A third way on gun control allows both sides to win
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In 2015, Dan Hodges said that, “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

Shootings are terrible events that are becoming more commonplace. Most everyone, regardless of party or religious inclination, believes that something needs to be done. No one wants to live in fear of the everyday, like sending kids to school, or going to the movies for the night.

Unfortunately, that’s where the commonality ends; leaving little if any consensus on what should be done or how. Opposing parties have entrenched themselves to such a degree that the intractability of this issue has devolved to little more than name calling and petty social media posts that do little to comfort the individuals forced to go on without their loved ones.

In evaluating these narratives, you find the crux of the issue. Both sides hold valid defenses of their positions that are logically based.

Gun control advocates argue that the Second amendment was implemented under the limitations of weapons that were available at the time, which ubiquity posed much less a threat to the innocent as compared to the weapons today.

On the other hand, when the Second Amendment was written in the 18th century, America was placing its safety on both the military but also regiments of well-armed civilian soldiers known as minutemen. During this period, a civilian was allowed the same access to weapons as their military counterparts. Today, one could argue that the modern civilian should have access to AT4 anti tank rockets, grenades, and belt fed squad automatic weapons that their military counterparts possess under the Second Amendment.

Framing becomes an extremely tricky issue when it comes to addressing this conflict. Competing narratives are both validated by the same logic applied. Both become right, and yet both become wrong. As long as we use opposing frames, the conflict will continue unresolved.

The second major issue leading to the intractability of this topic is the conflict strategy employed. Both camps utilize a competitive, zero sum approach that yields minimal progress.

A competitive conflict strategy is a strategy where both sides are fighting for total control, with no room for a middle ground or space for a zone of possible agreement to exist. It forces people to take sides, precluding the chance of a collective effort towards a win-win resolution.

We’ve become a fractured nation fighting amongst ourselves rather than resolving problems together. It becomes us versus them rather than us versus the problem. 

There has been no cooperation between the NRA and advocates of gun control to introduce a collaborative approach to the problem. Gun control is dead.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If we wish to see different results, we need to change the way we interact.

Work smarter, not harder. In order to change the outcome, we need to change the narrative, which will then change the entire structure and approach.

The words “gun control” can, more often than not, evoke an intense, emotional response that automatically puts individuals in a defensive stance. But to curb the rising toll of fatalities, we need to move from a competitive zero sum approach to a collaboration that will be mutually beneficial for both sides.

The Collaborative Firearms Education Initiative involves two steps. First, a push to get the CDC funding to actively catalog and study gun related violence much as it does motor vehicle fatalities and a push to increase the educational requirements for firearm purchases with the NRA being the main organization for implementation and provision of this education.

We need reliable, unbiased information and understanding of it. Without a complete understanding of the problem we are left only with speculation and theories.

Secondly, instead of looking to limit accessibility to firearms in efforts against the NRA and other political groups, increasing the level of education necessary to purchase firearms in conjunction with the NRA. 


To drive a vehicle on streets, hunt on public land , or carry a concealed weapon, every individual is required to attend formal and regulated training and be licenced.

For both the hunting and concealed weapon permits, the NRA has been the main organization that provides the courses to train and license interested parties. A collaborative approach encourages (if not requires) NRA involvement to meet with those fighting for gun safety halfway.

While, this is not the ultimate solution to end all violence, it could be the initial step that paves the way for constructive dialogue and cooperation between two groups that have working against each other for years. By shifting gears from the ineffectual gun control debate to the Collaborative Firearms Education Initiative, the narrative begins to change.

O'Reilly is Lead Program Officer of the CPI-Kenya Program at the Institute for Multi-track Diplomacy (IMTD). Since 1992, the mission of IMTD is to promote a systems-based approach to peace building and to facilitate the transformation of deeply-rooted social conflict. IMTD is based in Arlington, VA.


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