We’ve had a lot of talk in the blogosphere lately about normalizing guns within the culture, and have discovered substantial disagreement. For my part, I think the only way we can educate and enlighten people is for individual gun owners to reach out to the to people they know and associate with, and give them real information on our issue in a context they can relate to. It’s for that reason I’m not particularly sanguine about methods like open carry to promote cultural change. It’s just not conveying enough information to the ignorant to help bring them closer to our position. That’s not to say I think open carry has no value, and is inappropriate under all circumstances. Rather as a general tool to promote social change, I’m skeptical of it’s effectiveness. More than a few folks say they want proof. I don’t think either side has proof. All we can offer is evidence. Into that debate I’m going to put forward some evidence of what ordinary people on the street think on the issue of guns.
Cam Edwards from NRA News, in his evening radio show, runs a segment during his breaks called “Man on the Street,” where he sends his producer down to the streets of Alexandria, Virginia with a cameraman and a microphone to capture the opinions of people walking by. These segments are very helpful to understand the diverse and often incoherent opinions of the general public. I have captured a collection of them from this past week to share with you, some of which even touch on people’s attitudes towards carrying firearms.
You can see they do find people who are strong believers in the Second Amendment, but notice the couple from Texas who was with us all the way up until the point where he said he doesn’t approve of civilians possessing machine guns? Notice the ignorance on semi-automatics that can be converted to automatic? And this is someone who knows and has carried firearms! Here’sÂ another segment, including a woman who’s from England, the North of England judging from her accent:
You can see from these videos that the assertion by Michael Bane, that people are really on one side or another isn’t really true. There is a rich tapestry of opinion on the issue of guns in this country, and the truth is that the majority of people, even the majority of gun owners, are somewhere in the middle between our position and the people who want to prevent gun ownership. Our success over the past decade has largely been due to reaching people who are conceptually on our side, like several of the people here who voiced general but weak support, and getting them to understand the issue better. But to do that, we had to reach them with real information, and on a lot more issues than just carrying firearms.
My skepticism of open carry as a means to effect social change is based on the fact that I don’t believe it reaches people with enough information to help them put it in context and understand its role in the political and cultural struggle for gun rights. It is one of the great dangers in any kind of activism, that if you spend too much time only speaking with other activists, that you lose touch with what average people think about your issue. It’s through that mistake, to switch the context to gay rights for a second, that you go from “We just want to be equal and accepted members of society” to the Folsom Street Fair.
There are two messages competing for the loyalty and votes of the types of folks you see in these videos, our’s and the Brady’s. The more our message is outside of context they can relate to and understand, the more appealing the Brady message is going to be. That’s why I advocate more discretion and restraint than many harder core folks are comfortable with. We can do very well using certain kind of outreach methods, but others I think are less effective. All I’m advocating is that when folks think about outreach, they keep in mind the people in these videos.