Folks have been linking a document created by anti-gun communications firms and pollsters, and the short summary can really be described as using emotion in place of facts and discussion about political reality.
Sebastian and I read through it and had a few deeper observations about the document.
One of the main messages of the document is that gun control advocates should demonize NRA as much as possible to motivate their own base. However, they must be careful because the general public isn’t as frothing at the mouth as their base. In fact, they acknowledge that the fact that the public respects NRA and doesn’t see them as the force of evil that so many gun control advocates try to make them out to be.
A message they want communicated to their base is that the NRA is to blame for their unsafe cities. Their suggestion could essentially be described as telling gun control advocates to tell people that it’s not the neighborhood criminals who make their lives so dangerous, it’s the NRA. Interestingly, they suggest specifically blaming the NRA rather than using the broader term “gun lobby.”
This is kind of funny since gun owners tend take attacks on the NRA to be attacks on them personally. In fact, one strategy I use in my pro-Second Amendment outreach is framing attacks on NRA as attacks on individual members or on Second Amendment supporters. If a random group issues a statement that says “The NRA isn’t rational and can’t be trusted,” then the headline version of that for my reporting might be that they “claimed law abiding gun owners aren’t rational” or that “Second Amendment defenders can’t be trusted.” (I’ll still include the original quote and context, but the shortened version sums up the intent of the comment.)
They very specifically tackle the issue of saying things like, “I’m not trying to take away the Second Amendment.” I don’t think that’s because they are advocating for honesty, but rather because they realize that it raises questions in the listener’s head about what taking away the Second Amendment would look like and whether something like a ban on guns would violate it. They don’t want people thinking, only feeling. (That’s very clear in repeated instructions not to get caught up in trying to argue with facts or logic, but rather to emphasize emotion above all else.) A great example of this being counterproductive was the rant by Star Jones on Piers Morgan where she fell into this trap: “I support the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. But I’m telling you, the guns, we need to get them out.” She just made her audience think about the fact that while she’s claiming all her policies (some mandate to “reduce the volume of guns” and charging $5,000 per round of ammunition) were in line with the Second Amendment, yet she admits she wants to get rid of guns. Even a pretty low information viewer could recognize why this doesn’t seem very “support[ive]” of a constitutional right.
In terms of defining the concept of the Second Amendment, then encourage gun control advocates to be very confident in declarations that all Second Amendment cases have been settled, and they effectively allow them to pass all of the gun control they want.
There’s much more to discuss in this guide, but I think I should break those out into separate posts on specific policy communication strategies and why language matters to low information voters or those who simply don’t follow our issue.