CNN Poll: Fading support for stricter gun control exposes reason why extremists move immediately to exploit tragedy
by Chad D. Baus
CNN reported recently that "as memories fade from last December's horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, a new national poll indicates that support for stricter gun control laws appears to be fading, too."
While CNN's premise that only a fading memory can explain the decline in support for gun control is bogus, the findings are none-the-less encouraging.
From the article:
According to a new CNN/ORC International survey, 49% of Americans say they support stricter gun control laws, with 50% opposed. The 49% support is down six percentage points from the 55% who said they backed stricter gun control in CNN polling from January, just a few weeks after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a lone gunman killed 20 young students and six adults before killing himself, in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
"Down six percentage points from the 55% who said they backed stricter gun control" in the immediate wake of the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary? Wait - what happened to the 90% support claims that everyone from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to President Obama were throwing around in their efforts to force gun control through the U.S. Senate last spring?
The poll also found that support for gun control hasn't just faded in one demographic area, but all across the country:
"Demographically speaking, the drop in support for stricter gun laws is mostly based on where people live, with a 10-point decline in the Midwest and a 15-point drop in urban areas having a lot to do with the overall decline nationally," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.
"Two-thirds of people who live in big cities supported stricter gun control laws in the weeks following Newtown; now that figure is down to a bare majority. And while support for new gun laws is down in all regions of the country, it has fallen further in the Midwest," Holland added.
The poll indicates that majorities in the Northeast and the West still favor stricter gun control, but majorities in the South and Midwest now oppose it.
What this and other polls taken throughout the year have proved is that once the American people get over their emotional reaction to an event like this, they again begin applying logic. And when that happens, support for gun control falls apart.
And that's why gun control extremists have made it their express policy to strike immediately after a tragic event occurs, seeking to use "pain and anguish," "death, injury and heartache" to advance their gun control agenda. Don't believe me? Consider this.
Last summer, a very interesting document began making its rounds through the gun rights community after having been leaked online.
Entitled "Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging," it is an 80-page playbook designed to help anti-gun rights extremists learn why they continue to get beat, and how to change their message so as to fool the general public into thinking their mainstream views are actually supported by these anti-gun rights extremist groups.
"Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging" is based on a 2011 study conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, and was prepared by three Washington D.C.-based political consultants - Frank O'Brien of OMP, a direct marketing firm whose client list includes leftist organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the National Resources Defense Council, John Neffinger and Matthew Hut of KNP Communications, and Al Quinlan of the aforementioned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, whose client list is a virtual who's who of anti-gun politicians including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Rahm Emanuel, and Gabrielle Giffords, as well as anti-gun rights and leftist groups including Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Joyce Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, National Public Radio and the Sierra Club.
According to the introduction, the playbook was prepared in order to "help organizations and individuals choose effective arguments and language when communicating with the public on behalf of stronger public policies to prevent gun violence."
I've already written a two-part series reviewing the playbook.
In Part 1 of this series, I documented the weakness of what the gun banners believe is their three best arguments, their attempts to fool people by using code words to refer to their gun control agenda, their admission that the NRA is a mainstream group with broad public support, and their focus on using emotional scare-tactics, rather than facts, as a means of changing public opinion.
In Part 2 of this series, I documented the gun banners' plans to exploit public emotions in the wake of active killer attacks, hide their anti-gun agenda from mainstream audiences, and exploit racial divisions.
Indeed, the playbook devotes an entire chapter to exploiting active killer incidents, coldly advocating using "pain and anguish," "death, injury and heartache" to advance their gun control agenda.
ALWAYS START WITH THE PAIN AND ANGUISH THAT GUN VIOLENCE BRINGS INTO PEOPLE'S LIVES.
The death, injury and heartache caused by gun violence are devastating – and that's what makes people care about it and want to do something to end it.
ASK HARD QUESTIONS
One way to link our arguments to an event without being trapped by shifting circumstances is to ask questions – ones that point to approaches and policies that we favor, but that resonate with special emotional power at the time of a high-profile shooting.
