I went to the Pro Gun rally that was in retaliation of David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland Shooting, giving a speech at Penn State. I was honestly excited for this. I do not feel like I belong with pro guns supporters nor do I often place myself in spaces I do not belong, however, I love challenges. I knew it would an opportunity for great “political” discussions and that’s something I’ve always been passionate about. One of the most prevalent problems in todays westernized society is the polarization that US politics are currently and systematically grounded in. It is rare that we find opportunities to bridge the gap. I stand firmly on that bridge.
I decided to approach a group of supporters to ask a few questions. I started with “what makes you guys want guns?” They cited various safety reasons: in the case of being a victim of war, rape, theft etc etc. I then began to break down the difference in our opinions as an avenue to highlight our similarities. I asked them if they agreed that their desire for guns came from their fear of what would happen if they didn’t have them. They agreed. I then began to explain that my fear of guns comes from what happens because they’re allowed. We both fear threats to our safety. That’s the bridge.
My fears come from the fact that systematically, guns only protect white, cis gendered people. They understood this and agreed. I then asked how they felt about living in a world in which guns are the solution to our fear. They agreed it was not ideal. That in a better world, we would not need guns. I then proceeded to explain that their desire for gun rights is focused on the wrong side of the argument. If they want guns to support their safety, they should fight to socialize the country in a manner in which we need not fear our safety. That they should attend as many pro gun rallies as peace rallies. Otherwise their fear doesn’t truly lay in their threat to safety, it lies in the threat to their rights. That if they lose that right they will lose a part of their country. A part of themselves. So I again asked, does your fear truly lay in your threat to safety or in your loss of rights?
Before getting to this critical point, I assured them I did not believe in good or bad people. That I didn’t believe they were wrong or I was any better of a person than them. I assured them I was here to listen and to be heard. And they heard me. We walked away with a mutual understanding that we need to focus our argument on bettering the social condition of this world. If we lived in a world in which people had minimal social fears, one in which we were not in a constant state of fear and paranoia, there would be minimal need for guns but also minimal need to oppose guns. Our possessions wouldn’t matter as much as our morals. In an ideal world our ability to empathize with fellow humans will empty the clip. Bridge the gap. Talk to people more. Put yourself in places you may not belong and listen for the common ground.
Aidan Mattis: Organizer and Leader of the protest
Rick Hayes: Navy Veteran and International Politics Major
They walked from the Allen Street Gates to Old Maine and then to the Hub where the David Hogg event was held.