CNN Op-Ed On Combating Partisanship Call Gun Buying "Unhelpful"

The extreme partisanship we see in our country isn’t necessarily a good thing. I don’t think people should change their beliefs just to get along with others, but I do think the intensity and downright hatred some have for anyone who doesn’t think just like them is downright toxic. It’s not the way a healthy nation addresses political differences.

People on both sides of the aisle see it and often want to address it. The problem comes when someone trips up on something they think is just a natural position to have which really just betrays their own partisanship.

Take Julia A. Minson writing over at CNN.

If you are like me, you have had several encounters with friends, neighbors and relatives who, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, behaved in some way that almost made your blood boil.

These could range from general assertions that we are “overreacting,” to concrete plans to take that vacation or hold that birthday party because “It’ll be ok.” This perspective violates the scientific consensus supported by most of the medical and public health community — and is contributing to putting lives at risk by helping to spread the pandemic.
Even people who wholeheartedly agree with the scientific consensus have sometimes responded in unhelpful and dangerous ways, including hoarding face masks, toilet paper and even guns.

People are hoarding guns? No, people are buying guns. There’s a difference.

What Minson is taking issue with is that fearful people have opted to buy firearms to defend themselves and their families in the midst of an indefinite crisis that’s also likely to kick the stuffing out of our economy, creating even longer-lasting ramifications for all of us.

But that isn’t exactly hoarding. People are buying one or two firearms at a time. Guns are expensive enough only the very wealthy can really afford to hoard them with a one-time purchase. Sure, they’re clearing the shelves, but that’s just the increased demand rather than people acting like they did with the toilet paper and buying months and months supply over the fear of a two-week quarantine.

Honestly, the two aren’t synonymous at all.

Yet while Minson talks about combatting COVID-19 and partisanship at the same time, she steps smack dab into her own partisan leanings. After all, the only people who seem to think guns are being “stockpiled” are anti-gun leftists who think anyone who buys a gun is probably a little insane anyway.

How can you seek to combat partisanship when you make it very clear you think a key value of so many people on the other side is worthy of scorn? I’m sorry, but it makes it impossible to take anything else you say seriously.

Minson, an associate professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School continues by saying:

My colleagues and I have spent years studying this question in the realm of partisan disagreement. How do we get liberals and conservatives to have meaningful conversations about topics such as immigration, gun rights or healthcare? How do you get men and women to discuss abortion or sexual assault with greater respect and engagement, not anger and disdain? In our work, we have found that people listen most to those they believe are listening to them. We call this “demonstrating conversational receptiveness.”

And, she’s not wrong. Being willing to listen is important.

Yet it’s also important not to start off the conversation by framing things in an incredibly biased way. Doing so likely shuts down the other side right off the bat. Calling the surge in gun buying “unhelpful” doesn’t encourage me to believe you actually give a damn about what I have to say, for example.

The only way it’s “unhelpful” is that it’s likely to make gun control even less tenable going forward. Well, unless you want to walk into a store and buy a gun, apparently, but that wasn’t because of hoarding. Otherwise, everything that ever sells out would be because of hoarding, such as that “must have” toy every Christmas.

Now you see why I can’t take what she’s saying seriously?

I think Minson’s intentions are good, but the real problem I see is that far too many people simply expect the other side to sit down, shut up, and be lectured to.

Most of the people I talk to are willing to listen, but only if the other side stops pretending they’re the only sane or intelligent ones in the room. One way to start with that is not sounding like an arrogant anti-gunner right from the start.