult to obtain large quantities of bullets.

-John

P.S. Even if you believe that restricting guns is more important than restricting bullets then… why not do both?