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Deliberative Forum Series: How Do We Stop Mass Shootings in Our Community?

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Conflict Resolution Institute

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On Jan 27th and Feb 8th, Facilitator Samantha Haas, CRI MA student and Facilitator for the Kettering Foundation National Issues Forums hosted a popular deliberative forum series on stopping mass shootings in our communities. In a national discourse that is barraged with divisive types of talk surrounding this issue, the deliberative forums allowed students, faculty, and community members to discuss and consider their opinions, reasons, and consequences for supported measures. 

Contrary to other types of forums, the purpose of the event was not to hear an expert speak, but to have a facilitated conversation surrounding policy choices. The participants themselves, however, were experts in their own rights. The diverse groups included a wide range of ages, professions, and backgrounds including gun owners, an active shooter situation trainer, a gun control activist, and Colorado natives and transplants with personal connections to past shootings. As Haas explained, "The purpose of the forum was to offer citizens the opportunity to join together to deliberate, to make difficult choices and to work toward creating reasoned public judgement. The forums provide a way for people with diverse views and experiences to seek a shared understanding of the problem and search for common ground."

Participants noted that it was refreshing to have a non-partisan discussion with no assumptions, diverse perspectives, and the ability to ask honest questions to people who felt differently. One participant said, "this is the first extended discussion I have had about guns that at the end, I still couldn't tell you who was red or blue." Another said that it was different to actually come up with solutions that don't just "feel good," and that the group was committed to answering the question, "will this really make a difference?". The goal of deliberation is not to change the minds of people, although that certainly can happen. The goal of deliberation is to confront the complexity of tough public issues like mass shootings, and the participants in these forums absolutely did that.

The forums proved that people want to talk about these national issues, and we want to talk about them constructively. How can you be involved? Haas says, "I like to think about deliberative discussions as going to the gym--working out once won't get you in shape, but getting into a routine of going to the gym will start to generate results. There are many forums being held nationally around controversial issues such as healthcare, immigration, race relations, etc., that you can participate in on a regular basis. The intent is that eventually this type of engagement will seep into your everyday discussions--that it becomes an instinct as natural as debate currently is to most of us." CRI will continue to host these forums on various national issues; stay tuned for continued opportunities to participate.

-Julie Hawke, MA '17