Can Republicans, Democrats, and Independents ever agree?
Part 3 of my series on gun control following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and based on data collected during an Invoke Live Social Issues webinar.
It’s no surprise that gun control largely runs along party lines. Stereotypically, Democrats are for increasing gun control and Republicans are against it. In my original post on this topic, I talked about how Democrats are more likely than Republicans to find the issue important (though they both show similar discussion frequency and lack of desire for brands to associate with gun control.)
Gun Control Key Measures (top 2 box) – by party segment
Looking at the table below, 84% of Democrats we talked to were for increased gun control and half of Republicans were against it. Adding in Independents, with 62% being for increased gun control, only further shows the divide. In fact, looking down that table, Republicans are the only group with more “against” than “for” gun control.
Where do consumers stand on gun control? – by party segment
So fine, we know these differences exist. But focusing only on our differences won’t further any kind of discussion. And this is really how most of these conversations go down face-to-face or on social media. Democrat says no assault rifles. Republican says that’s infringing on 2nd amendment rights. Republican says it’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people. Democrat says these people should not have such easy access to guns in the first place. It’s a cyclical conversation that seems to do nothing more than create unhelpful memes and soundbites.
But is there a middle ground? Is there somewhere these groups could meet and have a fruitful conversation about guns? I think….maybe?
Let’s start with the numbers in the table again. The majority of people we talked to support increased gun control. While yes, 50% of Republicans are against more gun control, looking deeper at the results uncovers something surprising. 40% of Republicans actually support gun control. Based on these numbers, this shows a relative split in this party on this issue. Showing there is probably somewhere for that 40% of Republicans, 84% of Democrats, and 62% of Independents to agree, or at least look for compromise.
In this session, I also asked why different groups were for or against increased gun control and potential steps they see as necessary. And it’s in these arguments we may be able to understand where these parties could find common ground.
Looking at all the arguments for increased gun control across the different parties, one of course notices differences. Democrats are more likely to talk about the outdatedness of the 2nd Amendment than Republicans. Independents are more likely to talk about banning assault weapons than the other two parties. But one place where all three parties (on the side of increased gun control) seem to agree is the whole idea of restricting access for specific individuals and improving the background check system.
“I think that people who are able to own a gun because they have no criminal record, no physical impairment that can affect how steady someone can hold a gun, and other issues should be able to own a gun. However, I think that laws should be put in place to prevent people who shouldn’t own a gun from having them. I lean towards Stance A because I don’t trust a random person to know how to use a gun safely.” – Democrat
“I get it… that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ but I also feel like, we don’t have to give those people such easy access to easy means to accomplish that goal. I’ve never owned a gun and am mostly not interested, but I understand that some people are.” – Republican
“Guns have caused a lot of unnecessary deaths. I know they can be used for protection but there needs to be more safeguards and control.” – Independent
Looking at all the arguments above, a common thread does seem to emerge. While these are not the feelings of every member of these three parties, they do suggest similar themes exist in all three parties. All three of these comments suggest the understanding that while gun ownership is for some people, there need to be safeguards/laws to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or people who would obviously be irresponsible gun owners.
And looking at the arguments against increased gun control further suggests this may be a good place to start. On the other side of the argument are a number of people worried about losing their guns or having their rights infringed upon. The idea of personal effect is very prevalent in these responses. If I were making a communication recommendation to a client based on these results, I would tell them to avoid using any language that may seem threatening to their potential consumers. Pro-gun control advocates may want to take a similar note and immediately focus on background checks and waiting periods rather than outright bans when entering into such a discussion. This could help to ease concerns early and pave the way for a more productive conversation.
Look, I am not pretending I have all the answers. This study wasn’t even squarely focused on gun control. To really understand the issue, more of this type of research should be done. All I am suggesting is that those on both sides of the argument could benefit from a little more listening. Seems easy, doesn’t it?
For a deeper look at the results of this study click HERE for the full Takeaways report.