Liberals and conservatives must find common ground on gun control

Liberals and conservatives must find common ground on gun control

Instances of American gun violence follow a tragic and predictable cycle. A mass shooting takes place, there is public outcry and venomous debate over about what should or should not be done, the shock wears off, the debate ends without any real change taking place, and then there’s another mass shooting. The recent influx of articles related to gun violence following the mass shooting that recently took place in Parkland, Florida is a reflection of this cycle. Gun violence is a political issue, so it makes sense for it to be politicized. However, politicizing an issue is very different from enacting political change, which we desperately need.

The level of emotion and controversy involved in the debate about gun violence, and what to do about it, makes it difficult to accomplish much with regards to gun control. The combination of devastation over what many see as an entirely preventable loss of life and the passion so many Americans feel about protecting their right to own guns creates intense and difficult conversations. 

With the strength of the convictions and emotions that are involved, many are unwilling to budge. The result is angry exchanges that quickly devolve into name-calling and a refusal to so much as consider dissimilar ideas. The types of conversations we’re having about gun violence need to change so that real progress can be made. 

There’s obviously anything but a clear consensus regarding how to tackle the problem of gun violence in America. This article is not meant to provide the ‘right answer’, but rather to make the simple suggestion that we need to try something. The system we have in place is not working. Obviously politicians and citizens alike disagree on whether we need more, fewer, or entirely different gun control laws. However, as long as partisan politics and raw emotion cloud our vision of what’s at stake, nothing will happen. 

After a mass shooting, liberals call for immediate gun control reform and conservatives make the argument that gun control is an ineffectual violation of American freedoms. When neither group is willing to make even the smallest of concessions, the conversation ends there and the pattern of gun violence in America continues.

Liberals’ goal of ending gun violence would be better served if they focused on achieving incremental changes in gun control laws. If America were a utopia, rather than a country with a history rooted in revolutionary ideals and a love for war and violence, it might be possible to get rid of guns, or to take similarly extreme action. However, with so many American citizens holding their guns closer than most things in life to their hearts, asking for a total overhaul of gun control laws is unrealistic. 

Similarly unreasonable is the way that conservatives typically respond to liberal demands for increased or different gun control laws. Mass shootings are a problem in America, and if conservatives are going to oppose gun control of any sort, they need to get to work proposing other ways of solving the gun violence crisis that is bringing pain and suffering to so many Americans. 

A common conservative response to gun violence is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Frequently the issue as framed as one of mental illness, yet conservatives typically don’t favor taking any sort of action to address mental health problems in America, which indicates that conservatives either don’t believe themselves, or don’t care enough about the issue at hand.

Between mass shootings and casual violence that takes place on the streets daily, America has a gun problem. It won’t be solved if Democrats and Republicans refuse to work together or to compromise. At this point, any change would be better than none. America clearly lacks a functioning system to control gun violence. Rather than taking uncompromising stances on what will and will not help, Americans need to put ideology and party aside and assess how we can prevent lives from needlessly being taken by gun violence. 

Cassie Kuhn is a junior majoring in political science and mathematics. Her column runs biweekly. 

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