No Sale: Marketing Tricks in Gun Control

Marketing analysts refer to “churn” in an industry – the turnover or attrition rate of customers or employees or some other category – as an important metric of business growth and success: keeping track of churn rates offers insight into how well a business is doing. 

Applying this concept in the context of the gun control movement, the high prevalence of change in the anti-gun community points to a failure to build a successful “brand” identity and, more generally, a lack of public buy-in for their key concept.  

Advertising professionals know that switching to a fresh new moniker and a more contemporary or dynamic logo can revitalize a tired or humdrum brand. Repackaging unappealing, prohibitionist ideas of gun control as new and improved notions of “gun safety” or “violence prevention” or “common sense regulations” or “independent research” sounds innovative while at the same time helpfully obfuscates the real agenda. 

Starting over under a different label offers the prospect, also, of jettisoning a less than impressive track record. And gun control “churn” bolsters the superficial impression of a growing proliferation of anti-gun groups when in fact, it’s the same old message in a new bottle.

The Brady Campaign started out in 1974 as the National Council to Control Handguns (NCCH). By 1980, NCCH had changed its name to the trendier Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI). In 2001, HCI changed again, becoming the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. 

The National Coalition to Ban Handguns (NCBH), established in 1974, also initially focused on handguns but refashioned itself in 1989 as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV).  

The New Right Watch (NRW), founded in 1988, subsequently renamed itself as the Violence Policy Center (VPC). 

CeaseFire, Inc., the 1995 group started by Courtney Love with the goal of reshaping the "gun violence" debate in America, has since morphed into Cure Violence, a group focusing on street violence using an infectious disease control model.   

Americans for Gun Safety (AGS), a group founded and funded by a billionaire board member of what was then HCI, began in 2000. Among its many gun law goals was the “top national priority” of “passage of licensing and/or registration in the next Congress.” Since those heady days, AGS has “folded into” a new entity, Third Way. Not surprisingly, Third Way continues to promote the “old way” gun control agenda – pushing for expanded background checks, opposing suppressor deregulation, and calling national concealed carry reciprocity a “dangerous mistake.”

Michael Bloomberg’s initial gun-grabbing venture was launched in 2006 as Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG). Following reports of criminal impropriety by many of its members and the defections of others, MAIG re-emerged in 2014 as Everytown for Gun Safety (EGS). At the same time, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA), founded in 2012, became part of EGS. (The Brady Campaign has its own moms’ group, the Million Mom March, a national organization that was absorbed into the Brady Campaign in 2001). In contrast to their prior and separate efforts, perhaps, both MDA’s founder and Bloomberg portrayed this merger as the ticket to success, as “creat[ing] a force for change that political leaders will not be able to ignore.” 

Another champion of expanded restrictions on guns and gun owners, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (LCPGV), was previously known as the Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV). In 2016, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), a different and more recent gun control entity founded by Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, combined with the LCPGV. This month, the LCPGV and ARS announced yet another change – their joint group would now operate as a new organization called the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Amidst all these changes, the National Rifle Association, founded in 1871, remains, still, as the National Rifle Association, based on the straightforward and enduring concept of safeguarding the Second Amendment constitutional right to keep and bear arms. In the span of the nearly 25 years that Gallup pollsters have been tracking the opinions of everyday Americans on this question, the percentage of the respondents who report a “very favorable” overall opinion of the National Rifle Association continues to climb, and nearly six in ten people say they view the NRA in a positive way.  

Looking to the future, we have no hesitation in predicting more churn within the gun-grabbing community, as these groups continue to transform themselves in the search for a critical winning formula. Meanwhile, America’s gun owners know, as they always have, that regardless of the label, what they’re dealing with is the same old baloney.

© 2017 National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action. This may be reproduced. This may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.

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