As the national debate on gun policy continues, we wanted to highlight this insightful blog post from NCDD Board member John Backman, who shares a story of how deep, meaningful dialogues can take place when we simply ask questions and share personal stories about issues that matter to us. You can find the original post here on the Public Conversations Project blog, or read it below.
Twenty-four hours after the horrific shootings in Aurora, the questions started forming in my mind. They arose not from the tragedy itself, but from the predictable parade of clichés and catchphrases that followed—gun ownership vs. gun control—as if proclaiming them one more time would settle the debate.
There had to be more to the issue, and that simple conviction sparked the questions. Why are guns important to the people who own them? Why is gun control important to the people who favor it? Would “pro-gun” people favor any restrictions if they could be shown to save lives? How do “anti-gun” people deal with the fact that no restriction will prevent horrors like that in Aurora?
So I put the questions on my lightly traveled blog. I never expected what came next.
From this one post, three separate Facebook conversations broke out. (To read them, visit my Facebook timeline and search the page itself for gun.) The contributors were not leaders of “special interest groups,” but rather a collection of professional associates, old school chums, in-laws, even colleagues in a hobby that has nothing to do with firearms. All of them had robust opinions.
Did actual dialogue break out? Not quite. Most contributors used the opportunity to reassert their opinions, with one critical difference from the usual debate: they took the time to explain their positions in depth. More often than not, they shared a personal story from which their convictions sprang—the death of a loved one from gun violence, or a childhood spent in a rural area where responsible gun use was a necessity. They responded to one another’s comments civilly; by the end, they had started to address one another by name.
In the process, we discovered some truths that perhaps should have been obvious to all, but weren’t. Some gun owners had no problem with requiring a waiting period and background check to purchase firearms. Few in favor of gun control wanted to ban ownership entirely.
What can we learn from these exchanges? The lessons will break no new ground, but they are worth remembering:
Beneath all these lessons, however, lay an insight even more extraordinary. The conversations had given me a glimpse of the hunger—perhaps widespread?—to express, explain, understand, and listen. This hunger lives in the hearts of everyday citizens. It is regularly overlooked in the media and political arenas. Most important for us, it is a hunger for what we, as people of dialogue, have to offer.
Cross-posted from a Public Conversations blog post found here: www.publicconversations.org/blog/one-list-questions-three-conversat....