What if we treated the problem of gun violence in the U.S. with the same tools that dog trainers use to shape and modify behavior? If ever there was a behavior that needs shaping and modifying, it would be gun violence.
Dog trainers are in the business of shaping and modifying behavior. We take dogs and convince them to live according to our rules, using a variety of techniques. For those who are professionals in this area, if the dog does not change, the pro does not eat. For this reason, the pros have gotten quite good at shaping behavior.
I took some of the most common (though not all) techniques used to squash bad behavior and applied them to the gun violence problem. This is a *very* *long* post, so I'll post my solutions first, then go on to explain why lower in the article.
The Solution To Gun Violence, According To This Dog Trainer
- Create mandatory anger management curricula for high schools and colleges.
- Create a required unit in school where every student learns to fire a few different guns, and let the kids practice shooting.
- Spend tax dollars on programs which develop mentorship.
Things That Don't Work (Or Marginally Work)
- Attempts at gun bans.
- Stiffer legal penalties.
- Concealed carry.
The Problem Of Single Point Solutions
Human beings have a nasty habit. We tend to look for "the problem". Any time we consider a problem, we look for the one (and only one) thing that is the cause of the problem. We just don't do good with problems that have multiple causes.
Good dog trainers understand that behavior problems often do not have a single cause. When we see a dog with a problem behavior, it is often approached with a host of solutions. Good trainers have a deep toolbox with many behavior changing tools. Because not every tool is going to work in every situation.
Any proposed solution to the gun violence problem that only proposes one fix is likewise doomed to fail. Like many behavior problems, there is not a single cause to the gun violence problem.
Without further ado, below is an explanation, from a training point of view, of the solutions for the gun violence problem mentioned above.
If you want to get rid of a bad behavior, one thing that can be done is to train in something that prevents the bad behavior from happening. This is called "training an incompatible behavior". For example, if your dog jumps on people to greet them, teach the dog to sit on command. The dog cannot jump on people while sitting.
An incompatible behavior to gun violence: healthy ways in which to deal with anger and rage. Anger management skills ought to be part of every high school and college curriculum. We need to teach people alternative ways of dealing with anger than pulling a trigger.
Teaching Guns In School
Let's say your dog barks too much. What can be done is to teach the dog to bark on command. Once that behavior is well under command, never (or rarely) give the command to bark. It is wacky, but it works in many instances.
We see this idea used with some youth who have aggression issues. Sometimes, these kids are sent to martial arts classes. These kids' aggressive behaviors are put on command. They are taught to fight when the instructor tells them to fight. Outside of class, they never receive the command to fight.
If we were to apply this idea to gun violence, we need to teach gun safety and gun operation in our high schools, complete with learning how to shoot a gun, and practice at a shooting range. The students will "learn" where the appropriate place and time to shoot a gun.
If we can understand why the behavior is happening in the first place, then we can change the motivation in order to change the behavior. For instance, a dog that barks may be bored. Eliminating the dog's boredom will (in this case) eliminate the dog's chronic barking better than training the dog not to bark.
This is the single most powerful way to change a behavior. Smokers quit because they change their motivation to "I want to live to see my kids marry".
Our society is sick. There is a pain inside our young people. A pain to fit in. More importantly: a pain caused by a lack of purpose, a lack of place, a lack of love. We see this manifest in shootings. In suicide. Guns are not the cause of the killings. Shootings are a symptom of a screwed up society.
Fathers and mothers need to engage with their children as never before. Children need love. They need purpose. If a child's only purpose is to eat Twinkies and play video games, then there is a problem. Youth need mentors to pour into them.
If you give a young person a purpose and a reason to live, he will not be in such a hurry to die and take others with him.
A government serious about addressing the gun violence problem will address the underlying issues. Investing in mentorship is one great way to address this.
Things That Don't Work - Gun Bans
If a dog steals food from the counter, never put food on the counter again. This solution fixes the problem by not allowing the situation to occur. It can work if it is applied universally. But, if one mistake is made and food is left on the counter, the bad behavior will arise again, because the underlying cause has not been addressed.
This is THE SOLUTION proposed by gun control advocates. The problem with this solution is that as long as some gun, any gun, is available, the bad behavior will crop up again, because the underlying behavior has not been addressed.
For such a solution to work, every gun would need to be banned and confiscated. But in the political and constitutional environment of the US today, this is an impossibility. You are free to debate this all you want, I will not partake. Such a debate is useless and proposes no solutions to the gun violence problem. I'd much rather talk about solutions that would work, fix the underlying problem, and are possible.
Things That Don't Work - Stiffer Legal Penalties
If a dog soils the carpet in another room and we find it later and then spank the dog or rub his nose in it... this does little to change things. Often a dog makes the wrong association and determines that you really do not like seeing him soil your carpet. He rectifies the problem by going into another room to do his business. For an action to really change future behavior, it has to be closely linked in time. In other words, to effectively punish, you have to catch the dog in the act. The dog has to make the association of the action to the behavior.
If we apply this idea to gun violence, here are some interesting observations. Laws are not very effective in dissuading gun violence. Deep down, we all realize this. There is nothing legal about shooting another person, yet the behavior persists. The legal consequences happen too far after the fact to actually discourage gun violence behavior.
Things That Don't Work - Concealed Carry
Only slightly less ineffective is concealed carry. The consequences of gun violence can be met with immediate resistance in the form of an armed person. There is an immediate cause and effect that can facilitate the association of behavior and consequence.
The problem with concealed carry as a punishment comes in the form of what is known as a "variable schedule". What this basically means is that if the punishment is intermittent, then we will try to "get away" with the behavior and risk the punishment.
If we got a speeding ticket every time we sped, we would stop. But we know we can often get away with it, so we risk it. In other words, the reward is worth the risk.
Above is a solution to reduce gun violence from the point of view of a dog trainer, using training techniques. It wouldn't work immediately, but it would work eventually. Thanks for your time. Comment away. If you call me or anyone else names, including our elected officials, you will be blocked from commenting. I have zero tolerance for attacking the person, but encourage the attacking of the idea, any idea.
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