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Alan M. Webber

Alan M. Webber

Alan Webber, a founding editor of Fast Company magazine, is an award-winning editor, author, and columnist. His most recent book is Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself.

This is about guns, not rhetoric

Question: Vitriolic political rhetoric is on the rise for one simple reason: it works. In the wake of the tragic shooting in Tucson, what can political, business and community leaders do to change the political dynamic so that demonizing opponents is not a winning strategy? How do we end the rhetorical arms race?

Anyone who thinks that "vitriolic political rhetoric" is what killed and wounded the people in Arizona is in desperate need of a crash course in ballistics. It wasn't words; it was a Glock semi-automatic handgun.

Having shot Glock semi-automatics, I can tell you that it is a very impressive weapon--lightweight, accurate, simple to load and fire. What it is not is a gun for hunting. It's a gun for shooting people, which is what it was tragically used for in Arizona. So let's stop the nonsense. The rhetorical arms race is offensive and makes America a less pleasant place to live. There's much more name-calling and shouting and personal invective in American life than anywhere I've ever traveled outside the United States. None of that matters.

If you want to be a leader in the wake of this most recent tragedy, why not address the real issue: the easy availability of semi-automatic handguns that serve only one purpose--to shoot and kill innocent people. That's where the debate on rhetoric should start and end.

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By Alan M. Webber

 |  January 11, 2011; 11:35 AM ET
Category:  Congressional leadership , Crime , Government leadership , Leadership weaknesses , Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Sandbox rules for politicians | Next: It will take responsible leaders


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Actually the Glock did'nt kill anyone it was the Jared Laughner who killed.How did a deranged man end up with a pistol? Isnt there laws already in place making it against the law for a mentally imbalanced individual to possess a pistol?If so,why wasnt the law inforced?Who's to blame?If laws dont work why bother passing more?Why blame the gun and not the killer?

Posted by: insaneinthemembrain | January 17, 2011 12:14 AM
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Mr. Webber, you are quite right of course that "vitriolic political rhetoric" is not what killed and wounded the people in Arizona. Such rhetoric undoubtedly does enflames some people who have guns in hand, but those guns' triggers are not being pulled by rhetoric.

Having just learned about it I intend to read your book on 52 truths for business. Is one of them that besides being a deadly business the making and selling of guns is a hugely profitable business that Congress, the administration, and the current high court have no intention of thwarting?

Gary Brumback

Posted by: garybrumback1 | January 15, 2011 8:13 AM
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"Have you not heard of the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation? People take their Glocks and actually shoot at paper targets--not live, innocent humans! "

Hey, rootin' tootin' Glock fans, they truly are grrrreaatt for shooting people. I lost a college friend, shot twice in the chest in his office, 4 others injured. Too bad for him. And silly for the rest of us to slow anyone down at the gun counter. The NRA makes sure of that. With no clear evidence of mental illness beyond the creep-out level, you think the NRA would not have fought for this guy's right to purchase over the counter? And they are still fighting against any background checks at gun shows, where about 40% of folks (terrorists, too) are free to pick up loads of weapons.

Guns kill people, bullets kill people, living in a culture that looks at guns as a way to solve personal problems kills people, and language that portrays political opponents as problems that should be targeted with the rhetoric of gun violence (implying injury & death) kills people. Hey, welcome to America, the "kill people" mecca of the developed world.

Posted by: post-it2 | January 14, 2011 3:22 PM
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"... the easy availability of semi-automatic handguns that serve only one purpose--to shoot and kill innocent people. That's where the debate on rhetoric should start and end."


How do semi-automatic handguns know which people are innocent? Do they have a built-in innocence detectors? Do they fail to fire if aimed at guilty people?

Guns are a good tool for killing people and animals. That's kind of the whole point, ya know? Whether the gun is fired at innocent people, guilty people, paper targets, or is used to defend one's life and property without being fired at all, is up to the user.

Whether the people of the United States should be trusted with such tools or not was settled when the several states ratified the 2nd Amendment.

His parents, the administrators of the local community college, and the sherriff's office apparently failed to do anything to get the young man psychiatric care they knew he needed. Had they done so, he could have been flagged as mentally ill, and ineligible to purchase the gun.

If parents, schools, and law enforcement all fail to identify and get help for the mentally ill -- our society is absolutely terrible at it! -- the problem isn't overly permissive rules about guns, is it?


Posted by: m00tpoint | January 14, 2011 3:16 PM
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Alan, yes a Glock was used in the shooting, but the Glock didn't just decide to shoot these people. To further your lesson in ballistics, it took someone pulling the trigger to shoot the gun, and it was this evil idiot who decided to do it. You throw around the term "semi-automatic" like it makes a handgun that much more dangerous. "...semi-automatic handguns that serve only one purpose--to shoot and kill innocent people." Really? Have you not heard of the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation? People take their Glocks and actually shoot at paper targets--not live, innocent humans! And what about the thousands of policemen who carry semi-automatics? Are you saying that they're only killing innocent people? You talk about the offensive rhetorical arms race, but you're doing nothing but adding to the ignorant hysteria.

Posted by: speedreed | January 13, 2011 12:30 PM
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Alan Weber is exactly right! The gun lobby has brainwashed the American public and co-opted a large share of its political leadership. We used to say that Social Security is the third rail in American politics. Touch it and you're dead. The freedom to own and carry weapons has also become a third rail. Any politician in a conservative-leaning area who suggests more gun control is unlikely to win election or remain in office.

Posted by: hglass | January 11, 2011 6:01 PM
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