On Feb. 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz entered Stoneman Douglas High School. Using an AR-15 style rifle (specifically, the Smith and Wesson M&P15), he tore through the school, wounding 16 and killing 17 others. He then threw down his weapon and momentarily escaped by posing as one of the evacuating students.
The attack devastated the community and the nation. But as quickly as the condolences for the victims and their families came in, so did the raucous gun control debate from politician and citizen alike. The nation as a whole agreed that the tragedy should have never occurred. What brought on differing opinions, however, was exactly how it should have been prevented. Should the government have already imposed much stricter restrictions on semi-automatic guns by now (an important distinction to make in this debate; the AR15 and its offshoots are semiautomatic and labeled as assault weapons, not assault rifles, which are capable of automatic firing)? Or should the victims of the school have had a chance to properly defend themselves, by allowing stronger self-defense weapons in school, and a more sensible acceptance of gun culture in general? The line in the sand between these two contrasting answers is well demarcated; we are bitterly divided on guns. It is insensible as to why we should still be.
In my experience, what does not help with the division is how, by this point, most of my readers already know what path my article will take. They might have had previous exposure to my writing, they might have read enough stories circulating on gun control to identify what facts I chose to include, and (more importantly) which ones to omit. Alternatively, they might just focus on the subtle hints in my word choice, subconsciously concluding what my position on the debate is. No matter the reason, we have all been there: generally, we think that we know everything a person might say before we even engage in heavy conversation with them. If you support gun ownership, you might have read the previous paragraphs and profiled my writing as akin to other articles you have read in well-established “liberal” papers. If you advocate against it, you might have read the paragraphs and been very skeptical as to why I did not immediately denounce any such issue.
Yet what should actually be said about the topic is simple: discourse and debate cannot occur if we assume what each other will already say, and unfairly subject our colleagues to our own biases. As surprising as it may sound, many of us strive to live as reasonably prudent human beings, even if our views on issues may be emotionally or personally motivated. And if you doubt that statement, remind yourself that none of us are capable of objectivity, even those who believe they have enough experience in a discussion. Rather, we must come out of the micro-coalitions that we have made with others who share our opinions, and genuinely try and listen to other views.