At our March 1st and April 5th meetings, we discussed the especially (but always) timely issue of “Guns in America.”
In our March 1st meeting, we split into three groups and listened to each other’s perspectives. We learned about our own personal relationships with guns and those of others, the issues driving the gun debate, and our latest feelings about schools and guns. As a diverse group, we found some common ground: we all acknowledged that this is a real problem in America and, in taking an even broader view, we reflected on the role of violence in general in our society. Many of us left that session with alternative sources of information, some clarifying understandings, glimpses into other viewpoints, and more questions related to: “So What’s Next?”
What was next (at our April meeting) was becoming more informed on other ways to get information or, more importantly–take action. With representatives from three local but very different organizations focused on this issue, we learned about alternative beliefs and solutions offered within our community. We then broke into groups and discussed these perspectives among ourselves.
Before our first meeting, we prepared by reading the following two articles. The third article provides data, information, and next steps for personal involvement and action around this issue:
- Article 1 (Information): NYtimes on Gun Inaction
- Article 2 (Information): National Review Against Gun Policies
- Article 3 (for ACTION): The Safe Tennessee Project
At our second meeting, we met with the following local representatives:
Captain Harmon Hunsicker,
Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD)
Kathleen Chandler Wright,
Moms Demand Action (MDA)
Reflecting on our two discussions using exit slips, many of our members said that even with two meetings, they still wanted more time to educate themselves and discuss the issue. One member wanted more discussion specifically on “court rulings related to guns and types of guns,” and many commented on the importance of educating themselves and others with data related to gun violence.
Nevertheless, some reported that they’d already learned something new. After our first meeting, many participants said they left with a better understanding of how mental health needs contribute to shootings. One person commented that her discussion “helped me see the bigger issue of guns, not just as they related to school shootings, and how that needs to be kept in mind.” After our second meeting, one participant said that MNPD had taught them that “gun violence is concentrated in several areas and in the hands of a relatively limited number of individuals.” Another was intrigued by hearing the perspective that “a computer is a more effective tool to overthrow the government than a gun.” And in response to the MDA presentation, one member said they realized how important is was to let “gun owners know that we do not want to ‘kill the Second Amendment.'”
Keith A. Caruso MD, one of our participants, also created this document to answer questions from our sessions about Pschotropic Medication.
Overall, this was an extremely divisive issue with passions on both sides. Even when participants ultimately agreed, “many… had similar views, but different ways of coming to the same conclusion.” Many members also commented on how difficult it was to give everyone time to speak and control “filibustering in small groups.” Therefore, in the future, we will try harder to remind participants “of the ground rules and sticking to them.”