As we ring in a new year, we remain shocked and saddened by the tragedy in Newtown. Unfortunately, Newtown now adds its name to a list of equally disturbing tragedies at the hands of mentally disturbed people possessing semi-automatic weapons: Columbine, Aurora, Tucson and Blacksburg (Virginia Tech).
The public has responded by sounding a call to action and Vice President Joe Biden has been tasked with finding a better way forward, meeting this week with representatives of victims groups and gun-safety organizations as well as the National Rifle Association and other gun-owner groups as he drafts the Obama administration's response to the Newtown shooting. Meetings with video game manufacturers and representatives from the entertainment industry also are planned.
"I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion (that) unless we can do everything we're going to do nothing," Biden said today. "It's critically important (that) we act."
Every tragic incident is subsequently followed by calls for gun control change. The politicians quickly pick up the baton and legislative bills are crafted at the local and national level to address gun control. Newtown has been no different, with the Senate, Vice President Biden and President Barack Obama determined to change the laws, ostensibly to protect the public. While this is indeed a noble goal, a closer look at successful and enduring change management is necessary to better predict the likelihood of its success.
State after state have passed laws allowing concealed weapons in public. All of this is in the context of fewer shooting deaths overall. Are we safer now or more at risk? Do we have a gun control issue or are they isolated incidences of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people?” (In the interest of full-disclosure, a disclaimer: I am not anti-gun and I believe in the sanctity of the Second Amendment with its right to bear arms, but I have always strongly questioned the inclusion of weaponry that goes beyond personal protection and/or hunting.)
As a change management consultant, I’ve found successful change is predicated on a three-step process: plan, communicate, execute. All three steps are critical to the probability of change success. Assuming that we want to implement a successful and enduring gun control change law, let’s apply these three critical steps.