The Role of Guns in American Life

Our differences can make us stronger

...if we learn how to talk about them.


Guns play a central role in American life. Raising important questions about public safety, private security, personal tragedy, and cultural traditions, the public discussion of guns and gun violence also stirs up strong emotions and deeply-held beliefs.

As a result, that discussion has been stuck. Advocates on both sides lose sight of their common purposes. Everyday Americans are forced to choose sides, leaving little space for complexity and individual experience.

Behind every belief is a person with a story. Essential Partners employs a unique approach to structured dialogue to make space for those stories, helping people connect with one another across their differences.

For three decades we have provided facilitation and trainings for campuses, congregations, organizations, and communities. Because no two situations are exactly the same, our team builds programming that is customized for each specific context. We have facilitated dialogues about the role of guns in American culture with people from across the United States and across the spectrum of views, backgrounds, and experiences.

A better conversation about guns is possible. Take the first step.


Watch: Time Magazine video about our Washington, DC, dialogue, “Guns: An American Conversation”


Stories and resources

Resource | Free Guns Factsheet
Inspired by their participation in Guns: An American Conversation, journalists assembled this factsheet to support better conversations about gun rights, regulation, and violence in the United States.

Resource | Free Guide to Conversations Across the Red-Blue Divide
To help prepare you to talk about the issues that are most important to you in ways that can be heard, and to hear others’ concerns and passions with new empathy and understanding—especially if you continue to disagree.

Stories, Videos, and Continued Engagement | “Guns: An American Conversation” - Advance Local
EP collaborators Advance Local, Spaceship Media, and TIME have published two dozen stories, videos, and resources for further engagement about guns in American life. Included are profiles of the dialogue participants, an op/ed by EP Executive Director Parisa Parsa, guns conversation prompts, video testimonies, and more.

From banning them to embracing them, a group of Americans got together to talk about guns
Journalists Ben Montgomery, Kelley Benham French, and Thomas Frenach provide an in-depth look into the project

To move from outrage to courage: Why we need to talk
Executive Director Parisa Parsa writes, “In the midst of rage and acrimony, of mistrust and suspicion, changing the way we talk with one another can actually change how we see everything. Especially ourselves, and our relationships with our neighbors.”

Video + Story | 21 Americans With Opposing Views on Guns Sat Down to Talk to Each Other. Here's What They Discovered
Time Magazine covers the Washington, DC guns dialogue led by Essential Partners.

EP Blog | Guns: An American Conversation
Essential Partners worked with Spaceship Media and Advance Local to bring people from across the country together to talk about guns. They then joined 130 participants in a closed Facebook group to talk about guns for the following month.

EP Blog | How a Guns Factsheet Improved Online Dialogue
When EP's experiment with online dialogue ran into difficulties around statistics and definitions, journalists assembled the resources that were needed to refocus and deepen the conversation.

News | What happens when 16 strangers talk guns in America? Emotions run high, but some common ground is found - MassLive News
Essential Partners and MassLive News gathered in Central Massachusetts on May 5, 2018, to allow sixteen strangers a chance to talk about guns in America from both sides of the issue.

Impact Story | Guns, Second Amendment Rights, and Community Safety in Montana
Advocates and community leaders with deeply divergent views engaged in constructive dialogue on one of the state's most divisive issues.

Impact Story | On Guns: From Debate to Conversation in Boston
Amidst deepening polarization around guns, people shared their widely different experiences, and discussed how to create a safe community together.


Support our work

Essential Partners is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We are changing the way communities engage in civic life, drawing people closer together even as they navigate their most fundamental differences. Will you support our work?