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Common Ground on Guns

((Banner: Finding Common Ground))
((Reporter/Camera: Deepak Dobhal))
((Map: Ashland, Wisconsin))
((Main character: 1 female))
((Sub characters: 2 females; 2 males))
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
My views on guns are complicated. I recognize how
powerful and potentially destructive they are. I've had family
members killed, self-inflicted, by suicide.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
But I also am a gun owner. We own five or six guns, mostly
rifles, shotgun hunting rifles, but we also have a handgun in
our gun safe. On the other hand, I know the research on
gun ownership. The likelihood of victimization is first and
foremost rooted in the home. You're much more likely to
harm yourself or others with a gun than you are to ever use
one in self-defense.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
We are going to the gun range in town. And this is the place
where a couple years ago I was on the trap team.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
I met someone in town who shoots guns. Sent him a
message to see if he was free and he is. So, he's meeting
us there.
((Angela Stroud & Man))
I can't actually arm at work, so.
Oh, did you come from work?
Yeah. I was up this morning.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
There's this really simplistic way of thinking about guns
often, which is people are anti-gun or they're pro-gun.
We like to imagine that this is a simple phenomenon in the
culture that you own a gun. And so, you have all of these
different attitudes and you must have these different ideas.
And that just isn't true.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
Well, I'm always fast though. That's pretty quick.
I'm used to firearms. I've been relatively well trained with
them and I've been shooting them all my life. I carry a
concealed weapon permit for both Wisconsin and
I have no issues with whatever the majority of people want to
regulate as long as they don't want to say, I don't have a
right to. If they say, you have a right to, but you have to do
this, yeah, okay, sure, no problem. Guns are as dangerous
as cars. I would be fine with regulating them like a car. You
have a license, you have training, you have to pass a test
and you have to recertify. I personally don't have an issue.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
That's what I agree with. I mean, you know, when I said that
my views on guns are complicated. I think they need to be
harder to get a hold of. I mean, our issue with gun violence
is that guns are so easy for anyone to get a hold of. And the
people who I feel totally comfortable owning guns and
carrying them or whatever, go for it. Good. I want it. I want
to know you're carrying, you know. But not Joe Schmo, who
could just pick one up anywhere.
This is a DPMS model AR-10. It currently has a 10-round
magazine in it. It is capable of 30 and 50-round magazines.
Safety off. Shot. No, I did hit it.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
The best part was shooting a shotgun. I don't like AR-15s.
Personally, I don't enjoy shooting them. I'm not into long-
range tactical precision shooting. I don't, it's not a hobby of
mine. And I also, you know, I have a lot of mixed feelings
about even putting an AR-15 on video.
For a lot of people who have experienced mass shootings,
an AR is an emblem of everything that's wrong with gun
culture. And I totally understand that. We live in different
realities, you know. If you've been affected by gun violence,
your reality about what guns are is one thing. And if you've
never been affected, you can kind of blithely go on with your
life never really confronting that.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
Prior to 2008, when I started researching guns, I never really
thought about my vulnerability. I never thought of myself as
someone who needed to carry a gun in self-defense. But as
I started interviewing people and reading books from the
concealed carry worldview and watching media on these
ideas, I started to develop a fear of crime that I'd never had
before. And so, there were times during this research, when
I would wake up in the middle of the night with my heart
racing, thinking I had heard something. And because I didn't
have a gun available, I thought there's nothing I can do. I'm
completely vulnerable and so are my kids and what am I
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
I can easily identify with people who say that there is a risk
that there could be danger and so, carrying a gun makes
sense. I understand that worldview now in a way that I
never did before. I still think though, with my familiarity with
the research, that the risk is greater that a gun will be used
to harm even the gun-owner than it will ever be used in self-
defense. I have these conflicting views in myself. I would
like not to have to carry a gun in public and I want to do
whatever I can to help transform society, transform our
politics, so that doesn't feel like an inevitability.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
Thank you all for coming. I really agree with the sentiments
that were expressed about the importance of talking about
issues like this at the community level. Getting offline, off
social media and having face-to-face conversations is one of
the healthiest things we can do. So tonight, we're going to
talk about gun violence, a topic that is more pressing today
than it was when I started my research.
