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"Can We Talk?" Discussion Series - “Gun Violence in America”

Aaron Kelley, MPA '19
October 20, 2017

On October 12th, 2017, the Fels Student Association hosted its second “Can We Talk?” event, this time focusing on gun violence in America. Upon arrival, each student or visitor was invited to partake in free pizza and beverages provided by the FSA, and informal chatting took over until 12pm, when the event formally began.

 

The talk itself was led by first-year Fels student Madeline O’Brien, who began by introducing the topic and presenting some relevant data on gun violence to the small crowd of over 16 attendees. A discussion then began about the cause of gun violence and how the students, as future public administrators, would be able to most effectively address this issue while keeping in mind the wide range of views held on gun ownership and usage in the United States.

 

As the program progressed, the discussion likewise evolved to cover a great number of focuses. A highlight of this conversation was the discussion of cultural and normative differences in gun ownership between rural and urban Americans. Students from both rural and urban areas offered valuable perspectives on this topic, with the utility of guns for purposes such as hunting and defending property from aggressive varmints being discussed as a major reason for gun ownership in rural America. The merits of shooting for sport and maintaining a cache of firearms for self-protection were also debated. Urban gun ownership and utility was debated as well, with the attendees agreeing, at least, on the existence of cultural differences between rural and urban areas that most certainly need to be respected when attempting to effectively tackle the issue of gun violence as a whole.

 

The question was then posed as to how, given the immense variety of opinions and lifestyles in America, we as public administrators can actually work to decrease the amount of unnecessary gun violence in our country. After a brief discussion on the perceived polarization of Americans on this issue and the difficulty of finding a complete solution to this problem, students were surprised when the discussion leader revealed data showing that there are actually many proposed gun control regulations that are favored by a majority of both Republicans and Democrats. The crowd then realized that there was indeed room for compromise on this issue and discussed how political narratives often negatively shape how we discuss such matters. By breaking down some of these narratives, the attendees concluded, we may be able to find deeper, more unique solutions to gun violence in America that a majority of Americans on both sides of the aisle will find acceptable.

 

Proposed solutions (derived from systems-level thinking and discussion) ranged from limiting the power of special interest groups in politics and instituting campaign finance reform to increasing funding for mental health programs and education. While no single answer was able to be fully worked out during the hour and thirty minute long talk, all attendees agreed that solutions to this problem can be found if people simply take a step back and have a proper, well-informed discussion.

 

The “Can we talk?” series will continue on November 7th, 2017, with a topic TBD.

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu