American politics is dominated by the hot button issue mentality. In America’s political climate there is a divisiveness that draws a line between groups of citizens when it comes to certain issues, one in particular is the gun control debate. To begin understanding the divisiveness we first need to understand the groups of people that make up the groups which debate their positions on the issue.
On one side there are American citizens that feel that the Second Amendment is out of touch with today’s society and was written during a time of real oppression that warrants no need in the 21stcentury. Some of these advocates argue that we are in need of serious restrictions on certain types of firearms such as semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Somewhere in the middle there are American that feel the Second Amendment is a part of the Constitution and it should be protected just as any other part would be. However, they also argue that there is some room for restriction so that there is way to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of dangerous individuals. Some of these restrictions include increased background checks, removing the gun show loophole, and restriction or bans on accessories such as bump stocks. Last, we have the side that believes in the strict constitutional interpretation that the “right of the people shall not be infringed.” Meaning that they believe there shouldn’t be the intense restrictions and firearms are just another piece of property.
Our group was during the discussion to try and reach an agreement on a legislative action was comprised of three individuals that fell somewhere in the middle category and one individual that was a little more conservative in their view of gun control. The points of interest are, what causes these groups to fragment into an “us versus them” mentality and why can’t these groups overcome the obstacles to reach a compromise? Finally, what characteristics of an agreement can be made to bridge this divide?
To being understanding what causes the divisiveness among these groups we will analyze Kinder and Kam’s theory of ethnocentrism as an expression of social identity and how it applies to this situation. In Four Theories in Search of Ethnocentrism Kinder and Kam define ethnocentrism as, “the division of human kind into in-groups and out-groups” (Kinder and Kam, 2009). https://gastate.view.usg.edu/d2l/le/content/1585805/viewContent/25959569/View They go on to say that this is a natural “innocuous behavior” and members of the in-groups view other members as a positive force. Furthermore, members of in-groups view opposition members of the out-group as uncooperative and dangerous. This natural mentality in my opinion is where the problem lies. The authors then make the point that no matter what all people have some form of ethnocentric value and that people them indifferent ways. As this theory applies to this topic we can see that people tend to express their ethnocentrism on different sides of a political argument. If groups of individuals are able to get past this mentality and understand that there is a conscious effort that needs to be made to realize this mentality, then there might be a possibility that a compromising solution could be met.
The next step is for people to understand this and actively try to reach a compromise, just as my discussion group did. In doing so there were obstacles for us to overcome before we were able to make forward progress. Some of the issues that we encountered were as simple as trying to understand what the topic was that we were discussing and that if any progress is going to be made each one of us need to be willing to listen to one another. However, listening would only go so far in trying to reach a compromise and the next component would need to be not just listening but making an effort to understand where the opposing individuals point of view is coming from. Although the group had some obstacles to overcome we were able to reach an agreement on what the proper legislation should be. These are basic issues, but they are something that are encountered in the political world no matter what the topic is.
As we neared the end of our discussion we decided that the best course of action on reducing gun violence would be to focus on a few specific measures. We decided to remove the gun show loophole, increase background checks, and more importantly we should toughen the security around schools. Coming to this agreement was tough by I felt that it was one of the most important and necessary discussions we have had. This experience taught each of us to learn that we should listen and understand one another but more importantly that for there to be progressive action there needs to be compromise and each person will not be able to get exactly what they desire but that the compromise if for the greater good.