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Divided we stand

My name is Nikolaj Hagen, I am a senior from Osakis, Minnesota and I am majoring in Political Science and Scandinavian Studies.  My political beliefs are drawn from my background as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Denmark and heavily influenced by my parents.  Growing up, my parents espoused the virtues of the Scandinavian social system and emphasized the importance of social justice from a Christian perspective.  They encouraged my brothers and I to learn as much about the world as possible, introducing us to NPR, The Star Tribune, as well as sending us to live in Denmark for a year in high school.  All of this has left me with a more progressive, liberal perspective of politics.

Gun control is one of the most divisive topics in American politics.  Meaningful reform seems to be impossible to achieve, with deep pocketed pro-gun organizations vehemently opposing any sort of dialogue that they feel might threaten the status quo.  Nothing gets done because nobody has the guts to do anything about it.  It seems that every time lawmakers try to enact even the most basic or common sense laws, they immediately earn the scorn and financial opposition of hardcore gun enthusiasts.  The situation currently unfolding in Colorado is just one example of the lengths that the gun lobby is willing to go to.  Two Democratic state senators, Angela Giron and John Morse, lost a recall election for daring to support the gun control legislation that was passed in the wake of the Aurora, CO shootings, in which 12 people were killed and 58 others were wounded.   Gun advocates collected enough signatures to hold a recall election and began feverishly working to expel the two Democrats who were singled out for punishment.  The groups on both sides of the gun debate poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign.

And what sort of radical legislation did they support that has earned the hatred of conservative groups?  The new law limits magazines to 15 rounds and requires people buying guns to pass a mandatory background check, even at gun shows.  Even if you are a supporter of gun rights, this could hardly be considered a draconian measure.  Yet the dialogue about guns has become so polarized in this country that even common sense measures, like the ones proposed in Colorado’s law, are thought to threaten the position of gun owners in this country.  Any national tragedy involving guns sends Americans either scurrying to gun stores to buy up wares that they fear may be outlawed or to the streets to decry gun violence.  Lines have been drawn up on the battlefield of public opinion, and almost everyone has taken a side.  Few will abandon the side of the argument that they’ve chosen, even if they feel that there is some measure of common ground to be found.  Any reason is overshadowed by the extreme wings of each faction, especially the NRA, which outspent gun control interest groups 10-1 in lobbying.  Before America can have a meaningful discussion on what it wants for gun control, people will need to open their minds and realize that moving an inch on policy doesn’t mean you’ll eventually have to give up a mile.  Racing to impeach lawfully elected representatives every time they offend your beliefs on owning firearms hardly creates an environment for a productive debate.

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