An Experiment in Empathy


Lisa Miller in New York Magazine:

In May, Underwood drew all kinds of flak for agreeing to let George Zimmerman sell the Kel-Tec PF9 that killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on his site. Underwood defends the decision still. Zimmerman was a “dipshit,” he concedes, but he was acquitted at trial, his gun was legally purchased, and he was licensed. Underwood was able to resell it for $250,000 (all of which, he says, went to Zimmerman). “What would you do?”

Underwood was coming to New York to meet Carolyn Tuft, though neither one of them knew it yet. Tuft, who lives in Salt Lake City, is a survivor of the 2007 Trolley Square shooting, the massacre that seriously injured four people and left five dead — including Tuft’s 15-year-old daughter, Kirsten, the youngest of her four children. Tuft herself was shot three times, in the arm and point blank in the lower back. The 54-year-old has so much buckshot in her body that she suffers from lead poisoning, and she wakes up each day nauseated and in pain. Her manner is both assured and halting — the result, she explains, of constant painkiller use.

Underwood, Tuft, and more than a dozen others on both sides of the gun debate — a hunter; two Baltimore cops; a criminal-court judge from New Orleans; a couple of high-schoolers who grew up in the ganglands of Chicago’s South Side — had agreed to meet face-to-face, tell each other their stories, and try to understand one another’s points of view, in an experiment in radical empathy organized by New York Magazine in partnership with a nonprofit group called Narrative 4. Each traveler carried a personal story about guns: Lauren Green, a divorced mother from Connecticut, was raped at gunpoint as a child; Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a former Florida state legislator and proponent of campus-carry laws, had fended off an assailant, a former boyfriend, with a gun.

More here.