Posts by: Robb Ryerse

What Can Be Done about School & Mass Shootings in America?

Parents all over America are wondering if it’s safe to send their children to school today. They want a society in which our kids can go to class or the movies without having to worry that they will be gunned down. As a country, we have endured senseless tragedy after senseless tragedy. And in response, our elected officials offer their thoughts and prayers but not their actions. They can’t risk upsetting their special interest donors by doing what the vast majority of Americans expect them to do – take the steps necessary to build a safer society.

As a candidate for Congress in Arkansas’ 3rd district, I am not beholden to any corporate donors or special interest groups. Therefore, I can speak honestly and forthrightly about what needs to be done to address the plague of school shootings and gun violence in America. We don’t have to feel powerless. There are things that can be done. We can take the following steps.

Here is my plan to meaningfully address gun violence in America:


Common Sense Gun Laws

The vast majority of American are unified in their belief that we can preserve our 2nd Amendment rights while also enacting common sense gun laws. Congress needs to act immediately in banning automatic and semi-automatic weapons, closing loopholes that allow guns to purchased at shows and online, banning bump stocks, and establishing a national permit to purchase program that includes effective background checks. None of these reforms infringe on any law-abiding citizen’s ability to own a gun, but they do reduce the likelihood that the wrong types of weapons get into the hands of the wrong kinds of people.


Comprehensive Threat Assessment in Every School in America

Experts agree that when schools conduct a comprehensive threat assessment, they are better prepared to identify and respond to potentially tragic situations. The Department of Education needs to create a template for a Comprehensive Threat Assessment that must be conducted in every school in America before the beginning of the next school year. Ensuring the safety of our children needs to be the single top priority of every school board in America, and through the Department of Education, they need to have the resources necessary to make student safety the top priority.


Study the Links between Gun Violence, Mental Illness, and Adolescent Medication

Whenever a mass shooting takes place in America, much of the ensuing conversation revolves around whether or not the shooter was mentally ill. Often this discussion is used to deflect attention from other needed action, like common sense gun law reform. However, it is incumbent upon us to establish clearly whether or not there is a link between mental illness and mass shootings or between school shootings and adolescent use of certain medications. The President needs to establish an independent blue-ribbon commission to conduct this study, and then Congress needs to implement its recommendations.


Explore Liability Insurance for Gun Owners

The law requires citizens to purchase insurance when they become owners of homes and motor vehicles. When people have such insurance, they are incentivized by insurance companies to get lower rates in exchange for freely choosing to enact certain behaviors, such as maintaining a perfect driving record or installing a home security system. If gun owners were required to purchase liability insurance, they too would have a financial incentive to enact greater safety procedures in their homes, thus reducing the risk of both accidental and intentional gun violence.


National Dialog about the Myth of Redemptive Violence

We need a national conversation about what we believe about violence. For too long, we’ve glorified violence in our entertainment and have told ourselves formative narratives that reinforce the myth of redemptive violence, which is that the only way to overcome violence is through great, more overwhelming violence. Unfortunately, our politicians often reinforce this narrative in their rhetoric. From kitchen tables to boardrooms, from classrooms to legislative chambers, we need to talk realistically and honestly about the role we want violence to play in our society. Perhaps this dialog can be enhanced by an Ad Council campaign that seeks to reframe the conversation, as has been successful with texting and driving, recycling, and other issues.


Campaign Finance Reform

Ultimately, every issue in the current American political climate is a financial one. Our elected officials can’t be trusted to put the needs of people first because they are beholden to the corporations and special interest groups that fund their campaigns. We won’t have leadership willing to take these necessary steps until we elect leaders who do not take money from the gun industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and their lobbyists.


Any American, including you, who is concerned about gun violence in our society can immediately donate to and volunteer for candidates who refuse corporate and SuperPAC donations, knowing that the likelihood of these issues being addressed goes up when we elect representatives who will serve the people first.

We are not doomed to a future of escalating tragedy. We can preserve our freedoms while also increasing our security. What we need to do is support and elect leaders who will put the needs of people first by taking the steps necessary to reduce gun violence in America.

If you’d like to contribute to help me get my name on the ballot in Arkansas where ballot access fees are the highest in the country, so that I can be an independent representative for you, click here: Arkansas Ballot Fees Are the Highest in US. Let’s Get Robb on the Ballot!

