Gun debates: where people talk past each other


author: nicholas giokas | contributor


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People are not on the same page upon discussions about gun control

Gun control is one of the more difficult issues to pin down nowadays, and it makes perfect sense as to why. After a tragedy, emotions run high as people search for answers. After events like the one that took place in Oregon, it’s natural that Americans look at the state of their gun culture and ask, “What are we doing to stop this?” However, the debate that follows this question often appears to be more of a shouting match than a dialogue.

What truly poisons the well for those participating in the gun debate is that both sides of the argument talk right past each other. Those that propose restricting access to guns simply don’t understand anything about guns or gun culture in the States. Those against restrictions on guns don’t understand why there is a fear of guns in America.

Now what the former, the pro-restriction lobby, refuse to do is educate themselves on the subject that they are debating so fiercely about. It is honestly frustrating to listen to the arguments surrounding weapons bans because they don’t follow any sort of logic. Many of the Democrat candidates for President have talked about “assault weapons bans” without ever talking about what “assault weapons” are or why they should be banned. Pro-gun activists are often rightly frustrated because a hunting rifle is seen as less dangerous than a semi-automatic AKM because the AKM looks more menacing, despite the fact they both have the same killing power. What is equally frustrating is how pro-restriction activists will laugh off arguments concerning knife or other non-gun mass killings despite the fact they also happen often and are also deadly (a recent example being the knife attacks against the Israelis). As a result, those that are pro-restriction do a poor job of forming arguments that those with knowledge in guns and their culture would accept.

The opposite is just as true for the pro-gun crowd. The pro-gun crowd has done a terrible PR job for themselves in the US and Canada. In the US, the extreme stance of the NRA has soured many Americans’ perception of guns, with their opposition to any form of background checks or getting rid of gun show loopholes. The fact of the matter is, that such measures need to be put in place and the majority of those in the pro-gun crowd, outside of the NRA, are perfectly fine with such measures. However, when the legislation is in the works for such measures to be beefed up or reformed, those in the “moderate” pro-gun crowd don’t do a good job explaining why the provisions on the restriction of guns themselves are what they oppose rather than the checks. What’s more, those in the NRA lobby make it difficult for the rest of the pro-gun crowd due to their complete disregard for the emotions of the pro-restriction side, ignoring the mindset that follows tragedy. The final issue ties into the first problem I have brought up for those in the pro-restriction group: gun education. Guns are a subject that everyone feels they know a lot about but, in reality, know next to nothing. What the pro-gun side needs to do is take a measured and understanding approach to explaining their hobby and they need to find a way to explain their arguments in an acceptable way to those with no knowledge on guns.

All in all, there should be two main messages on the gun control debate. Firstly, that both sides realize there is a sincere lack of mutual understanding; not by the fault of either side, but because both sides don’t see the importance in making sure everyone has the facts, whether it be on guns or on the emotions of those that have witnessed tragedy. The other message is that Canada is not America. Our guns and the culture surrounding them are entirely different than those in the States and it is because of this that gun owners are, more often than not, vilified unfairly by the Canadian public because of American events. All in all, people simply need to start talking to each other rather than past each other.

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