How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings In Our Communities? Announcing New Conversation Materials

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I am pleased to announce publication today of a brand-new update to the National Issues Forums issue advisory, How Should We Prevent Mass Shootings In Our Communities? The materials are meant to support deliberative conversations in community and other settings, and are free to download.

From the guide:

The tragic attacks in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Parkland, Florida; and other places have raised concerns among many people across the nation. Such shootings have become more frequent and more deadly in the last decade. Each mass murder has devastating effects on a whole community.

Overall, the United States has become safer in recent years. Yet mass shooters target innocent people indiscriminately, often in places where people should feel safe—movie theaters, shopping centers, schools. Many believe these attacks are nothing short of terrorism. How can we stop mass shootings and ensure that people feel safe in their homes and communities?

This issue advisory presents three options, along with their drawbacks. These are not the only options, and you may think of others.

Option One: Make Mass Killings More Difficult

According to this option: The problem is that we are too vulnerable to gun violence. Communities and homes should be places where people are safe. The tools for carrying out mass shootings are all around. It is too easy for individuals to obtain weapons that are designed to kill a large number of people in a short time.

We cannot stop all violent impulses, but we can and should make it much more difficult for people to act on them. We should restrict the availability of dangerous weapons, identify potentially dangerous people, and prevent them from carrying out their plans.

Option Two: Equip People to Defend Themselves

According to this option: The problem is that most people are not able to defend themselves from the sudden danger posed by mass shootings. There will always be some who are a threat to those around them. We cannot afford to rely on the presence of police to rescue us. We should be prepared for violence and have the means to defend against it. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees this right.

Option Three: Root Out Violence and Hate in Society

According to this option: The problem is that we live in a culture that perpetuates violence and numbs people to its effects. The Internet provides a platform and organizing space for hate groups and domestic terrorists. Violence and criminality are pervasive in movies, television, and video games. Mass murderers gain notoriety through nonstop media portrayals.

This results in a culture in which stories of mass murder circulate and gain momentum—so further shootings become a greater possibility. We must root out and stop the glorification of violence and promotion of hate to break this cycle.

Please let me know if you use these materials and, if you do, what happens.

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I serve as executive editor of issue guides at the Kettering Foundation. We develop these nonpartisan materials to support deliberation on difficult public issues, and make them available for publication by the National Issues Forums Institute. The NIF network is comprised of all sorts of organizations who use the guides in their own ways, holding conversations in which people deliberate together about what we ought to do.

A House Divided: Announcing New Conversation Materials on Political Division

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend is a time that many devote to public acts — serving their broader community, raising their voice about issues, talking together about current events, and more. This year features a shut-down government, a rancorous stalemate in Congress over myriad issues, and uncertainty over the future.

All this at a time when American public life is highly divided and people find it more and more difficult to talk to one another. Not only are there deep disagreements over specific issues, but people increasingly lament division per se. They are concerned about how we as a nation can self-govern.

I am pleased to announce publication today of the most recent National Issues Forums issue guide, A House Divided: What Would We Have to Give Up to Get the Political System We Want?

From our announcement:

New Issue Guide Released: A House Divided: What Would We Have to Give Up to Get the Political System We Want?

Many people are deeply disturbed by the state of American politics today. Trust in our national institutions and in the media has plummeted. Fewer bother to vote or participate in public life. Action on pressing issues is repeatedly kicked down the road. Perhaps most disturbing is that we find it harder and harder to even talk to each other. We often seem instead to shout at one another. There have even been recent acts of political violence. What should we do to get the political system that we want? How should we begin to work together to solve our most urgent problems?

This issue guide presents three options for deliberation, along with their drawbacks. Each option offers advantages as well as risks. If we regulate what people can say online, will we end up silencing voices we need to hear? Should we push politicians to compromise more often even if it means they must bend on their principles? Should we focus more power locally, or would that result in an unmanageable patchwork of conflicting rules governing many important areas of our lives?

Option One: Reduce dangerous, toxic talk.
Option Two: Make fairer rules for politics and follow them.
Option Three: Take control and make decisions closer to home.

Both an issue guide and a shorter issue advisory are available, as well as a video introduction. The advisory is also available in Spanish.

The issue guide is available here at NIF (free download). There is also a video companion to the guide. See the trailer here.

Please let me know if you use these materials and, if you do, what happens.

* * * * *

I serve as executive editor of issue guides at the Kettering Foundation. We develop these nonpartisan materials to support deliberation on difficult public issues, and make them available for publication by the National Issues Forums Institute. The NIF network is comprised of all sorts of organizations who use the guides in their own ways, holding conversations in which people deliberate together about what we ought to do.

Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do? — New Issue Guide Released by National Issues Forums Institute

I am pleased to announce that the latest NIF issue guide, Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do?, is released today.

At the NIFI link, there is also available an “issue advisory” for free download – such advisories are the core “name” and “frame” of the issue in an easy to use format, and are suitable to use in a deliberative forum setting on their own.

The immigration issue affects virtually every American, directly or indirectly, often in deeply personal ways. The issue guide is designed for people to use to deliberate together about how we should approach the issue as a society. It presents three options that reflect different ways of understanding what is at stake and that force us to think about what matters most when we face difficult problems that involve all of us — and that do not have perfect solutions.

The concerns that underlie this issue are not confined to party affiliation, nor are they captured by labels like “conservative” or “liberal.”

Coming to America: Who Should We Welcome, What Should We Do?

Option 1: Welcome Immigrants, Be a Beacon of Freedom
This option says that immigration has helped make America what it is today — a dynamic and diverse culture, an engine of the global economy, and a beacon of freedom around the world.

Option 2: Enforce the Law, Be Fair to Those Who Follow the Rules
This option says we need a fair system, where the rules are clear and, above all, enforced. With an estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally, our current system is unjust and uncontrolled.

Option 3: Slow Down and Rebuild Our Common Bonds
This option recognizes that newcomers have strengthened American culture in the past. But the current levels of immigration are so high, and the country is now so diverse, that we must regain our sense of national purpose and identity.

The Kettering Foundation researches and develops issue guides like this one and makes them available to NIFI to publish.

Follow the link for more information and to order or download your own.

What Should We Do About the Opioid Epidemic? — New Issue Advisory from the National Issues Forums Institute

I am pleased to announce a new “issue advisory” that is available as a free download (or fold-out hard copy) from the National Issues Forums Institute titled What Should We Do About the Opioid Epidemic? I am proud of my role in helping develop this resource. The Kettering Foundation researches and develops issue frameworks like this one and makes them available to NIFI to publish.

My friend and longtime colleague Tony Wharton wrote the text. Drafts of this advisory have been tested all throughout the U.S. and it has proven to spark a useful conversation.

The issue advisory is meant to support broad-based community conversation about what we, in our communities, should do in response to the drastically rising epidemic of opioid use, abuse, and deaths.

This difficult conversation involves tensions between compassion, personal responsibility, and freedom of choice. The advisory presents three options for people to talk about together:

  1. We should extend and provide treatment for all, get people the medical help they need
  2. We should crack down, people should take responsibility for their choices and actions
  3. We should allow people freedom to do as they want, if they are not hurting anyone it is their business

Follow the link to order or download your own.