We Do Not Have Time to Talk Unproductively About Guns

Cadie McNaboe ’22

Guns are one of the most divisive topics in America today. There is extensive discussion on guns and gun violence, but the current conversation has gone absolutely nowhere. 

Civil discourse in our country is fleeing; polarization is on the rise. It seems to be that people have developed an intolerance for the other side (the “wrong side”). In particular, conversations surrounding guns have become one of the most polarized discussions, with strong rhetoric across the political spectrum. 

The National Rifle Association (NRA) maintains that guns are not responsible for the issues afflicting America, while March for Our Lives calls for a complete ban on assault weapons. While this issue is highly politicized, we often forget that it’s personal too. 

As individuals, we think, we hope, and we pray that gun violence doesn’t affect us and our loved ones, realistically knowing it’s outside the scope of our control. Knowing that we have no control doesn’t change our mindset, but rather strengthens our resolve to believe the lie that we do. 

As a sophomore in high school, I came to this revelation the hard way. A fellow student, just 14y-years-old, brought a gun into my high school. I can remember as if it were yesterday: the school going on lockdown, being shoved in a closet with my fellow classmates, knowing the gunman was near my mom’s classroom, and knowing that I had no control. I, along with every student, staff, and faculty member, including my mother, was forced to think about what might happen if today was it. I sent my “I love you” texts as I silently sobbed, thinking of a world without my mom. I had absolutely no control. 

I made it out alive that day, as well as my mom. That 14-year-old boy held students at gunpoint, never actually pulling the trigger but still devastating countless lives, including my own.

Unfortunately, this story isn’t unique to me. So many people have stories to share, with many who aren’t as lucky as I was. 

While I still hold no control about acts of gun violence, I  have a voice. I choose to use my voice to amplify stories like my own, but I also choose to remember the stories of those who have been saved at the hands of a gun. 

Both perspectives are valid and real, and often we forget our shared humanity. The national rhetoric may pressure us to ignore one another, creating a divide that appears to be insurmountable, but I believe in our ability to span bridges and communicate and learn. 

But when learning, we often forget to listen. Our ears are tuned to the echoes of our own voices, rather than to those whose ideas challenge ours. The reality is that this lack of listening leads nowhere, and time isn’t a luxury this discussion can afford. No church, concert, or even campus is safe from the threat.

On our own campus, this inability to listen creeps in, creating a culture of division and narrow-mindedness. I believe that the rhetoric of estrangement has no place here, and we need to work to challenge ourselves to converse with the other side. We cannot afford to wait for our leaders to model good argument; we must instead do it ourselves.

Students Demand Action (SDA), Davidson’s anti-gun violence organization, is working to lead by example. Each week, one member signs up to tell a story. We start with this as a reminder of our humanity, personalizing the politicized issue. From there, we discuss. 

Our membership is diverse, as well as our members’ ideologies. No week is like any other, because each person’s story is unique. We often forget that someone is not only made up of their beliefs. Through this approach, we start with our commonalities, valuing each member’s inherent right to speak their truth. 

I believe Davidson College is uniquely situated to model humanizing and productive conversations. Our institution challenges us to “develop humane instincts,” and we must work to do just that. 

Some may see stories as irrelevant or overly personal, but we have an obligation to listen and begin to empathize with other people, regardless of where they stand on an issue. Nothing can change until our community begins to combat the precedent of speaking without listening, of conversing without learning.

Cadie McNaboe ’22 is undeclared and from Belington, West Virginia. Contact her at camcnaboe@davidson.edu.

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