A Solution to Gun Violence

I like guns.  I appreciate the engineering, they’re fun to shoot, and it’s a skill I enjoy developing.  That said, I’ve only been out shooting a few times and while I wouldn’t turn down an invitation, it’s not big on my list of priorities.  What’s actually higher on my list of priorities is coming up with a long overdue solution to a very current problem: gun violence.

I guess I should start by laying out a few pieces of my framework on this one.  I agree that guns are fun to shoot and that people should have the ability to protect their families.  I also think that guns as they are today cause more problems than solutions and something needs to change.  When both sides are asking for something reasonable, compromise is a lack of imagination.

The first thing that people have to acknowledge is that this has nothing to do with the history of the country or the second amendment.  This is a conversation about how can we keep having fun at the range while protecting ourselves and our families, without putting lethal weapons in the hands of irresponsible people.

Part of how I arrived here is in observing the US’s global nuclear policy.  Effectively, the US focuses on limiting the number of countries with access to nuclear weapons because it’s risky to have that much lethal power available to someone who’s intentions you can’t be certain of.  So they go around the world intervening and restricting nuclear programs – perhaps rightfully so.  Personally, I think there will just about always be something more sensible for a government to invest in than nukes, but I’m also empathetic to the only reason that they give: we want to be able to protect ourselves from a hostile government.


On a global scale, America agrees that people should have limited access to deadly weapons.  On a domestic scale, they disagree.  I’m pointing out the hypocrisy so that we can agree that guns and gun violence aren’t an ‘American thing’ or part of our culture.  The situation that we’re in now is caused by mental illness, bad government, and a lack of innovation.  Mental illness is something that will take a cultural shift, bad government will take a revolution, but innovation is something we can tackle now.

So how do we close the gap?  How do we give everyone what they want?  Easy.

Non-lethal ammo.

Whether you’re at a gun range, or keeping a gun under your bed for home defense, you don’t need to kill your target.  There is literally zero need for a recreational target shooter to need lethal ammunition.  I would go so far as to say that without the risk of death, shooting ranges would be significantly more popular.  Further innovations would lead to a variety of non-lethal munitions, further diversifying the sport.

For home defense, I suspect most people would agree that if they had the choice, would rather incapacitate than kill.  The reality is very few of us, if any, have the wisdom necessary to know when it’s appropriate to take a life.  As we continue to be reminded, most who think they do are wrong.  If we can agree on that, let’s agree that the reason we want guns isn’t so that we can kill each other, or even kill someone who poses a threat to us, it’s about keeping ourselves safe.  We need a non-lethal ammunition that can reliably incapacitate.

The non-lethal options that exist today hasn’t proven viable, so we need to innovate.  I’m not smart enough to know exactly what this product or these products would look like but I do have an idea on how we could get there.  First the government announces an intent to shift from lethal weapons to non-lethal weapons.  Then, allocate $100 million to a venture capital fund and have that fund approach universities across America, looking to invest in companies developing alternative munitions.   This will spur a wave of innovation in the direction of non-lethal munitions and with a little bit of time, we should arrive at a better mouse trap.  Who knows, maybe we’ll end up with a Star Trek-esque stun gun.

The idea is that if we could design a weapon that was easier to use, barely needed to be aimed, and put your home invader into a comatose state until the authorities arrived, why would you want a classic pistol?  It wouldn’t increase your chances of defending yourself, only your chances of harming the other person.  If we can agree that the people who want to keep using lethal ammunition because it increases their chances of being able to hurt people shouldn’t have access to lethal ammunition, I think we’re all on the same page.  If we could get alternative munitions to the point where they were this safe and easy to use, imagine what it would do for everyone’s personal safety.

I know, I know, I forgot something.  Or rather saved it for last.  Hunting.  I’ll admit I didn’t quite have it figured out when I started writing this but a thought occurred to me while I was writing and it might be a good one.  The one recreational scenario where lethal ammunition does make sense is when you’re hunting, especially when you’re hunting for food.  Hunting for sport should probably be non-lethal to begin with so for the moment, let’s focus on hunting for food.  We need the ammunition to be lethal for our target, but preferably, only our target.  It would be nice to not have to worry about shooting other hunters.  If that’s our criteria, we could probably innovate our way out of this one too.  So we need a bullet that can be fired from a standard rifle which upon impact, would kill a… let’s say moose, but if it hit a person, would be non-lethal.  Sounds to me like a miniaturized dart (like from a tranquilizer gun) containing a compound that would kill a moose while leaving a personal unharmed.  Not only would that prevent nearly all hunting accidents, it may also be a more humane way to hunt.

