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Based on an article by Pulitzer Prize–winning reporters, the fascinating results of an important nationwide conversation about guns: Can complete strangers representing every point along the political divide engage in civil and productive discourse on the topic of gun control?

As Americans, we spend a lot of time talking about guns. We have arguments, protests, declarations, and slogans about what kind of weapons can be sold and to whom. But the one thing we rarely have when it comes to firearms is a real conversation, and not just with members of our own tribe, but with people whose ideas don’t align with ours. That is perhaps why the country is so divided when it comes to reducing gun violence.

Guns, an American Conversation follows up on a handful of strangers—teachers and gun-rights advocates, hunters and police officers, mothers and fathers across the United States—brought together in a larger group of 150 people, for a month-long moderated Facebook group chat. The goal of the project—which expanded on earlier efforts—was to foster a civil, yet honest, dialogue between people whose backgrounds and beliefs led them to have opposing views on the issue.

Not just a journalistic account, Guns attempts to map out common territory in a nation driven by profound divides. It includes sidebars, charts, and graphics that list additional information about gun control in the United States and provide the reader with tools to continue the discussion in their own lives. This book might not change your mind about gun control, but it will help you learn to cross divides in conversation.

Spaceship Media was launched after the 2016 election with a mission to reduce polarization, build communities, and restore trust in journalism. It has quickly become a leader in engaging communities around difficult issues and supporting civil, fact-based conversations. Spaceship Media’s Dialogue Journalism method reconceptualizes the information and reporting process and puts the divided communities Spaceship and their journalistic partners serve at the heart of their practice. Spaceship has conceptualized and created conversations about such polarizing issues as immigration, income disparity, gun safety, race, education, and national politics. With their approach to moderating difficult conversations and their style of reporting directly for communities they have built a track record of success. Spaceship Media’s collaborators include Advance Local, Time, Essential Partners, Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media, Univision, The Seattle Times, Bay Area News Group, and Southern California News Group.

  • Publisher: Tiller Press (November 5, 2020)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982132989

“ How do we find ‘we the people’ in our polarized nation? Guns, An American Conversation offers a road map using dialogue and journalism to tackle complex, conflicted issues. By connecting with curiosity and compassion, people discover
their shared humanity. Try it.” —Peggy Holman, cofounder of Journalism That Matters, author of Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity, and coauthor of The Change Handbook

“The team at Spaceship Media has produced the clearest and most inspiring guide to civil discourse I’ve seen to date. This is so much more than a book about guns. This is a soul-nourishing and provocative vision of a world in which conversation, community, and technology can bring us closer together instead of farther apart—and one that provides us all with the tools
we need to get there. Ultimately, through the stories of others, Guns, An American Conversation reminds us of our own potential for decency and humanity. If a small team of journalists and a moderated Facebook group can build genuine community and nuanced conversation around the ever-divisive issue of guns, you just might be able to have a thoughtful conversation with your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving.” —Lisa Conn, cofounder and COO of Icebreaker, an online community events organization

“Spaceship Media shows the way for journalism and every citizen in society to relearn how we can have respectful, informed, and productive conversations with one another. This is a manual for a better democracy.” —Jeff Jarvis, author of Geeks Bearing Gifts: Imagining New Futures for News and Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live

“In a time marked by polarization and division, the team at Spaceship Media offers us an optimistic blueprint for engaging
across our differences in the pursuit of deeper understanding. Guns, An American Conversation is perfect for anyone
interested in doing the difficult work of democratic citizenship that begins with talking with one another, not at one
another. Our most challenging issues require nothing less.” —Cristin F. Brawner, executive director, David Mathews Center for Civic Life

“In this persuasive account of how ‘dialogue journalism’ can foster understanding and empathy among people whose views are deeply divided, the team at Spaceship Media vividly recounts the life-changing conversations about guns that their
groundbreaking organization hosted. The take-you-there detail allows readers to learn along with the participants and arrive
with them at a sense of hopefulness.” —Paula Ellis, Poynter Institute trustee, Kettering Foundation senior associate, and National Conference on Citizenship director

Guns, An American Conversation offers a rare bit of hope in this polarized time that Americans are still capable of upholding the fragile core values that underpin our democratic experiment in self-governance: to deliberate over matters of
public interest, consider other points of view, and make wellinformed choices." —Carrie Brown, social journalism director, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

“This book isn’t just about guns. It’s about learning to live in the same world with other people.” —Laurie L. Putnam, San Jose State University

“The real-world efforts in this book show that people experiencing facts together in the context of dialogue and respectful
disagreement reach greater understanding than those who just pelt facts at people. Equally, Guns inspires readers to, at the most defensive of moments, slow down, reinvigorate their curiosity about others’ perspectives, and measure their own
words carefully. It’s a new way to rebuild democratic communities in a multicultural America.” —Subbu Vincent, director of journalism and media ethics, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University

“This book offers a timely case study in the practice of dialogue journalism—an innovative model that uses journalism to support nuanced conversations on polarizing issues. As it unpacks the complexity of the gun debate in the US, it offers valuable insights on a process that should be of interest to journalists, journalism educators and students, and anyone
working to bridge divides.” —Andrea Wenzel, PhD, author of Community-Centered Journalism: Engaging People, Exploring Solutions, and Building Trust

Guns, An American Conversation shows that not only are complicated and nuanced conversations possible in the midst of what seems like never-ending turmoil and tribalism, they are necessary if we have any genuine intention to make progress in collaborating toward solutions. The work of Spaceship Media is a clear and accessible road map to putting dialogue journalism into practice across the spectrum of difficult conversations we all need to be having.” —Heather Bryant, founder of Project Facet

“This engaging book is both a close-up exploration of Americans’ complex beliefs about guns and a handbook for how journalism can engage deeply to bring citizens together across differences. ‘Dialogue journalism’ offers journalists a path toward a more meaningful public-service role and deepens the civic bonds on which democracy depends. In a time of unprecedented challenges for journalism and society, Guns, An American Conversation offers hope for both.” —Regina Lawrence, associate dean, School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon

“Too much of what passes for engagement in American journalism puts journalists at the center of the work. Spaceship Media’s model is different. Instead of encouraging the public to help journalists do their jobs, dialogue journalism asks
journalists to help the citizenry do its job—by making space for honest, informed, and empathetic conversations among
people who profoundly disagree on matters of civic importance like gun violence. It’s a model that, allowed to scale,
could create the social capital and trust in media necessary for democracy to thrive.” —Linda Miller, board member, Journalism That Matters