Selvaraj 1 Matthew Selvaraj Op-Ed 2 Focusing on The Real Problem Political scientists, politicians, and most other humans have an opinion on how to move forward with gun control. However, nothing can be done with all these ideas, because no one can agree on what constitutes “gun control.” People do agree that something needs to be done about gun laws. A Pew Research Center study found that seventy percent of participants across America want to do something about gun laws1. In fact, a majority of those people want to specifically tighten gun laws2. This general will, gun owner and non-owner alike, is sensible, because according to a study on Oxford Academic, a compilation of gun control studies around the world show that gun control policy directly correlates with a decrease in shooting-related death3. The problem arises when lawmakers divide into red and blue. Seventy five percent of democrats want to see stricter gun laws, whereas seventy six percent of republicans would like to see looser gun laws or no change at all4. The split between republicans and democrats that is not present amongst the general public raises the question of why the US government is so divided when the people that it consists of are still people too. The split can be best be accounted for by politics, the business that literally makes America what it is today. Although a majority of people agree that gun laws 1 Kim Parker et al., "Views on Gun Policy in the U.S.," Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project, July 10, 2017, accessed April 15, 2019, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/06/22/views-on-gun-policy/. 2 Ibid. 3 Julian Santaella-Tenorio et al., "What Do We Know About the Association Between Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Injuries?" OUP Academic, February 10, 2016, accessed April 15, 2019, https://academic.oup.com/epirev/article/38/1/140/2754868. 4 Kim Parker et al., "Views on Gun Policy in the U.S.," Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project, July 10, 2017, accessed April 15, 2019, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/06/22/views-on-gun-policy/. Selvaraj 2 need to become stricter, political divides lead to proxy battles over policy issues5. These proxy battles lead to no policies ever being passed and the safety of innocent civilians still compromised by the looming threat of a shooting. Ultimately, policy makers need to put down their political facades, so that they can work together to create policy for the betterment of America. Policy makers have to represent “the people,” or better known as those that vote in their favor. In order to represent their people, policy makers need to hear and act upon what their people want. According to the Pew Research Center, gun owners are more likely to contact their legislators than non-gun owners6. Similarly, gun owners are have also shown to more commonly support organizations that take stances on gun control7. Contextually, gun owners were supportive of looser gun laws than non-gun owners8. These stats show that people cannot simply blame lawmakers for not supporting the general public, because a majority of those that speak out have shown to be in support of guns. At the same time, in an ideal world, policy makers should look to represent all people within their districts to better represent all the majority of people who would like to see stricter gun laws. The polarization of “reds” vs. “blues” has also contributed to lack of action on the gun control scene. Oftentimes clash between these two groups can be very emotional which can unfortunately lead to more bad than good. People who are stereotypically termed as “reds” are those who support gun rights as part of their culture. They view those that support gun control as 5 David Brooks, "Respect First, Then Gun Control," The New York Times, February 20, 2018, accessed April 15, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/opinion/parkland-gun-control-shootings.html. 6 Kim Parker et al., "Views on Gun Policy in the U.S.," Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project, July 10, 2017, accessed April 15, 2019, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2017/06/22/views-on-gun-policy/. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. Selvaraj 3 condescending elites who want to destroy their supposedly despicable culture9. These people are often stereotypically termed as “blues.” Marches and rallies with signs that say “keep your hate” or “our blood, your hands” only increase polarization of two groups10. In order for change two occur the two groups need to come together without villainizing the other. There have been attempts at such forms of cooperation in the past and in the present. In the past there was the ever-present battle between agrarians and post-industrialists. That battle was soothed by the creation of community organizations that drew from both sides such as the Boy Scouts and the Settlement House11. These organizations worked well because both sides of trusted and respected that the other would not ruin the joint organizations. Similarly, within the gun debate there has to be respect given from both sides. Better Angels is a non-profit that has shown that this mutual respect and trust can be established. The organization brings “reds” and “blues” together to have constructive conversations in an effort to de-villainize the two groups12. It is through this de-villainization that gun politics can revert back from the tribal war it has become into normal, constructive policy debate. From the establishment of republicans and democrats conforming specifically to the view of those that reach out to them to the issue that the polarization of “reds” and “blues” poses, gun control policy in America has become a tribal war between two sides unwilling to see the other that needs to revert back to a debate on gun control. Studies have shown that people, gun owners and non-owners alike, want gun laws to be more strict, but the constant battle between republicans and democrats to control the government has turned the fight over gun 9 David Brooks, "Respect First, Then Gun Control," The New York Times, February 20, 2018, accessed April 15, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/opinion/parkland-gun-control-shootings.html. 10 Ibid. 11 David Brooks, "Guns and the Soul of America," The New York Times, October 06, 2017, accessed April 15, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/06/opinion/guns-soul-of-america.html. 12 David Brooks, "Respect First, Then Gun Control," The New York Times, February 20, 2018, accessed April 15, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/19/opinion/parkland-gun-control-shootings.html. Selvaraj 4 control into a proxy war that is not getting the focus it deserves. Policy makers need to stop worrying about the votes of certain groups of people and need to be more focused on working together to create gun policy that could save lives. Therefore, based on these factors, gun control in America can only be achieved once people set the “problem” that is the opposing party aside and look at the problem that is poor policy leading to death of innocent people across the country.