Listening to citizens’ opinions

During the recent Multi-Cultural Festival, the Mid-Ohio Valley Friends (Quakers) conducted a Listening Project asking 10 questions relating to gun violence. Many people who took the poll and shared their thoughts were gun owners. We promised to report on the results.

Of the 119 participating, 93 percent said gun violence was a problem. Options receiving the most support (greater than 75 percent) were better mental health funding in the U.S., 90 percent; safer school facility improvements and training in the face of potential mass school shootings, even if it means higher taxes, 86 percent; mandatory safety training before the purchase of a gun, 83 percent; and banning “straw man purchases” of guns – buying for someone else not legally able to own a gun, 82 percent.

Festival participants also supported funding more Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearm agents to enforce existing laws, 76 percent, and increasing background checks on gun buyers, including private sales (except to members of your own family) and those purchased at gun shows, 76 percent.

Receiving less support but more than a majority were ban the use of high capacity magazines, 63 percent; laws such as the “Firearm Risk Protection Act” requiring gun owners to purchase liability insurance similar to requirements for car owners, 62 percent; and banning the sale (outside of the armed forces) of assault-style weapons, 59 percent.

Citizens wrestled with the costs and benefits of various solutions. One young teen said “I think gun violence is a problem, but I like to hunt.” Several men with military experience thought military-style weapons needed to stay just in military hands. Others concerned about the Second Amendment agreed we needed to spend more on mental health.

Quakers believe in the worth and dignity of all people, and it was important to us to not impose our own opinions. Those who took the poll invariably thanked us for taking the time to just listen and not judge their responses. Despite our efforts to create a safe space for free expression, we were saddened that some would not participate, saying, “You don’t want to know my opinions,” when, in fact, we really did want to know.

We came away from our listening convinced that citizens here could find common ground on this issue if we could treat each other with enough respect to listen to each other. The Mid-Ohio Valley Quakers would welcome opportunities to join with others to create those kinds of experiences in our community.

Jean Ambrose