Trump administration is in a unique position to make real change on gun control policy
As we continue to struggle with the events in El Paso and Dayton, we all must face the fact that the problem of mass shootings in America has been in the headlines for over 30 years, through numerous administrations, with virtually no progress made. In fact, the situation has never been worse.
That shouldn’t be. Virtually all Americans, regardless of demographic characteristics, political views, positions on gun ownership and regulation, political party or political office want to see this escalating violence come to an end.
In our work to “bring light not heat to public discourse” and to demonstrate that people can come together in passionate but respectful debate to find common ground on issues that matter, we see clearly that the lack of progress on this issue is caused by its complexity and the fact that the divisive issue of guns is at the heart of the debate.
The Trump administration is in a unique position to make tangible and significant progress on this problem and move us down the path to eliminating mass shootings. We believe this because:
- Law-abiding gun owners often do not trust that their government will allow them to keep their weapons — but support of the Trump administration among gun owners is strong. Gun owners recognize this administration as someone looking out for their interests.
- The Trump administration demonstrated work to reduce mass shootings when President Trump issued an executive order in December 2018 effectively banning bump stocks.
We believe this administration is in much the same position as President Richard Nixon, a staunch anti-communist, was when presented with the opportunity to open relations with Communist China. That apparent conflict was key to his success in ultimately cooling tensions between the two countries and getting American businesses access to the China market. Like the Nixon administration did, we urge our current leaders to seize the opportunity.
But the 30 years of no progress mandate that a new approach is needed. Specifically:
- The conversation cannot be a referendum on guns and the 2nd Amendment because gun owners and their representatives will not engage.
- It must acknowledge the complexity of the problem. Researchers and law enforcement are working to determine why individuals become shooters, but there is as yet no consensus. And there are different types of mass shootings. Gang-related killings are not the same as what happened in El Paso and Dayton.
- It needs to include these four basic principles:
- Hear from all sides of the issue, including mass shooting victims and those dedicated to saving lives through strict gun control as well as gun owners who are concerned that their Constitutional right to ownership will be effectively eliminated. Seek to understand and account for the different perspectives, particularly of these two groups.
- When forming solutions, set ideology aside in favor of facts presented by credible experts.
- Outside of assailants, do not assign blame. Instead, seek to identify what individuals, organizations, companies, etc. can do to address the parts of the problem they contribute to. (Note to the media: We believe that assigning blame without reporting on potential solutions or points of progress serves to further divide the nation, making it more difficult to achieve the goal, which is to save innocent lives).
- Focus on what is possible and what can be done now. Find the 10-20 percent of the issue the different sides can agree on and take action accordingly. Build on that momentum moving forward.
There are probably a few mechanisms that could work, and we hope our elected officials choose one and get it going. When the findings and recommendations are delivered, we encourage the Trump administration to be the leading and loudest voice convincing citizens and elected officials to embrace the results and support them in speech and action.
We believe this administration has a substantially better opportunity than previous presidents. We implore them to seize it and set us on the path to the elimination of this horrific problem. They will be saving the lives of those who, through no fault of their own, may otherwise be included on the list of mass shooting victims.
Bruce Bond, a 30-year veteran of the information technology industry, is co-founder of the Common Ground Committee, a citizen-led initiative focused on demonstrating productive public discourse. Follow him on Twitter @BruceABond