Red-Blue Dialogue looks at gun control

Olivia Enquist, Staff Writer

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The Center for Ethics and Public Engagement  (CEPE) hosted another Red-Blue Dialogue as a part of the yearlong series discussing the topic of gun control on March 15 in Room 120 of Preus Library.

Nathan Campbell (‘18) and Billy Jeide (‘18), who participated in the Peace Scholars Program in Norway in 2016 and 2017 respectively moderated the dialogue. They focused on the importance of understanding differing viewpoints within controversial issues. Approximately 25 students and Decorah community members attended the event.

Campbell and Jeide led the dialogue through activities fostering productive conversations addressing the issue of gun control. According to Director of the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement and Associate Professor of History Victoria Christman, the method  Peace Scholars use to lead discussion, a method based on Nobel Peace Prize nominee Steinar Bryn’s model, was also used to create the Red-Blue Dialogues.   

“The CEPE administers the Peace Scholar Program and this year we gathered a group of students who identify as politically ‘Red’ or ‘Blue’ for a model dialogue session with Steinar when he visited campus in September,” Christman said. “The group continued to meet throughout the school year and we ran dialogue sessions on a variety of topics, each one moderated by the Peace Scholars. The issue of gun control was one that the students had requested we tackle, so that choice of topic was not a response to the Florida shooting, but the timing of the session was.” 

The dialogue began with an activity designed to promote listening for understanding, rather than response. The attendees were split into groups of four where they described their personal experiences with guns. Each person was allotted one minute to talk about their background, then the group sat in silence for another minute to gather their thoughts. Attendee Jacob Domogalla (’18) liked how the activity offered insight into other people’s opinions on gun control.

“They had us split into different groups and they gave us a minute to collect our thoughts about our experiences with guns,” Domogalla said. “Then we shared our names, and our backgrounds. I thought that for a discussion, that was really interesting. Usually when we talk about stuff or have an opinion on things, we have a history of why we believe that. I thought it was helpful in understanding each other and their stance.”

Attendee Genevieve Elhers (’19) appreciated how the structure of discussion allowed participants to feel heard.

“It gives you a chance to see everyone’s side before getting defensive about your own,” Elhers said. “The way the dialogue was structured with the minute silence between talks gave a time specifically to digest what was said but also to form your own opinion. This way what people were saying was being heard rather than the ‘listeners’ deciding what they would say next. It gave people with a voice a true listener, and a true listener a voice to understand.”

The moderators then lead an activity called four corners. Participants moved around the room depending on their views about certain statements such as “Guns make American homes safer.” Each corner of the room was assigned different meaning varying from “agree” or “disagree” to “maybe” or “I don’t know”. People then responded to their placement within the room and were encouraged to move if their beliefs changed after discussion.

Domogalla explained his desire to contribute to conversations about gun control on Luther’s campus.

“Personally, I grew up with guns,” Domogalla said. “I grew up in rural Minnesota and my father taught me how to handle guns. He made me shoot some of his guns. Basically, he raised me with the awareness that guns are weapons, so you have to handle them with responsibility and extreme care. I just felt like we see all this media talk, and I wanted to contribute to this discussion.”

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