Unveiled: Gun ban extremists' secret playbook: Part 1
by Chad D. Baus
A friend sent a very interesting document to me recently - one that is 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 guide 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."
Their very best arguments
According to the guide, "three key themes drive the most powerful arguments for gun violence prevention:"
ONE: The serious personal toll that gun violence takes on people's lives.
Elsewhere in the guide, the point is made that "40% of respondents report that they or someone they know personally has been a victim of gun violence." The trouble for the authors and their audience is that many of the people who become a victim of violence, or know someone who has been, rightfully conclude that only they, and no one else, are responsible for their own security. Indeed, it is precisely the exposure to violence that leads many people to become first-time gun owners.
TW0: People's right to be free from violence in their communities.
We've looked, and still haven't found that particular "right" in the constitution yet. It certainly isn't listed next to "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."
THREE: The changing nature of weapons towards more powerful, military-style ones that make us less safe.
This point is stressed again, and described as a "key message":
The notion that today's weapons are different in kind from what was available in the past is an especially powerful idea and helps make the case for new levels of concern and scrutiny around access to weapons.
This "key message" - the notion that today's weapons are different is, as you likely know, a false notion.
The truth, of course, is that military-style weapons have always dominated the civilian firearms marketplace - from the muskets that fought off Red Coats and brought home supper, to the pistols and rifles that started on the Civil War battlefield and eventually helped conquer the West, to the rifles that came home with Dough Boys and GIs in the World Wars. "More powerful?" Another false notion. World War I and World War II-era rifles were every bit as powerful as today's military look-alike civilian models.
Elsewhere in the guide they address this issue again, stating that "we have to make clear to people that this isn't a conversation about your grandfather's hunting rifle." The writers know that people will identify less with the anti-gun rights crowd if they sound like they're trying to take away grandpa's hunting rifle. The lesson for the good guys is this - grandpa's hunting rifle was very likely a military rifle bought as surplus from World War I or World War II, so if those rifles are ok to have around, today's modern sporting rifles shouldn't be any different.
The guide also notes that claims of law enforcement support for their policies is "crucial," and asserts the "fact that policies advocated by the NRA put law enforcement officials at risk seriously weakens the NRA’s arguments."
They couldn't have been too pleased, then, when a 2013 survey of nearly 15,000 active and retired law enforcement officers showed that an overwhelming majority of America's policemen and women do NOT support Obama's gun control agenda.
The authors of the guide also admit that the question of whether or not they will succeed in fooling people depends on the audience:
On the gun violence issue – as on most public issues – it pays to know as much as possible about who you are talking to.
The weight and power of the three key themes we have mentioned varies substantially by audience.
...[W]hen talking to men, it is important to know that they are much more motivated by protecting people from "gun crime" than preventing "gun violence." Women are motivated by both.
Clearly, in spreading falsehoods like those above as "key messages," they must think their audience is a fairly ignorant bunch.
If these are their most powerful arguments, it's no wonder that they continue to lose.
How to deal with the NRA
The authors have a LOT to say about the NRA (an entire chapter, in fact) - including things they would never get caught admitting publicly:
When we are communicating with the general public, we need to be aware of the fact that, beyond our base, people have a positive impression of the organization and its role.
Whether to spend much time talking about the NRA depends upon whether we are talking to our base (where an NRA focus is often worthwhile) or broader audiences (where an NRA focus is far less likely to be helpful).
"The NRA is seen as a mainstream organization by most Americans although elements of our base see its leadership and organizational stance as extreme. Engaging the NRA as if it is one side of a political fight is counterproductive because it feeds into a view of the debate over gun violence as an unengaging interest group conflict.
It is far better to discuss the NRA in terms of the role its officials play in preventing people and communities from protecting themselves from the terrible personal toll that gun violence takes on people's lives.
"The issue is how to talk about the NRA with different audiences, not how frequently to discuss the NRA.
Because of the organization's name and identity, it is more powerful – especially when talking to the base – to discuss the specific NRA rather than the generic "gun lobby."
I haven't figured out how they expect people to argue that the NRA is "preventing people and communities from protecting themselves" with a straight face, but it is clear from the past nine months that their target audience hasn't got this part dialed in all that well just yet.
Gotta make it scary sounding and scary looking
Perhaps the most comical line in the guide is this:
Advocates for gun violence prevention win the logical debate, but lose on more emotional terms.
Two pages later, they prove their own claim of having logic on their side wrong by encouraging the use of "powerful images" rather than "facts and statistics."
Yes, you read that right. They are encouraging their audience to argue on their (supposed) weakest ground - emotion - rather than their (supposed) strongest footing - logic. Kind of puts the whole claim about winning the logical debate to bed, doesn't it?
The point, it is clear, is to scare the weak-minded who have no use for facts and statistics. Consider a few more quotes:
Alarming facts open the door to action. And powerful stories put feeling and emotional energy behind those facts.
It's not helpful to try to drown your audience in a flurry of facts and statistics.
It's not just about words. Powerful and emotionally-engaging images are vitally important reinforcers of strong messages. For example, intimidating images of military-style weapons help bring to life the point that we are dealing with a different situation than in earlier times.
This idea is not a new one. In fact, Josh Sugarmann, who currently heads the anti-gun rights organization Violence Policy Center, wrote about how these groups planned to take advantage over public confusion over these guns way back in the 1980's:
"Language Do's and Don'ts" designed to fool the uninformed
Interspersed throughout the document are talking points designed to educate anti-gun rights extremists on how they can tailor their message to fool their audience into thinking they want something other than to ban guns, abolish self-defense rights, etc. We don't have room to list them all, but following are just two examples:
DO talk about "preventing gun violence. DON'T talk about "gun control."
(They're synonyms, see, but some people don't get that.)
DO advocate for "stronger" gun laws. DON'T use the term "stricter" gun laws.
(We want gun control laws as strict as can be, but again, it's about fooling the uninformed.)
The goal line
In the wake of the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary, many wondered why the anti-gun rights extremists began floating proposals that would have done nothing to prevent the attack they claimed they were trying to prevent from happened again.
The guide provides the answer.
Here are some of the facts that met that test in the research:
• There are no background checks or ID requirements in most states for private sales, including private sales at gun shows.
• There are virtually no restrictions on the type of weapons available for purchase in America, including assault weapons and ammunition magazines that store up to 100 bullets and can shoot 20 rounds in 10 seconds.
• Police and law enforcement officers are more at risk, due to the availability and power of new weapons.
Reinforcing example: Police forces in places like Chicago and Miami are outfitting officers with assault weapons so that they aren't outgunned by criminals.
Leaving aside the point that their "facts" aren't facts at all (except for the one about police forces in Chicago - a place with the type of gun control laws they want to impose on the rest of the nation - just to keep up with the criminals illegally carrying illegal firearms), the evidence is clear:
In the sick attempt to take advantage of the deaths of little children, the extremists were simply floating up every gun control proposal they knew had tested well in polls - regardless of whether or not it could do a thing to stop someone from carrying out another such attack.
In the next chapter, we'll discuss how the guide coldly advocates using the "pain and anguish," "death, injury and heartache" of crime victims to advance their political agenda (including an entire chapter on how to capitalize on active killer incidents), expose why anti-gun rights extremists are trying to hard to make the gun control discussion about race, and reveal how talking points given in the guide are being used by President Obama and his allies in the anti-gun rights lobby each and every day.
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.