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Who Sinned That He Doesn’t Have Health Care?

It’s a classic story on the Sunday school circuit: Jesus and his disciples are walking one day and see a man begging on the side of the road, a man who had been born blind. The disciples take this opportunity to ask Jesus a gossipy question, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Read More…

On the Ordination of My Wife

I first met Vanessa in October of 1993. A mutual friend introduced us, and I knew immediately that she was someone I had to know more. I asked her out on our first date the very next day.

We’ve been together – more or less – ever since. Read More…

Sales and Stories and Bears! Oh My!

I am a big believer in the philosophy that “facts tell, but stories sell.”

I’ve written about it before, but I’m ready to add a very important caveat. We can’t just tell any story, we’ve got to make sure that we’re telling the right story.

Facts tell, but the right stories sell.

The illustrations, images, and metaphors we use need to be fitting to the presentation being made, thought through and well-crafted, and – most critically – appropriate to the audience.


Let me give you an illustration.

grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis, Robin SilverThis week Betsy DeVos had her hearings before a Senate confirmation committee to become Secretary of Education. She was asked by Senator Chris Murphy about her stance on guns in schools. Given the increased number of school shootings we’ve seen over the past couple of decades, this is not in anyway the type of gotcha question that is the bane of our political existence. It was a good and heartfelt question.

In response, Betsy DeVos reiterated her support for local decision-making when it comes to such issues. She illustrated her point by talking about a school in Wyoming needing a shotgun to ward off grizzly bear attacks.

Screeching brake noises. What?!?

The story didn’t sell.

You see, Senator Chris Murphy is from Connecticut. Connecticut, as you know, is home to Sandy Hook, where the worst school shooting in American history happened just four years ago. The stories about gun violence in schools that he is used to hearing are the ones told to him by grieving parents.

Betsy DeVos didn’t know her audience. She didn’t tell the right story. And as a result fewer and fewer people are buying her as Secretary of Education.


But this article isn’t about Betsy DeVos. It’s about how telling the wrong story can derail the sales process. I’m sure it’s happened to all of us at some point or another.

I remember once being on a sales call with my manager. We were talking to the owner of a local chain of pizza restaurants. We were trying to convince him to do some advertising with us, and he was throwing up every roadblock he could think of. It was a spirited and lively conversation.

In the course of the conversation, my manager kept coming back to the same illustration, over and over again. He kept describing the difference between a BMW and a Hyundai. Both can get you where you need to go, he would say, but one gets you there a whole lot better than the other. It was clear – BMWs are good and Hyundais are bad. It’s a decent illustration, one that my manager really liked because I heard him use it often.

However, we were talking to a good ole boy who drove a pickup truck. His pizza places are known for their $5 hot and now offer. Honestly, he’s not the BMW of pizza restaurants in our area. He’s the Hyundai of pizza.

We couldn’t convince him to buy from us. As I reflected on that meeting later, I wondered if the story we relied on actually made it harder for us to make the sale.


Here’s something I’ve learned about telling stories in the sales process: you can’t just wing it. You can’t always fall back to the same old illustrations you’ve used a thousand times. The zip and passion and energy won’t be there. The clear connecting of dots for your client will get fuzzy. And you’ll end up telling a story that makes selling harder for you because it doesn’t fit your audience.

So, before your meeting, think about who you’re meeting with. Think about their personality, their motivations, their experiences. Think about which stories are the best to tell and which are best to leave out.

And when you’re ready, go tell a great story.

Because facts tell, but the right stories sell.



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Your Church Is Probably Lying to You

In a recent speech, Donald Trump was distracted by a baby crying somewhere in the crowd. As a pastor who has experienced firsthand what it’s like to have your train of thought jump the tracks because you hear a crying infant, I immediately sympathized with him.

I even appreciated how he handled the situation.

“Don’t worry about that baby; I love babies … I hear that baby crying; I like it.” Trump said. “What a baby, what a beautiful baby. Don’t worry … Don’t worry about it.”

Imagine the baby’s mother in the back of the room. She knows her child is being a distraction to people. She’s desperately trying to keep him quiet. She wants to make sure her child is comforted, and she wants to be considerate of others. Read More…

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