On guns: For a conversation rather than debate, start with these questions

In trying to bridge the civic divide over guns, a productive approach to conversation is to focus not on who is right, but on where people are coming from. Questions developed at a recent public forum on guns, hosted by The Monitor, can be tools for less polarized dialogue on guns.

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    A public forum on guns – hosted the Monitor, April 11, 2013 – involved a storytelling portion that led to public dialogue in which audience members like these created questions that would elicit conversations rather than debate.
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The deep civic divide over guns was the focus of an April 11, 2013 storytelling and civil dialogue hosted by The Christian Science Monitor in partnership with the Public Conversations Project and The Mantle Project.

Participants created questions of curiosity that would be tools for less polarized conversations. We include some of them here and we encourage you to add your own in the comments section:

What does a gun symbolize to you? What might it symbolize to others? What comes to mind when you think of all these symbols? 

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Could you imagine sitting down with someone who has a totally different perspective from yours on guns? And listening? Without interrupting?

Why do you care about the gun issue? 

With the assumption that everyone wants to reduce gun deaths, why is the debate so polarized and why can't the multiple positions start from this area of common ground for policies and actions that are workable? Do you see any common ground between those for and against guns?

There seems to be a “gun rights” culture, a “gun control” culture, and maybe a “gun safety” culture. Are these cultures reconcilable? How might we develop a culture that has the benefits of all these without the risks of any of them?

If you were to become a gun owner, what would you do to ensure the safety of others around you? How would you care for the weapon? What steps would you take?

For gun owners: What are the top two or three positive emotions or feelings that guns bring to you and/or your family? What do you use your gun for?

For those against guns: What feelings do you associate with firearms? What are the factors that should be taken into account when regulating guns?

Are there ways to address the fears of gun advocates that would preserve their essential liberty while gaining their support for measures that would protect society better?

As a gun owner or supporter of firearms, what do you think would be the type of regulation or education that would be most useful in minimizing gun violence?

Is the instinct to defend life, liberty and loved ones innate biologically, spiritually, or a social construct?

How much has the popular media – movies, video, games, news – affected your view of guns?

How do we agree to disagree on the use of guns yet focus on preventing the misuse?

What interventions/strategies have been proven to improve gun safety?

Could you appreciate a dialogue on guns that acknowledges the presence and use of guns in our world rather than fans the fire of one “side” or another?

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