This is the second blog post I’ve written about controversial topics that I think really aren’t that controversial—we just aren’t listening to each other. You can find my first post on abortion here.
I think we can and should talk about controversial and complex issues in a way that we can see where we agree and come to terms with when we need to agree to disagree. I think the topic of guns and gun control offers that opportunity.
I really don’t think this topic is as controversial as it seems. I think it has become a proxy war for our tribalistic politics. I think there is much more common ground on the issue than it appears from what you see on social media after a high-profile shooting. After a day or so of solidarity and thoughts and prayers, each tribe takes to their corner, and at the sound of the bell, comes out swinging with their same tired, weak tropes.
The right says, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Regulating weapons will do absolutely nothing to stop crime. Criminals will get any kind of weapon, regulations do nothing to stop people from getting the type of weapons they want. Any talk of gun control is a slippery slope to a total gun take over. Everyone on the left wants to take every gun away from every American.”
The left says, “The NRA controls every Republican. Mass shooting are a constant threat to American life. Europe and Australia completely cured their gun problem. Common sense gun reform with stop all mass shootings.
As this Pew research shows, there are clearly areas where Republicans and Democrats disagree on the issue of guns and gun control. There are also areas of common ground. So why do we naturally default to pointing out where we disagree? Why isn’t our first reaction to talk about how we can reach out to legislatures on these common ground areas? I don’t believe any American really believes the second amendment was intended to have no limitations. Nor have I personally meet someone who thinks we can or should forcibly remove all guns from every citizen in the United States.
Nearly 3/5 of all gun deaths United States are suicide related. Is there really anybody who doesn’t think we could do more to reach out to people in crisis? As this excellent Vox video points out, the United States, does not have a gun problem, it has many gun problems. Not least of all is that we can’t even talk to each other about the issue. I don’t think anyone should feel like they should have all the answers, but I worry sometimes we don’t even ask genuine questions of each other. Questions that lead to understanding, even when, or especially when, we don’t agree with each other. Questions that lead us to common ground as opposed to questions that lead us to stand our ground. We should embrace the idea that our assumptions may be challenged, that our views may be inadequate or even wrong. The more we avoid trying to understand each other, the easier it is to dismiss one another, the easier it is to dehumanize one another. Dehumanizing one another may be the most dangerous weapon of all.