((Elizabeth Holland, Member, Up North Engaged))
We have to figure out a way to have a dialogue and having
somebody like Angela, who is a scholar in this subject, but
who is also herself is a gun owner, she is kind of a presence
already somewhat in the middle so that both sides have trust
and respect for her and that kind of helps to start the
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
Guns are unique in their ability to provoke intense emotions
and very little productive conversation across different
perspectives. And this hit home for me. My book had just
come out. And I was back home in Austin and I was at my
sister house and my mom was there. And they started this
debate about concealed carry and they're like screaming at
each other. I'm standing there as someone who just wrote a
book about this and not once did anyone say like, well,
actually is anything we're saying true? Do you know
anything about this topic? And of course, I'm a little sister
and the daughter so, like, probably that had something to do
with it. But they weren't interested at all in the facts. As
soon as I started talking about the facts, they don't even
want to have the conversation anymore.
Who benefits when we won't even talk to each other about
serious issues? When we're afraid, when we're either afraid
of gun owners and guns or that we're afraid that the
government's going to take our guns. Who benefits when
we're afraid of crime? And who is benefiting from this
current political climate where we're losing the ability to talk
to each other about difficult issues? Are we benefiting? The
clear answer is no. And that's something we all have in
I want us to be on one team. Right? Like I'm thinking about
this on the community level. And for me, that's what
democracy is supposed to be about, not get the NRA
[National Rifle Association] involved in our conversation so
we can't even talk or any other lobby organization. I mean,
I'm picking on them because of this topic. But the Gifford’s
gun lobby groups have been as problematic. Bloomberg’s
groups are not helpful. We need to do this work to a great
((Vox Pop))
Why don't we confiscate cars from crazy people? Why do
we only confiscate guns from crazy people?
Got to be some regulation, stop somewhere.
I own an AR 15. I won't get into why, other than 38 years in
the army. It's what I'm familiar with. It's not at home loaded
right now.
I have a huge fear of somebody has a weapon of mass
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
When you focus just on the political level or the gun lobby
level, people are very entrenched in their positions. They're
either pro-gun adamantly or they are anti-gun adamantly and
nuance gets completely lost. But when you start to open the
door for conversation and there's a sense of trust that I'm not
here to take away your guns, I just want to talk about are
there possibilities for reducing gun violence, then people
start to reveal their complexity.
((Vox Pop)
And I'm not opposed to what you were talking about…..
((Angela Stroud, Northland College, Ashland,
At the meeting, there was one man who described how he
owns an AR-15 because that gun style came up in the
discussion and he approached me after the meeting and we
talked a bit. And one of the things that came from that
conversation was his willingness to admit that he has
ambivalence about some of our gun policies.
Guns take on a different meaning when you have to kind of
recognize that they're not just one thing. Gun ownership is
about identity. It's about emotions. And that, in this
complexity, we need to be willing to engage rationally so that
we don't just stick with these very tiresome pro-gun, anti-gun
views and instead, get to a better place.
((Angela Stroud, Professor, Northland College))
We could become much worse than we are today or we
could become much better than we are today. I mean, who
would have imagined the 15 years ago, that kindergarteners
would be learning active shooter drills by learning nursery
rhymes about duck and cover from a shooter. It's becoming
so normal already.
((Angela Stroud, Northland College, Ashland,
The worst thing that could happen is that we give up any
hope at all that there's change that's possible and we just
naturalize gun violence like we naturalize all kinds of
((Angela Stroud, Northland College, Ashland,
So, the worst fear is that we just assume this is just who we
are as people.

Next time on
Americans and Guns
When I hear about these atrocities, when the mass shootings, you
know, Parkland, Dayton, El Paso, and I hear the backlash from
the media and from politicians, saying that if we had less guns, if
people didn’t have guns, they wouldn’t be able to do things like
this, I have to answer that the opposite is true.
Next time on
Americans and Guns