When reasonable people are asking for reasonable things, compromise is a lack of imagination.  People should be able to protect themselves.  Protecting yourself isn’t the same as hurting someone else though.  If you want to protect yourself by hurting others, you need help.  Let’s find a means to protect ourselves without hurting others, and find a way to help others who haven’t yet figured out why hurting others just about always creates more problems than solutions.

A Quick Fix to Wealth Inequality?

I was having a chat with a friend yesterday about the incoming Canadian tax reform and he managed to inspire what I think is a rather interesting idea.

When it comes to modern finance, it’s a mess.  For the last few years, I’ve been trying to figure out a system of finance to account for the deflationary nature of technology and best practices while increasing productivity.  I think I’m close but it requires a complete overhaul of the system, and well as a cultural paradigm shift.  I’ll be patient.  Until then, I thought I’d mention an idea which works within the current system: Adjusting the local minimum wage to reflect the local cost of living.

If you’re working 40 hours a week, you should be able to earn a living.  That’s not to say that we should all be making the same, that’s to say that the floor should be set at what it costs to lead of modest lifestyle in that area.

Consider this, if someone is working 40 hours a week and living in poverty, they’re likely relying on social assistance programs.  Those social assistance programs are ultimately tax-payer funded.  That tax burden falls primarily on those who aren’t in poverty.  When someone grows up in a low-income neighborhood, falls in with the wrong crowd and ends up in prison, it’s the tax payers who pay for that too.  No matter how we look at it, we’re all in this together.  We either keep picking up the tab, or make an investment in the future.

For starters, imagine the impact this would have on the country’s collective anxiety – Knowing that if you work full time, you’ll be alright.  Now imagine the positive cultural impact of an entire generation of kids growing up with parents who aren’t barely getting by.  Now think about the reduction of people needing social assistance programs and the reduced government spending.  Now think about the reduced taxes for all tax brackets.  I guess we would call that trickle-up economics?  Just like trickle-down economics except rather than starting with helping those with the most and letting the residual benefits trickle down to those with the least, we start by helping those who need it the most and letting those residual benefits trickle up to those who need it the least.

The definitive test that trickle-up is better than trickle-down?  Trickle-up helps more people.

That all sounds pretty fantastic for people who are struggling to get by but that’s a rather large stone to toss in the water and it’s important to understand how this will affect everyone else in the pond, especially employers.

First off, businesses that haven’t embraced automation but probably should will likely need to.  The jobs which require the least amount of skill are often the ones which are easiest to automate so businesses will no longer need to rely on cheap labor to sustain their operations.  Fast food is already testing out automated ordering systems and burger flipping robots.

As the automation sector booms, the robotics and AI industries will boom and while not on a 1:1 basis, low-skill jobs will be replaced with high-skill jobs.

While measures like these will dramatically reduce low-skill jobs, I think they’ll also have the opportunity to redefine what we think of as an entry-level job.  If the objective is to have people perform at the best of their abilities, it’s about time we stopped putting young people in roles where they’re underutilized and calling it paying your dues.

The real victim in all of these is the entrepreneur who has to pay those increased wages though right?  Well if your business model relies on paying people a wage below what it costs for them to sustain, then yes – expect to be steamrolled.  If you can’t run a profitable business without the use of government subsidized labor, there’s a good chance you’re not fit to be running a business.

What about the businesses who do adapt, but still have to pay higher personnel costs because the average wage is now higher?  Because that’s real.  Well, it’s going to raise the bar for what we consider to be a well-run business.  Ultimately though, it means more money in the hands of the workers and less money in the hands of the owners.  Considering how the best entrepreneurs are motivated by the opportunity to create change, I don’t see the smaller paycheck making a difference – especially when you know that you’re putting extra food on the table of the team you built.

From an economic standpoint, if you systematically shift income from the wealthy to the working class then you’re looking at a far more robust economy.  More money in more hands makes for a much freer market as more people are inclined to make more decisions with their money.  Culturally, fewer wealthy people will mean mean a smaller market for luxury items and materialism may take on a more utilitarian feel.  From a philosophical standpoint, this is about equality in how we distribute the value we collectively create.

So set the local minimum income to be equal to the local cost of a minimum standard of living – seems reasonable.  Now set the minimum standard of living at a point which allows for a focus on personal development, providing them with the opportunity to become the most productive version of themselves.  Also seems reasonable.