Kentucky Kitchen Table Project

By John Mark

On Friday, November 11th, Erik and I hosted four members of the Warren County community for dinner at his family’s residence. Beyond my partner and me, we had four guests join us: Rick #1, Rick #2, Kathy and DeAnn. Rick #1 is a banker from Franklin, KY who now lives in Bowling Green. Rick #2 and Kathy are married and run a Christian Counseling Center together in the local area. They are from Minnesota and moved to Kentucky several years back. DeAnn is my mother. She is from Roanoke, VA originally and moved to Bowling Green when she was young. She now works as a physical therapist for a county school system.

Over the course of our dinner together, we discussed a wide variety of topics from the election, to the role of spirituality in the rebuilding/rekindling of relationships, and to the intercultural perceptions of current social issues here in the United States. One of the topics that stuck out to me the most was mostly between Rick #1 and me. Rick #1 identifies as a “Blue Dog” Democrat. Now, as I considered myself to be a conservative republican coming into the conversation, I was prepared to give my typical response to the common democratic points on the typical short-list of issues. But as it turned out, I agreed with a lot of what Rick #1 had to say about fiscal spending and the future of our economy. It threw me off initially that a democrat would actually call for a smaller governmental role in our economy, as an advocate of our capitalistic free-market economy.

That is what really got me thinking, “Am I really a conservative republican?” Now, the question itself is not the moral of the story, but merely the beginning of a mind-bending few days during which I questioned heavily my political alliances and preferences. I believe in a literal interpretation of the United States Constitution. Therefore, I am – at a glance – a republican. I also believe in a small government and free-market: republican. But, what I began to think about what how similar Rick’s political interpretations and social motives were to mine. This is when I knew I could scratch the “conservative” off the subheading of my political nametag. So now, I was in pursuit of understanding more about his stance before declaring my own.

Next we discussed gun control. Initially, we established that neither of us like gun violence nor the amount of Americans that die from being shot each year. As most democrats would claim, Rick #1 said we should eliminate firearms in the United States. Being a literal constitutionalist, this made me cringe. I realized that the divide in our opinions is fundamentally a difference in approach between us, not patriotism or moralism. He responds to gun violence by treating it at the source: removing guns. He is willing to relinquish his own right to bare arms in order to disable violent offenders from accessing firearms. I could not overlook or deny the soundness of his logic:

A. Drivers are licensed to get from point a to point b, so we should educate and license gun-owners. B. The more quickly we can curb the sociocultural connotations of gun-control the more quickly we will be able to reduce senseless gun violence in the U.S. C. People don’t embrace change with open arms. Therefore, we must move forward with the underst that sensible gun control will not happen overnight. We must inch our way towards progress with our sights on long-term prevention as opposed to short-term reaction in order to connect with the citizenship.

As a Kentuckian farm-boy who has grown up shooting guns regularly, it disheartened my sense of regionalistic pride to concede to such a progressive representative. In hindsight, his approach makes sense. I just don’t know how realistic these goals are, since the rights to bear arms just so happens to be articulated plainly as the second entry to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. It was at this confusing and slightly shameful crossroad that I remembered a key point of discussion from our time together this semester.

Wicked problem (n) – a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.

I realized that American rates of gun violence are a wicked problem. My stance that everyone should concealed-carry because they have the right to do so does not solve the problem; it reacts to the problem. That being said, the Blue Dog’s proposition may get us closer to solving the problem. The biggest barrier for me in supporting the rescinding of private gun rights is the black market’s long history of getting around the law as well as law enforcement. People have already begun 3-D printing firearms and the technology is improving exponentially each year. I know that there will be terrorist attacks and I would hate to play a part in disabling one of the victims from being able to defend themselves.

There is no way to define and design a sure-fire solution for a wicked problem such as gun control. What struck me was that in order to reach our ultimate goal of eliminating gun violence, we must start somewhere. According to our Intro. to Wicked Problems handout,   “There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a ‘solution’ to a wicked problem. You can
only see if the way you wish to address the problem works by trying it. Every ‘solution’ to a wicked problem is a ‘one-shot operation.’ Because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt matters.” Every attempt matters. If the goal is to eliminate gun violence, we must begin with a new perspective and make a new attempt because past attempts have not worked. The only way we will know if banning certain firearms will serve as an antagonist to large-scale attacks is to try it.

I am among the last of persons you would have expected to consider any legislation that voids American’s rights to bear arms, even if it is only the AR-15. Thanks to the Kentucky Kitchen Table project and the intellectual contributions of our guests, I now have new eyes in an array of political and recognize that we will not cross the bridge of eliminating gun violence without employing new strategies, whatever they may be.



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