Few issues are more polarizing in American society than guns. Call it a black and white issue; you’re either for or against. For many people, any talk of limiting access to guns is a non-starter, but for others, the recurring incidents of mass shootings, culminating in the tragedy at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME, has galvanized them to consider or at the very least discuss gun safety legislation.
Two Charleston leaders are shepherding that conversation in South Carolina: Meghan Alexander, founder and Jessica Boylston-Fagonde, founding member of Gun Sense SC.
“We’re trying to create a healthy dialogue and support legislation for thorough and completed background checks,” says Meghan. “The challenge is educating people that all we’re trying to do is close gaps in existing Federal law through state legislation. There’s just so much noise to talk through.”
“[More than 10,000] people came together and held hands across the Ravenel Bridge,” she adds. “We need those same people to talk about the most divisive, tough topic now. THIS conversation is a tipping point—if we can talk about guns, we can talk about anything.”
For Meghan and Jessica—both professional communicators—bringing people together to discuss gun safety legislation is the ultimate complex communications challenge. “Talking about guns is really emotional, and depending upon your history, you bring certain fears to it,” declares Jessica. “But the love of family and wanting to protect your family is where our common ground begins.”
Meghan adds, “When you stop talking, you inhibit progress. It’s important to have a deep understanding of the issue, the points of view, and keep an open mind to bring all parties to the table.”
Jessica and Meghan are yin and yang, very much complementary leaders, whose differences enhance their abilities to connect with folks across the state. These women have diverse interests. They are wives, business owners, foodies, and yogis, but with any changes to state legislation likely to take two to three years, it’s hard for them to justify taking a break when so much needs to be done.
How can you help? Don’t be the Silent Majority. Contact your legislator encouraging them to close the background check gaps. Support and contribute to Gun Sense SC to extend its statewide communications efforts. As Meghan reminds us, “When you ignite the public will, it’s amazing what can happen.”
Words by Claire Gibbons
Photo by Adam Chandler