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Guns, Trust, Children and the NRA

Thu, February 14, 2013 3:30 PM | Deleted user
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Many citizens in the United States have asked a rather puzzling question: how is it that we cannot manage to prevent assault rifles from being purchased by non-military personnel? It seems like such a common sense action and so clearly “the right thing to do” in the wake of a series of horrific mass killings and of children no less. The answer to this question tells us a lot about trust.

The answer is that we do not adequately regulate the sale of assault rifles because there is an extremely effective and well-resourced lobbying firm, the NRA that has major influence over members of Congress. The NRA is so powerful that members of Congress are afraid of incurring its wrath. Please see this video for a compelling exposition of the source of power of the NRA.

How this relates to trust is important. In a high trust society or organization, all stakeholder interests are considered in a fair and transparent process to arrive at decisions. What destroys trust is when the interests of one stakeholder are pursued at the expense of the other stakeholders and this occurs without fair process. For example, political corruption in Afghanistan or the ratings agencies serving their own profit needs rather than the security needs of investors buying rated bonds. Trust requires fair consideration be given to ALL legitimate stakeholder interests.

In this case, there is a tremendous amount of money being spent by gun manufacturers to use the Second Amendment to protect their profits while putting citizens at more risk. The NRA is getting away with this because while they aggressively pursue their own economic interests, the American public is lulled into a more passive and less influential role.

Where are the trust violations here? First, the NRA is using deception by saying that they are advocating for “their members.” Their members support some of the restrictions being proposed. In reality it is the weapons manufacturers whose interests (profits) they are trying to protect. Telling the truth here would expose the blatant self-interest, so it is important to focus on hunters and the Second Amendment rather than corporate weapons manufacturer and profits. This is a deceptive manipulation technique and one that destroys trust.

The second trust violation is among members of Congress. They take the NRA money, or they vote with the NRA, to increase the chance of getting re-elected. This is clearly rational self-interest operating. Since the data show that the average successful Senate campaign cost over 7 million dollars in 2004, survival and self-interest in this untrustworthy system suggests: serve those who give you money. However, we know that trustworthy agents represent the interests of their trustors (the voters) who entrusted responsibility with them. They do not serve themselves at the expense of their trustors.

Another lesson on trust is that we need to be more vigilant trustors. If we fall asleep, fail to monitor and test our trustees, they will often serve themselves at our expense. In the introduction to the book Congress and the Decline of Public Trust, Bill Bradley summarized the state of affairs: “Fine public servants are stuck in a bad system; in fact, money drives politics in America in a way that it never has before, even in its darkest moment...the unavoidable reality is that Congress is far more attentive to the corporation demanding relief from alternate minimum tax than to the family looking for help for escalating heath care costs.” Economically motivated special interests groups dominate American politics and crowd out what scholars have called rationally ignorant voters (they decide it is not worth it to take the time to be well informed). The video link about the NRA and the safety of children is an attempt to motivate us out of our slumber with righteous anger and emotion. Perhaps it's time we woke up and forced Congress to serve citizens’ needs and not the gun manufacturers operating through the NRA. If we cannot, is our system trustworthy or is it dangerously corrupted?

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Consortium for Trustworthy Organizations 2013  |  33 West 60th Street 4th Floor  |  New York, NY 10023
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