Heart-to-Heart on Guns: An American Conversation
Too often, we talk about guns in America as a "national debate." But each of our perspectives about guns and their place in our culture, our laws, and our lives is based on the unique experiences and relationships we have around guns and how they have intersected with our lives.
The 10 news organizations that make up Advance Local have partnered with Essential Partners, Spaceship Media, and Time and the Newseum for "Guns, An American Conversation." (See more here:
We've spent a couple of months bringing together people with a range of backgrounds and beliefs to have conversations about guns. Now, we're hoping to bring this spirit of dialogue and learning through matching people, 1-on-1.
In this Heart-to-Heart initiative, we want you to share your personal story about guns so that someone on "the other side" of the issue can understand why you feel the way you do. And, in return, we'll share that person's personal perspective with you, so that you can understand what has led them to their point of view.
We know that it may be tempting to share statistics, reports, or other information related to your stance on the gun issue. But this project is about sharing yourself and understanding someone else, not converting people with your talking points. We hope you will join us in that spirit.
Below, after you write a brief welcome note, we have provided 6 questions that we believe will not only help share your experiences around guns but help the person reading this get to know a little about who you are, and how that informs your beliefs. We want you to spend some time thinking about your responses to each of these questions. Put yourself in your reader's shoes. (After all, you'll be getting responses to the same questions from a stranger...)
Once you submit your answers, we'll match you (anonymously) with someone, and we will share your stories with one another. From there, you'll have the opportunity to submit questions for us to share with the other person, and for you both to answer one another's questions.
If you would prefer to fill out a physical form, please call us at 1-877-209-5717, and one will be mailed to you. Also, if writing your answers will be a challenge, please email us at
to explore options for submitting responses via audio or video.
Note that your email address will not be shared with anyone else. We are collecting it so that we can share someone else's story with you. You will not be put into direct contact with the person you are paired with; all interaction will be facilitated by our team. Also, we are collecting a couple of general questions about you so that we know a bit about who is participating. These first set of questions, before your welcome note, will not be shared.
What is your age? (Will not be shared)
What is your gender? (Will not be shared)
Where do you reside? (Will not be shared)
There's no great way to label the complex perspectives we hold around guns. However, for this project to work, we need to match you with a stranger whose views differ significantly from yours. For that purpose, if you were to mark yourself on a 1-4 scale, with 1 representing a primary concern for protecting the rights of legal gun owners and 4 representing a concern for limiting ease of access to guns, where would you fall?
protecting the rights of legal gun owners
limiting ease of access to guns
Provide a quick welcome note to the person who will be reading your response. We encourage you to use your first name, a nickname, initials--whatever you feel comfortable with. You may also want to thank them for reading the stories you'll share below.
Tell us about a person in your life who you would consider wise—and whose influence might have played some part in your willingness to get involved in a Heart-to-Heart exchange like this one. (For this and other responses, we encourage you to use a nickname or pseudonym for any references you make to other people.)
Share a story with us about an experience from your childhood (not necessarily about guns) that you feel has played a part in shaping the person you have become. Help us feel like we were there, and understand what you thought and felt.
Now, share another story with us, about an experience from your life that you feel has played a part in shaping your perspective on guns. Again, help us feel like we were there.
What is at the heart of your beliefs about guns? What are the hopes, concerns, and values you have that have shaped these beliefs?
Imagine that it's 2040 (22 years from now), and the debate surrounding guns in the United States has been resolved. You are happy about the way things turned out. What does this future look like? (Let your imagination roam; creative answers are most welcome.)
What stereotypes come to mind when you think of guns? How do any of these stereotypes apply to you (if they do)? In what ways are you frustrated by some of these stereotypes (if you are)?
The focus of this project is to pair you 1-on-1 with someone whose beliefs about guns differ from yours. However, as journalists, we may want to share some of the stories submitted more broadly. If you would be open to your responses being shared with our readers, please indicate so below.
Yes, I would be willing for these stories to be shared.
A copy of your responses will be emailed to the address you provided.
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