I pray that the chilling way in which these gun control extremists discuss using "pain and anguish," "death, injury and heartache" and that "special emotional power at the time of a high-profile shooting" disturbs everyone reading this as much as it does me.
We have long-observed on this website that, every time a mentally-ill person attacks unarmed victims in another gun free zone, these extremists run to the microphone to dance in the blood, suggesting "solutions" before even knowing the circumstances of the incident.
Now we know they're just following the playbook:
DON'T HESITATE TO SPEAK OUT.
There can be a tendency to adopt a quiet "wait and see" attitude when a high-profile gun violence incident happens. The truth is, the most powerful time to communicate is when concern and emotions are running at their peak. While we always want to be respectful of the situation, a self-imposed period of silence is never necessary.
DON'T ASSUME THE FACTS - AND DON'T WAIT FOR THEM
We shouldn't assume the facts.
But, we also shouldn't argue ourselves into inaction while we await clarity about details.
The clearest course is to advance our core message about preventing gun violence independent of facts that may shift on us over time. ("While we don't know the specifics of this tragedy, we know far too many people are killed by weak gun laws in this country.")
Of course, once a fact is clearly established, it makes sense to rely on it to advance your case.
Even when the established facts don't support their case, of course they just continue to advance the notion that their gun control initiatives should be passed anyways.
Stressing emotional arguments over fact-based ones is repeatedly stressed throughout the chapter advising the exploitation of active killer attacks:
RECOGNIZE THAT YOUR AUDIENCE HAS BROADENED.
A high-profile gun violence incident temporarily draws more people into the conversation about gun violence. It opens the eyes and ears of folks who, in more "normal" circumstances, don't pay much attention to the issue of gun violence prevention.
...[W]when talking to broader audiences, we want to make sure we meet them where they are. That means emphasizing emotion over policy prescriptions...
DON'T LET POLICYSPEAK DRAIN THE EMOTION FROM THE MOMENT.
There is often a compelling case to be made for immediate action, pivoting from the emotion of a high-profile incident to calls for legislative action or specific policy changes. Those who seek to make that pivot have to be careful not to drain the emotional power out of the moment.
An emotionally-driven conversation about what can be done to prevent incidents such as the one at hand is engaging. A dry conversation about legislative process and policy is far less engaging.
The playbook also offers advice that anti-gun rights extremist groups followed in the wake of the school shooting in Chardon, Ohio:
SEEK A LONGER-TERM RELATIONSHIP IN A PERIOD OF HIGH ATTENTION.
In terms of building support, our goal at moments such as this should be to make a connection with someone that will be sustainable after the individual incident fades from memory. Among other things, that means framing our calls to action more broadly than a response to the individual situation at hand.
If we convince someone to act quickly in response to what has happened, we need to move just as quickly to broaden the conversation and pivot to a longer-term commitment to ending gun violence.
Regular readers of this website will recall how Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence (OCAGV), Center for American Progress (CAP), Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), and ProgressOhio created RememberingChardon.com to gather contacts for future campaigns – but advertised the site merely as a way to share kind thoughts for victims of the shooting.
Speaking of victims, the playbook recommends "speak[ing] in a victim's voice," noting:
Many of the most active advocates and voices in the gun violence prevention movement are people who have personally lived through a life-changing gun violence experience. That painful reality gives such spokespeople special moral authority.
This page from the playbook was carried out just last week in Ohio as we saw the father of a victim from the Sandy Hook Elementary attack testifying in favor of a piece of gun control legislation. How cold and calloused does one have to be to openly advise that anti-gun rights extremists use victims in this way, just to gain what they perceive as "special moral authority?"
Finally, the chapter offers advice on how to respond if they are called on the fact that they are politicizing a tragedy:
The worst thing to do in a situation like this is to apologize or disclaim an unworthy motivation. ("The last thing I want to do is politicize this situation" . . . "I'm not trying to take anyone's gun away" . . . "I know this is a time for mourning and reflection, but")
Your audience can't be comfortable with what you're saying if you signal your own discomfort.
And that, friends, is who we are dealing with, and I believe that this CNN poll and others like it prove the American people are catching on.
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, and BFA PAC Vice Chairman.