Hyper-partisanship Is Hurting Any Chance of Either Side Being Happy In the Gun Debate

Gun rights and gun control are always controversial topics, but in the days after a tragedy, well-meaning Americans quickly assume bad faith and thus turn good-faith discussions into tribal arguments. But conservatives must try to foster understanding by providing a guns rights view while acknowledging other views; explaining defensiveness, distrust, or reluctance by guns rights advocates; and brainstorming possible solutions.

I am a pro-life supporter of the Second Amendment, and I do not believe in repealing, curtailing, or circumventing it. However, I do believe that America must make changes somewhere in order to reduce mass shootings, a sentiment I have increasingly seen expressed by other pro-life Second Amendment advocates.

Seventeen lives were lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Before that, attendees of a concert. Worshippers at church. Patrons at a gay nightclub. Adults at work. Students in high school and college. Children in an elementary school. Our service men and women on base. Each of these lives mattered, and each was cut short far too soon.

And so guns rights advocates should acknowledge that it is not necessarily political when people plead to “do something” after such a tragedy. Although it is an emotional response, it is also a natural human reaction to a horrific situation to want to look for any possible ways to prevent it from happening again in the future.

The automatic response to such reactions should not be one of anger, derision, or contempt. There should not be an automatic assumption that such people — everyday Americans who are struggling to make sense of another senseless tragedy — are behaving in bad faith — just as those who wish for stricter gun control should not accuse millions of peaceful, law-abiding NRA members of murder or of having blood on their hands.

Likewise, we should not reflexively mock the fact that children and young adults who have been shot at and watched friends die now want to speak up about gun violence (whether they support gun control or enhancing guns rights) — particularly considering the fact that many of us on the Right are all too happy to include children at March for Life or to promote children who share conservative views.

When it comes to the Parkland survivors, it is not necessary to ridicule them or even simply dismiss them. Survivors should be treated with respect even while arguing their points on the merits, and forcing them to defend their stance from every angle will improve their understanding of the gun debate. As conservatives, we appreciate that they see value in public discourse and civil dialogue. And we all understand they have been affected by a traumatic experience most of us, fortunately, have not and hopefully never will.

There are certainly individuals worthy of scorn who politicize tragedies for their own gain or to knock their political opponents. And they do so at the detriment of those who would wish to enact policy changes to curtail these tragic events.

And there are those who gleefully invoke the Second Amendment and the latest tragedy to slam Democrats.

But these people do not represent the entirety of their “side,” so we should still always attempt to approach any debates and discussions in good faith.

We all have the same goal: to reduce the number of lives taken too soon.

We will never improve anything if people continue to act as though Republicans want children to be murdered in school or Democrats are exploiting the deaths of children in order to confiscate guns. Sadly, social media and much of our current discourse only perpetuate this back-and-forth. But gun control advocates as well as gun rights proponents must both do a better job at ignoring the extremists, being fair, and keeping discussions civil and productive.

 

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.